How to Determine Fault for an Oklahoma Car Accident
Whose Fault Is It And Why Does It Matter?
In any multi-vehicle car accident, there may be one or more drivers who can be considered "at fault," legally. What does this mean if you were injured in an OK car accident? What role does fault play?
Believe it or not, the concept of fault is essential in Oklahoma. The person who is deemed to be "at fault" is legally considered liable or responsible for the accident. It also directly affects how much or even whether an injured party is entitled to recover in terms of damages under a theory of "modified comparative negligence." This means that if, for example, two drivers back into each other, neither one of them looking in their rear-view mirrors, both may be seen as 50% responsible for the accident. Under such a circumstance, neither would legally be permitted to pursue a claim against the other.
If on the other hand, one driver was operating under the influence and the other failed to properly use his or her turn signal or was in some other minor way "at fault," the driver who was less than 50% responsible for the accident would be able to recover an amount representing his proportionate responsibility. So, if the under the influence driver was found 80% at fault, and the other driver 20%, that second driver would be able to recover 80% of his or her damages. The remaining 20% would be deemed his or her responsibility.
What Does "Fault" Really Mean In A Car Accident?
The word "fault" in a legal sense really refers to the concept of negligence. As drivers, we all bear responsibility for the safety not only of our passengers, but for other vehicles on the road, pedestrians, motorcyclists, etc. That responsibility means we have to use reasonable care and reasonable precautions to follow the rules of the road. In practical terms, that means drivers may be required to:
- Adhere to posted speed limits
- Not drive under the influence
- Wear (and have their passengers wear) seatbelts
- Follow all posted traffic signs and signals
- Respect the right of way of other drivers
- Not engage in any illegal or irresponsible driving behaviors
- Maintain a safe distance between vehicles
- Drive safely under the existing weather conditions
- Use headlights and turn signals properly
Basically, drivers have to follow the rules of the road and keep themselves and others safe. Any failure to do so may be construed as "fault" and preclude a driver from recovering damages to the extent of his or her responsibility.
So What Should You Do After An OK Car Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident in Oklahoma, there are some steps you are absolutely required to take whether you believe you were at fault or not:
- You MUST stop at the scene of the accident. Leaving the scene can result in criminal charges.
- Get medical assistance for anyone who needs it.
- Call the police and fill out a police report. This will require you to exchange information such as driver’s licenses, insurance, and other important contact info.
- Gather evidence if at all possible. Take photographs of the accident scene, get contact information for witnesses, and be certain to get photos of any vehicle damage.
- Do NOT discuss fault at the scene. Fault is a legal concept that is best discussed with an attorney.
Whether or not your actions were potentially "at fault" is a legal question best investigated by professionals. Contact Car Accident Help sponsored by Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst for advice and counsel at (405) 285-4357.
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