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Your Tulsa Car Accident: The Basics

It's Saturday afternoon and you decide to check out the new Woody Guthrie Center in the Brady Arts District. You jump in the car and start singing "This Land is Your Land" to get yourself fully in the mood. You get so carried away thinking about the Redwood Forest and the Gulf Stream Waters that you don't even notice that other car blowing through the intersection until it is too late to swerve entirely out of the way. It feels like slow motion as you watch the car clip your front end. You are now singing an entirely different tune and it's not a happy folk song. What should you do? What happens now? Here is some information to help you after a car accident in Tulsa.

First Things First

The first thing to do is stop at the scene of the accident. In Tulsa, as in all of Oklahoma, the consequences for failing to stop are severe. Even in cases involving only vehicle damage, if you don't stop, you can be charged with a misdemeanor, jailed for up to 1 year, fined up to $500, and be held responsible for paying for 3 times the damages to the other vehicle. In cases where injury or death is involved, leaving the scene is considered a felony and the penalties are even higher.

Next, you are required to provide "reasonable assistance" to any person injured in the accident. This means that you must either carry them or arrange for them to be carried to a doctor or hospital if it is obvious that they need assistance, or even if they simply ask.

You must also provide your name, address and vehicle registration number to the other driver. If asked, you must show your driver's license and security verification card or proof of liability insurance.

If the accident involves injury or death, you must immediately report it to the Tulsa Police Department if the accident was within city limits, or to the Tulsa County Sheriff, or the Oklahoma Highway Patrol if on a freeway or outside the city. Accidents occurring on private property, such as a business-owned parking lot, must be reported to the Department of Public Safety if the accident resulted in more than $300 in damages and the parties do not settle the costs within six months.

Insurance Requirements

Oklahoma requires that its drivers prove financial responsibility for their vehicles. The minimum liability insurance coverage in Oklahoma is called 25/50/25 and covers $25,000 per injured person (up to $50,000 per accident), and $25,000 for property damage. You can buy more comprehensive coverage so that damage and injury to you are covered as well.

Be sure to carry your proof of insurance at all times you are driving as failure to do so can result in a suspension of your license and registration, fines, or even jailtime. Report your accident to your insurance carrier as soon as you can.

Liability - Whose Fault Is It?

Determining who is at fault in an accident can be a complicated exercise. Oklahoma is a "fault" state which means that the person who is at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for the other person's "damages" (economic losses). Sometimes both drivers are at fault. If this is the case and you are less than 50% responsible, you can still recover damages, but they will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. This is called comparative fault. For example, if you were determined to be 30% at fault for an accident and you had damages of $10,000, you would be able to recover only $7,000 or 70%.

Proving fault in a car accident case usually involves showing that someone was negligent. Someone who is negligent has failed to take reasonable care to avoid the accident. This is often shown by proving that the other person violated a traffic law, such as running a red light, which caused the accident.

Getting Legal Help

Sound complicated? You might want to hire an attorney to help sort out the legal issues. Don't wait too long if you think you might go this route. In Tulsa, you must file a case for personal injury or property damage within two years. If you file a lawsuit, your matter will be heard at the Tulsa County District Court. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may be able to claim damages of lost wages, medical expenses, and more.

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