Your Oklahoma City Personal Injury Case: The Basics
You might have slipped on a wet spot on the floor of a club in Bricktown and hurt your back. Maybe you were misdiagnosed at the OU Medical Center and went through unnecessary treatment. Or perhaps you were hit by another car while driving on North Meridian. Heck, you could have been touring a new loft in Deep Deuce, tripped on construction materials, and injured your neck. The bottom line is that if you were physically or psychologically injured as a result of someone else's carelessness, you may have a personal injury action. Here is some basic information to help you with your personal injury case in Oklahoma City.
The first consideration after any accident should be your own health. Make sure to promptly get whatever medical attention you need. Once any emergency concerns are addressed, you may want to start thinking about collecting information or evidence that might be helpful in proving your personal injury case. This would include things like taking photographs and notes, and getting contact information of any witnesses.
Insurance Companies and Attorneys
It is generally advisable after an accident to file an insurance claim. Here is some further information about the insurance claims process. If you need help dealing with your insurance company or want to file a complaint, you may contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
Depending on the specifics of your accident, you may be able to resolve the matter with the insurance company directly, without the assistance of a lawyer. However, some individuals feel that their interests are better protected by hiring an attorney. Check out FindLaw's section on Using A Personal Injury Lawyer for information on what to expect from an attorney, the types of information your attorney will likely need from you, and typical fee arrangements.
Time Limits for Lawsuits
You may decide not to take formal legal action, but be sure to bear in mind that if you do, there are time limits for doing so. In Oklahoma City and the rest of the state you generally have 2 years from the date of the accident to bring a personal injury suit. If someone has died as a result of the injury, the surviving representative may wish to pursue a wrongful death action. The time limit to file this type of claim in Oklahoma is 2 years from the date of death.
Personal injury claims in OKC will generally be filed in the Oklahoma County Court. For disputes over an amount less than $7500 you may file in Small Claims; otherwise, within the civil division cases seeking up to $10,000 are designated as "CS" and cases seeking more than $10,000 are designated as "CJ." The filing fees differ slightly depending on how the case is coded.
Proving A Personal Injury Claim
Most personal injury cases are based on the argument that one party was negligent. Negligence in large part means that someone acted carelessly and that carelessness resulted in or contributed to an accident and injury. In many cases, though, both parties contribute to the accident. What happens then? In a few states, if you contributed even 1% to the accident, you are out of luck and can't pursue a claim. Oklahoma, however, takes a "comparative negligence" position. Basically, as long as you are less than 50% responsible, you can still pursue a claim, although your damages will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. For example, if you were determined to be 40% at fault for an accident and you had damages of $1,000, you would be able to recover only $600 or 60%.
So you know now that your "damages" will be reduced if you were partially at fault, but what exactly are damages, anyway? Damages are monies paid to compensate the injured party for the wrongful conduct of another. In a personal injury case, your injury cannot be undone, but you can be awarded money to compensate you for the expense, effects, and inconvenience of the injury. Generally, in personal injury cases, damages are divided up into two categories - "economic" (specific expenses like medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and "non-economic" (less tangible "expenses" like pain and suffering) and you are able to seek both.
With limited exceptions, when an injury happens at work, it must be handled through the workers' compensation system and court. You should immediately notify your employer when you are injured and then file a claim with the Oklahoma's Workers' Compensation Court within 2 years. For more information, refer to this list of frequently asked questions (with answers) regarding employee rights and responsibilities under the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Code.