Why Do You Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, you may think you have an easy slam-dunk case. You may think it’s a good idea to represent yourself. Well, it is likely a better idea to hire a personal injury attorney, and here’s are a few reasons why:
- Stress: A personal injury claim can go on for months or, in some cases, years. There are a lot of obstacles (legal paperwork, witnesses, and more) you will have to deal with. All the while you are trying to focus on your recovery and dealing with these things yourself would just be another thing to worry about. A personal injury lawyer can help take some of the stress off your plate.
- Settlements: Many personal injury cases won’t even go to court and rather reach a settlement outside the courtroom. Without a professional, you will have to negotiate with the insurance company and their lawyers yourself, and could end up with a worse result than if you had hired a personal injury lawyer.
- Court: If a settlement isn’t reached, then you’ll likely file a lawsuit. While you can represent yourself, the insurance companies you’ll be going against will have experienced professionals who have been litigating these types of cases for years. Having someone who can stand against these litigators is crucial to getting the compensation you deserve. A personal injury lawyer will be able to stay objective, professional, and ready during your case. Plus, they know the personal injury claim process and will do the heavy lifting for you (collecting evidence, helping you understand the laws, etc.). Then, the only thing you have to do is explain what happened truthfully and as accurately as you can. They’ll take care of the rest.
When Should You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you are injured in an accident due to negligence or wrongdoing, then you should hire a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. While it may seem like a cut and dry case if someone else caused your injuries, this isn't always the case.
One of the biggest reasons to hire a personal injury lawyer is if the liability of the accident is being disputed. A lawyer will gather evidence, get witness statements, and more during a thorough investigation in finding which party was responsible.
Another major reason to get the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer is having to deal with insurance companies. At the end of the day, the insurance company will want to pay you as little compensation as possible. They'll have a team of professionals working to accomplish this goal and they aren't concerned for your best interests. Having a personal injury lawyer can help even the odds against you and give you the best chance to get the compensation you deserve.
What Is the Legal Process of a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Oklahoma?
The legal process for a personal injury lawsuit in Oklahoma typically follows several key steps:
- Seek Medical Attention: After the injury, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial for your health and for documenting your injuries as evidence in your case.
- Consultation with an Attorney: It's advisable to consult with a personal injury attorney who can assess your case's merit, explain your legal rights, and guide you through the legal process.
- Filing a Complaint: If you and your attorney decide to proceed with a lawsuit, your attorney will file a complaint in the appropriate Oklahoma court. The complaint outlines the allegations against the defendant and the compensation you are seeking.
- Service of Process: The defendant is served with a copy of the complaint and a summons, informing them about the lawsuit and their legal obligation to respond.
- The Defendant's Response: The defendant has a limited time (typically 20-30 days) to respond to the complaint. They may admit or deny the allegations and may also file a counterclaim against you.
- Discovery: This phase involves the exchange of information between both parties. It includes gathering evidence, taking depositions (sworn statements by witnesses or parties), and requesting documents or information related to the case.
- Pre-Trial Motions and Settlement Negotiations: Either party may file motions asking the court to decide specific issues before trial. Additionally, settlement negotiations often take place during this phase, where both parties try to reach an agreement without going to trial.
- Trial: If a settlement isn't reached, the case proceeds to trial. Both parties present their evidence, witnesses, and arguments to a judge and/or jury. The judge or jury then decides the case based on the presented evidence.
- Verdict: After considering all evidence and arguments, the judge or jury reaches a verdict. If the defendant is found liable for the plaintiff's injuries, the court determines the amount of compensation (damages) to be awarded.
- Appeal (if applicable): Either party can appeal the verdict if they believe legal errors occurred during the trial that affected the outcome.
