I was injured in Oklahoma. Can I file a personal injury lawsuit against the party that caused my injuries?

In general, when a person is injured as a result of another person's negligence, the injured party may pursue a claim against the party or parties that caused the injuries. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries if it is found that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a cause of your injury. Any personal injury case depends on liability, damages, and whether or not you can collect from the negligent party or parties. Even if you were partially at fault for your injuries, you may be entitled to recover a portion of your damages. Oklahoma has adopted the doctrine of modified comparative fault which means a claimant's contributory negligence will not bar recovery unless it is greater than the combined negligence of all defendants. A claimant's recoverable damages will be reduced in proportion to his percentage of negligence.

Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Some of the most common areas are automobile accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Whether or not you are entitled to compensation may depend on the type of accident that caused the injury.

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS

Oklahoma operates on a "fault" system, which determines liability based on a showing that one party was at fault because of negligence, which caused the accident. In other words, if the other driver is to blame for the accident, you can collect damages, and vice versa. Generally, people who operate motor vehicles must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Failure to use reasonable care is the basis for most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident. In these cases, proof of fault is often contested and requires thorough investigation. A driver may also be liable for an accident caused by intentional or reckless conduct. A reckless driver is one who drives unsafely, with willful disregard for the probability that the driving may cause an accident.

The other driver's insurance company is the liability carrier and will pay you, as a victim of the other driver's negligence, for your out of pocket damages and pain and suffering. The mandatory minimum liability coverage in Oklahoma is $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident for personal injury, and $10,000 for property damage. If the person who caused your injury has automobile liability insurance, an insurance adjuster will gather the pertinent records including medical records, medical bills, wage loss verification and the like in an effort to verify your damages. The insurance company may make you an offer to settle the claim. You may find the offer acceptable and once you accept it, the claim process is over. If you do not receive an acceptable offer, you can proceed with filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits are generally filed when negotiations fail. If you file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, your attorney will need to prove that the other party was negligent and that the other party's negligence caused injuries that resulted in compensable damages. Be careful when dealing with the other party's insurance company because they may try to rush you into a settlement before you can adequately evaluate the extent of your damages.

If you are in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault, the uninsured motorist provisions of your own policy will apply if you purchased such coverage. This coverage would also apply if you were hit by a "hit and run" driver. This insurance acts just like the insurance the uninsured driver should have had. Underinsured motorist coverage picks up where the liability coverage of the other driver leaves off. If your personal injuries exceed the amount of the other driver's liability insurance, your underinsured motorist insurance covers the excess damages under current law.

PREMISES LIABILITY

If you were injured at someone else's home or a commercial establishment, the person or entity responsible for the premises may be found liable. This can cover a variety of situations including slip and falls, dog bites, assaults, among others. The person liable for your damages is the party in control of the property. That party is responsible for the care, maintenance and inspection of the property. For example, an owner may not be the responsible party if he or she has leased the property to another party who actually has control over the premises.

The responsible party must pay for damages if the injured party proves that (1) the condition of the property was dangerous; (2) the owner knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition; and (3) the owner had a reasonable opportunity to correct or warn of the condition, which was not reasonably open and obvious to the injured party at the time of the accident. In general, it is the duty of an owner to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises. He must warn a visitor of any dangerous conditions that are known, or should be known to him, if the conditions are not likely to be perceived by the visitor and to repair the conditions within a reasonable time frame.

The owner or operator of the property must have notice of the defect or circumstances that caused your injury prior to the injury having occurred. The notice can either be actual notice or implied notice, meaning the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition given all of the surrounding facts and circumstances. When the owner actually created the dangerous condition, then notice may be presumed. If a hazard cannot be eliminated, the owner has a duty to warn of the hazards he is aware of or should be aware of.

The duty of a possessor of land to the injured person may vary depending on the status of the person at the time of the injury. An "invitee" is a person on the landowner's property at the invitation of the landowner for some business or commercial interest in connection with the landowner's business. The landowner owes a duty to the invitee to either remove or warn invitees of any hidden dangers known or that should be known by the landowner or hidden dangers that created by the landowner or its employees. A "licensee" is a person on a landowner's property with the consent of the landowner for the purpose not related to business or commercial interest. The landowner's duty to the licensee is to warn the licensee of any hidden dangers known by the landowner, not likely to be discovered by the licensee. The landowner has no duty to keep his premises safe for an adult trespasser. However, the landowner does owe a duty to an adult trespasser whom the landowner knows or should know is on his property not to injure the trespasser by a willful or intentional act. An owner may be liable, however, if he maintains a condition that causes injury to a trespassing child. The duty to trespassing children includes the landowner not having an artificial condition upon his property that is attractive to children and creates an unreasonable risk on injury to children.

PRODUCT LIABILITY

Product Liability deals with recoveries for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of a product. Product liability cases may involve dangerous toys, automobile design, seat belt failures, improperly designed household products, industrial machinery, products causing explosions or burns, aviation products, medical devices, prescription or over the counter drugs, among others. A lawsuit can be brought against anyone participating in the chain of manufacture for that product, from the manufacturer, to the designer to the retail store. When a company designs and manufactures a product, they have a responsibility to ensure that anyone exercising reasonable care within the expected parameters of usage expected for the product will not be injured. An action can be based on negligence, breach of implied or express warranty.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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