In this article, we explore some important points of Oklahoma personal injury law. These laws come into play in a wide range of injury cases, whether you are going to court or just seeking an insurance settlement.
Oklahoma law contains time limits, known as "statutes of limitations," for going to court and filing a lawsuit over some type of harm. Different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases. For personal injury cases in Oklahoma, you have two years from the date of the underlying incident to file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system, in most cases.
It's important to keep track of this two-year time limit. If you miss the deadline and try to file your lawsuit after more than two years, the court may throw out your case without considering it.
The full text of Oklahoma's statute of limitations for personal injury cases can be viewed online in Title 12, Ch. 3, Sec. 95 of the Oklahoma Code.
"Shared fault" occurs when an injured person and the party that caused the accident or injury are both partly responsible for what happened. Oklahoma applies a "modified comparative fault" rule to cases where fault is shared. Under the modified comparative fault rule, an injured party can recover a reduced amount of damages if his or her fault is under 50 percent, but can recover zero damages if their share of the fault is 50 percent or more.
Suppose, for example, that you are shopping in a grocery store one day when you slip and fall in a puddle of spilled juice. You didn't see the puddle in your path because you were busy dialing your cell phone at the time. In court, it is determined that you are 30 percent at fault for the accident, and the grocery store is 70 percent at fault. Your total damages equal $10,000.
Since you share less than 50 percent of the fault in this case, Oklahoma's modified comparative fault rule kicks in to reduce your damages by an amount equal to your percentage of fault. Here, that means your $10,000 award is reduced by $3,000 (30 percent of $10,000), leaving you with $7,000. If you had been found 50 percent or more at fault, you would not be able to recover damages at all.
Oklahoma courts are obligated by law to apply the modified comparative fault rule whenever a shared-fault case comes to trial. An insurance adjuster may also bring up the question of shared fault during negotiations.
Oklahoma, like many states, "caps" or limits damages in personal injury cases, meaning the amount of compensation that an injured person can receive for their losses. Specifically, Oklahoma caps non-economic damages -- which includes compensation for "pain and suffering" -- in personal injury cases.
Oklahoma's damages cap, passed in 2011, limits non-economic damages in civil injury cases to $350,000. The cap does not affect economic damages like those meant to compensate for the cost of medical care and for lost income.
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Oklahoma however, a specific statute (Okla. Stat. Ann., tit. 4, § 42.1) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
"The owner or owners of any dog shall be liable for damages to the full amount of any damages sustained when his dog, without provocation, bites or injures any person while such person is in or on a place where he has a lawful right to be."
A different set of rules applies to your injury case if it involves the negligence of an Oklahoma state-level government, city, or county employee or agency. For instance, you have only one year after the date of an injury to file a written claim if your case involves the potential liability of the government.
You can learn more about Oklahoma laws that apply to personal injury cases by reading the full text of Title 12: Civil Procedure in the Oklahoma Code.