How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
This is one of the most common questions asked and is often one of the most difficult to answer. Every personal injury case, just like every personal injury victim and their story, is unique. We take the time to get to know each our clients personally and dedicate the time necessary to examine every detail of your case. Our Oklahoma City personal injury attorneys have decades of experience handling a wide-variety of injury cases and know attention to detail and dedication to learning your story can have a big impact on achieving the best result. When you work with Fulmer Sill you can be assured we’ve done everything so you don’t have to worry about leaving even a dollar unclaimed.
What Needs to Be Proven in Order to Win a Personal Injury Case in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, personal injury law encompasses legal rules and procedures that govern civil lawsuits stemming from accidents or injuries caused by the negligence or wrongful actions of others.
Proving negligence in Oklahoma, as in most jurisdictions, generally involves establishing four key elements:
- Duty of Care: The plaintiff (injured party) must demonstrate that the defendant owed them a duty of care. This means the defendant had a legal obligation to act reasonably to avoid causing harm to others in a particular situation. For instance, a driver owes a duty of care to other drivers, pedestrians, and passengers on the road.
- Breach of Duty: The plaintiff must show that the defendant breached, or failed to meet, the duty of care owed to them. This involves proving that the defendant's actions or lack of action fell below the standard of care expected in that situation. For example, a driver texting while driving might breach the duty of care to operate the vehicle safely.
Causation: The plaintiff needs to establish that the defendant's breach of duty directly
caused the plaintiff's injuries or damages. There must be a clear link
between the defendant's actions and the harm suffered by the plaintiff.
This is often broken down into two components:
- Cause in Fact (Actual Cause): The plaintiff must prove that the defendant's actions were the actual cause of the injury. In other words, "but for" the defendant's actions, the injury would not have occurred.
- Proximate Cause (Legal Cause): The plaintiff must show that the harm caused by the defendant was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant's actions. It involves determining whether the harm was within the scope of the risk created by the defendant's actions.
- Damages: Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant's negligence. This could include physical injuries, emotional distress, medical expenses, lost wages, or property damage.
To establish negligence in Oklahoma, evidence such as eyewitness testimonies, expert opinions, medical records, photographs, accident reports, and other documentation can be crucial. Presenting a clear and compelling case that supports each element of negligence is essential to a successful claim.
Oklahoma follows a modified comparative fault system. This means that if the injured party is found partially at fault for the accident, their compensation might be reduced based on their percentage of fault. However, if the injured party is found to be 51% or more at fault, they might not be entitled to recover any damages.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, most personal injury claims are held to a strict two-year statute of limitations that begins on the date of the accident. If the statute expires, the injured party effectively loses the right to demand compensation from the liable party. If you think you may have a case, don’t wait to contact an attorney. Waiting until the statute of limitations is near can may negatively impact your case. For instance we frequently see waiting too long result in the destruction of or inability to collect vital evidence and witnesses forgetting important details or worse, going missing. Ultimately, waiting until a statute of limitations is near may impede an attorney from accepting or successfully bringing your case.
What Is a Contingency Fee?
At Fulmer Sill, we offer our personal injury services on a contingency fee basis. We understand that not everyone can afford to pay out-of-pocket for top-notch legal services and believe that ability to shouldn’t act as a barrier to getting the best legal representation available. This is especially true when you’ve suffered an injury or loss that results in hardship through no fault of your own. With a contingency fee agreement, you won’t have to pay any attorney fees unless your case ends in a favorable outcome, such as through a settlement, verdict, or judgment obtained on your behalf.
Should I Accept the Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer?
Insurers frequently attempt to settle claims early, sometimes just days after an injury, in an effort to save money. One problem with any early settlement is that you might accept an offer before the full extent of an injury or harm is known. Such situations can leave an injured person undercompensated or fighting a difficult battle trying to undue an unfavorable settlement. Additionally, “lowballing”, where insurers try to offer seemingly small sums or make only marginal increases during negotiations is another common tactic. The best advice is consult with an attorney before you sign a settlement agreement or agree to verbally accept any offer. Insurance companies have skilled negotiators working on their side, you should too.