In some car accidents, both drivers are partially at fault. Both drivers may be speeding. One driver may drive through a red light while the other driver is distracted because he’s talking on a smartphone. Just because you were partially at fault doesn’t mean you can’t file a claim, but it could affect how much you recover in damage. That’s why we think it’s always best to speak with an attorney instead of taking a quick settlement from an insurance adjuster, or instead of relying on your collision coverage to pay your damage.
The general rule in Oklahoma is that your claim CAN succeed – provided your fault was less than the fault of the other driver. Oklahoma law specifically provides that in a negligence claim or a wrongful death claim that contributory negligence (the negligence of the person who is filing the claim) does not bar a recovery – unless the claimant’s negligence was more than the negligence of the defendant(s).
In a car crash claim, the injured victim is entitled to the following damages:
- All medical bills from hospitals, doctors, therapists, pharmacists, and other health providers
- The victim’s lost income
- The victim’s physical pain and emotional suffering
- Any damage to their vehicle
- Compensation for scarring and disfigurement
Other damages may be due, too, such as loss of consortium.
How contributory negligence affects the amount of damages victims receive
A separate Oklahoma statute provides that in cases where both drivers are negligent, the amount of damages will be reduced in proportion to each driver’s negligence.
A few examples should provide more clarity. In these examples, please assume that the amount of the damages that would be awarded if the defendants were 100% at fault is $100,000.
- Example one – the other driver is more at fault. A jury determines that the other drivers was 75% at fault and that you were 25% at fault. In this scenario, your damages will be reduced by 25%. This means you will be awarded $75,000.
- Example two – both drivers are equally at fault. A jury determines that you are 50% at fault. Here, you are both equally at fault. Your negligence is not more than the negligence of the other driver. In this scenario, your damages will be reduced by 50%. This means you will be awarded $50,000.
- Example three – you are more at fault than the other driver. A jury determines that you were 51% at fault and the other driver was 49% at fault. Here, your negligence is more than that of the other driver. In this scenario, you will receive nothing.
If you are involved in a car accident where you are partially at fault, don’t say anything until you talk to a lawyer. Never admit fault of any kind, because even if it turns out you weren’t to blame, the other driver’s insurance company can and will use your admission of fault against you.
Don’t assume the worst. The defendant often can’t prove you were negligent or can’t prove you were more negligent. At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers have more than 105 years of combined experience. To date, we have recovered more than $30 million in total for our injured clients. To discuss your car crash case and to seek a just damage award, even if you were partially at fault, call our office at 405.232.1212 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More