Who Pays For Car Accident Compensation In Oklahoma?
Our experienced attorneys explain the complex claims process
Have you been injured in an Oklahoma car accident? Depending on the extent of your injuries, you could be looking at tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. Between lost wages, medical bills and other costs, even a seemingly minor accident can have a major price tag. And if you didn't cause the accident, you shouldn't be the one who has to pay.
Understanding how to get compensation after a car accident can be difficult, which is why it's a good idea to consult an experienced auto accident lawyer. At Lawter & Associates, we have decades of experience helping people injured in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and statewide get full and fair compensation for their losses. That's why we've prepared this brief overview of compensation for car accidents in our state.
Oklahoma is an "at fault" insurance state
Like most states, Oklahoma uses the traditional tort system to handle compensation after car accidents. The person who is found to be at fault for an accident is legally liable for damages (financial compensation) arising from the accident, which may include an injured party's medical bills, lost wages, property damage and other expenses.
Two options to recover compensation
There are two steps you can take to recover financial compensation for your injuries sustained in a car accident:
- File a "first-party" claim with your own insurance company for property damage, medical payments if you have the right type of coverage, and uninsured motorist protection. Your insurer may then pursue compensation from the at-fault driver for property damage and may have a claim against an uninsured driver.
- File a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, who will be represented by his or her insurer.
"First-party" insurance benefits in Oklahoma
There are several types of insurance benefits that you may be able to collect from your own insurance company if you are involved in an accident, regardless of fault. Note that these types of coverage are optional in Oklahoma, which means your policy may not include them. We recommend that you go over your policy and make sure you have the first-party benefits you need in the event of an accident.
- Collision coverage pays for repairs to your car if it is damaged in an accident. Collision also pays for a replacement vehicle if your car is declared a total loss.
- Medical payments coverage pays for your medical expenses arising from the accident, up to the policy limit. It covers you and anyone riding in your insured vehicle.
Uninsured and underinsured drivers
Oklahoma requires all motorists to carry insurance. The minimum insurance coverages are:
- $25,000 for injury or death to a single person
- $50,000 total for all injuries or deaths sustained in a single accident
- $25,000 for property damage
However, it is quite common for the cost of a single accident to exceed those legal minimums. And there are many drivers in Oklahoma who are breaking the law by driving without insurance. If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, or a driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for all of your losses, you are in a difficult situation. You can pursue compensation from the at-fault driver's assets, but that is a difficult and time-consuming legal process - and usually, uninsured drivers have few assets to take.
If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist protection, you should be able to file a claim with your own insurance company to recover compensation for the damages that the at-fault driver does not have the coverage to pay. This type of coverage is optional in Oklahoma, and we do recommend adding it to your policy if you don't already have it.
Pursuing "third-party" damages from the at-fault driver
In general, the benefits you can obtain from your own insurance company are limited, if you have any available at all. Your first-party benefits will not pay for your lost wages, for example, nor for pain and suffering or any other non-economic damages. To get full compensation, you will need to take action against the at-fault driver.
Under Oklahoma law, you generally have up to two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver - this is called the "statute of limitations." Note that if you are suing a city, state or federal government, the deadline may be shorter.
Because the process of getting full compensation for a car accident is so complex, it's best to contact an experienced attorney and have your own advocate guiding you forward. That's what we do at Lawter & Associates. If you've been injured, we highly recommend that you schedule a free consultation with our firm. We'll help you understand your options and guide you through the complex claims process.