Oklahoma Car Wreck Law

Oklahoma Car Wreck Law


Kent Morlan

Morlan & Associates, P.C.

406 South Boulder, Suite 450

Tulsa, OK 74103



Oklahoma car wreck (automotive negligence) law is much like the law of negligence everywhere else in the United States.  It imposes on all drivers a duty of due care in the operation of their vehicle.  Failure to exercise due care by failing abide by the rules of the road (statutes and ordinances) or failing to exercise that degree of care that an ordinary person would exercise under the same of similar circumstances constitutes negligence and exposes negligent drivers to liability for any harm caused by their negligence.
If you decide for [Plaintiff], you must then fix the amount of damages. This is the amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate [him/her] for the injuries sustained as a result of the [negligence/(wrongful conduct)] of [Defendant].
In fixing the amount to be awarded to a plaintiff in a car wreck case in Oklahoma, a jury may consider the following:
A. Plaintiff’s physical pain and suffering, past and future;
B Plaintiff’s mental pain and suffering, past and future;
C. Plaintiff’s age;
D. Plaintiff’s physical condition immediately before and after the accident;
E. The nature and extent of Plaintiff’s injuries;
F. Whether the injuries are permanent;
G. The physical impairment;
H. The disfigurement;
I. Loss of earnings and/ortime;
J. Impairment of earning capacity;
K. The reasonable expenses of the necessary medical care, treatment, and services, past and future.
In a civil lawsuit, the law provides which party is to prove certain things to juries. This is called “Burden of Proof.”
When a judge says to a jury that a party has the burden of proof on any proposition by the greater weight of the evidence, or uses the expression “if you find,” or “if you decide”, she means they must be persuaded, considering all the evidence in the case, that the proposition on which such party has the burden of proof is more probably true than not true. The greater weight of the evidence does not mean the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact, but means what seems to you more convincing and more probably true.
A party who seeks to recover on a claim or a counterclaim, or a party who raises an affirmative defense has the burden to prove all the elements of the claim or defense. In deciding whether a party has met the burden of proof, juries are to take into account all the evidence, whether offered by that party or any other party.
In Marathon Battery Co. v. Kilpatrick, 418 P.2d 900, 902 (Okla. 1966), the Oklahoma Supreme Court said that the trial court must, on its own motion, properly charge the jury on issues raised by the pleadings and evidence. It also stated inter alia: “It has been pointed out to trial courts that it is not good practice to formulate the issues by reading at large from the pleadings. Trial courts should be extremely wary of the risk of error involved in such practice.” 418 P.2d at 915.

A person who has a condition or disability at the time of an injury is entitled to recover damages for any aggravation of such pre-existing condition or disability directly caused by the injury. This is true even if the person’s condition or disability made him more susceptible to the possibility of injury than a normally healthy person would have been, and even if a normally healthy person probably would not have suffered any substantial injury.

When a pre-existing condition or disability is so aggravated, the damages as to such condition or disability are limited to the additional injury caused by aggravation.

Cantrell v. Henthorn, 624 P.2d 1056, 1058 (Okla. 1981); H.A. Marr Grocery Co. v. Jones, 203 Okla. 698, 699, 226 P.2d 392, 394 (1950); see also Irving v. Bullock, 549 P.2d 1184, 1187 (Alaska 1976).

Damage Caused To Personal Property

When a Plaintiff claimed damage to personal property and a jury finds in favor of Plaintiff, the jury must then determine the amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate him for the injury to the Plaintiff’s property. That amount is:

1. The reasonable cost of repairing the property, plus depreciation, if any, to the property. (“Depreciation” means the difference between the market value of the property immediately before being injured and its market value after repairs have been or would be made.) and,2. The reasonable cost of renting a similar renting a replacement during the time reasonably required to make the necessary repairs of the injury caused by the defendant.

Loss of Spousal Consortium

A Plaintiff can sue a Defendant for loss of spousal consortium as a result of the injury to his or her. Spousal consortium is the right a husband or a wife has to the services, society, comfort, companionship and the marriage relationship of his or her wife or husband. For [Plaintiff] to recover on this claim you must find all the following:

A. Spouse is entitled to recover damages from a Defendant for his or her injuries;
B. If a Plaintiff and  his or her spouse were married at the time the spouse sustained the injuries, if any.
C. As a result of the injuries sustained by plaintiff also sustained a loss of his or her right of consortium.
Certain defenses which the defendant may have against the injured spouse, e.g., contributory negligence, may also bar or reduce the amount of plaintiff’s derivative claim for loss of consortium.

A spouse’s right to recover special damages for loss of the other spouse’s services is derivative only in that, if the injured spouse has no valid claim for such injuries, the other spouse is without right to recover for loss of consortium. Laws v. Fisher, 513 P.2d 876, 878 (Okla. 1973); McKee v. Neilson, 444 P.2d 194, 198 (Okla. 1968) (“[T]he law is well settled that the wife’s contributory negligence may be pleaded and proved as a bar to the husband’s action for medical expenses and loss of his wife’s services, society, and companionship, because of injury to the wife caused by the negligence of a third person.”).

Income Tax On Damage Awards

Title 12 O.S. 2011 § 577.4 (Laws 2011, c. 16, § 1, eff. Nov. 1, 2011), reads as follows:

Tax Consequences of Award for Damages in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Actions

The Oklahoma Uniform Jury Instructions (OUJI) applicable in a civil case shall include an instruction notifying the jury that no part of an award for damages for personal injury or wrongful death is subject to federal or state income tax. Any amount that the jury determines to be proper compensation for personal injury or wrongful death should not be increased or decreased by any consideration for income taxes. In order to be admitted at trial, any exhibit relating to damage awards shall reflect accurate tax ramifications.

In Missouri-K. T. R. R. v. Miller, 1971 OK 68 ¶ 38, 486 P.2d 630, 636, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the income tax consequences of a personal injury award are not a proper consideration for the jury.

Statute of Limitations

The Oklahoma statute of limitations on actions to recover to injuries and/or damages in generally two years from the date of injury. However, other shorter or longer statues of limitations apply to actions by minors and to actions against governmental entities under the Government Tort Claims Act.


You would be well advised to seek out an attorney to present you as soon as possible after you have been injured and/or damages by a car wreck to assure that your right to compensation is preserved.