Historically, heavy snowfalls (6-8 inches) have hit Oklahoma an average of four times a year. Heavy snowfalls temporarily create unusually dangerous road conditions that can lead to tragic car accidents. Since the Oklahoma City municipal government, a subdivision of the Oklahoma state government, is charged with the responsibility of clearing snow from the main roads, under certain circumstances the state government can bear liability for a car accident caused by snowy roads. Find out much more related to crash in our Oklahoma City car accident lawyer resource.
In Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Public Works Division is the entity responsible for clearing snow from Oklahoma City’s major thoroughfares. Since it is not specifically responsible for clearing minor roads, however, it might be more difficult to pursue a claim against the state if your accident happened off the main traffic arteries. If your accident occurred on a major thoroughfare, however, you might have a case if you can prove that the Public Works Division was at fault.
Suing the State of Oklahoma
Oklahoma, like other U.S. states, enjoys “sovereign immunity”, which means that it cannot be sued for the acts of its employees without its permission. The Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, however, allows you to sue a state government entity for a car accident. You must allege that the dangerous condition that caused the accident was “affirmatively caused by the negligent act of the state or a political subdivision” (in this case, the Oklahoma City Public Works Division). Because you are suing the state government, however, you will be subject to the following restrictions:
- You must file a formal claim against the Public Works Division before you can file a lawsuit.
- You cannot sue a state government employee directly – you can only sue the state government itself.
- You cannot claim punitive damages.
Damages are capped at $175,000 per person or $1,000,000 per accident (if several people file claims arising out of the same accident). If there is not enough money to go around, the award will be apportioned among claimants.
The most pressing difficulty in filing such a claim is discovering and proving exactly what negligent act was committed by the Public Works Division. The mere presence of snow on the roads is not enough – you will likely have to prove that the Public Works Division negligently delayed clearing the roads long enough to have caused your accident.
If you were partly at fault for the accident – if you were driving too fast for the conditions at the time of the accident, for example – an Oklahoma court will likely assign you a percentage of the blame for the accident. If your percentage of fault is no higher than 50 percent, your damages will be reduced by that exact percentage (if you were 40 percent at fault, for example, the court will deduct 40 percent from your damages). If you were more than 50 percent at fault, however, you will receive nothing.
Making It Happen
Pressing a personal injury claim against the Oklahoma state government is tricky business because of the legal restrictions on suing the state. Without a viable lawsuit, however, even an out-of-court settlement is impossible. Securing the services of an experienced, savvy personal injury lawyer to help you navigate the maze of litigation is a necessity, not s luxury. Call John Mac Hayes at 405-235-5200 immediately to schedule a free evaluation of your case,