March 16, 2021 | Personal Injury
Being injured by another person or party can be devastating. Oklahoma tort laws allow you to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. However, you cannot recover compensation from the other party until you prove the legal elements of a tort.
What is a Tort?
A tort is an act or omission that causes harm or injury to another person. It is a civil wrong, much like a crime is a criminal wrong. The courts impose legal liability for the damages and injuries caused by the tort.
Numerous accidents and situations can give rise to a tort claim.
Examples of cases that could involve a tort claim include:
- Automobile accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Assaults and violent acts
- Nursing home abuse
- Recreational and sports activities
- Slip and fall accidents
- Playground and school accidents
- Defective product injuries
- Truck accidents
- Workplace accidents
The injuries caused by the acts of another party can be catastrophic. A victim may sustain permanent brain injuries, paralysis, soft tissue injuries, back injuries, and broken bones. Some accident victims may not survive their injuries, resulting in a wrongful death.
Proving the Elements of a Tort Case
There are four basic elements of a tort case:
- Duty. The party who injured you owed you a legal duty of care.
- Breach. The party’s actions or omissions breached their duty of care.
- Causation. The breach of care was a proximate and direct cause of your injury.
- Damages. You incurred damages because of the breach of care.
There must be a duty of care for a tort claim to exist. If the person did not owe you a duty of care, you cannot prove you are entitled to compensation for your injuries.
A duty of care requires that a person act with the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. For example, drivers owe a duty of care to others on the road. If they drive while distracted or drunk, they breach the duty of care.
Doctors owe their patients a duty of care to provide medical care that meets or exceeds the standard of care for the situation. Manufacturers have a duty to produce safe products that don’t injure consumers. Property owners have a duty to keep their property free from hazards or dangers that could injure guests and visitors.
Once you prove a duty of care existed, you must prove that the party breached their duty of care. Breaching the duty of care means failing to act with reasonable care. For example, a manufacturer releases a defective product, which can cause injury and harm, thereby breaching their duty of care. A reasonable manufacturer would not release a defective product.
However, the manufacturer has not committed a tort unless the defective product causes an injury. You must prove that the breach of care was a direct and proximate cause of your injury. If you can prove the defective product caused your injury, you are just one step away from proving your tort claim.
Damages in a Tort Claim
The last element of a tort claim is damages. You proved that the party owed you a duty of care and breached the duty of care. You linked the breach directly to the cause of your injuries.
Examples of damages in a tort claim include:
- Loss of income and benefits if you are out of work because of your injury
- The medical cost of treating your injuries
- The cost of personal care or in-home health care
- Decreases in your earning potential because of a permanent impairment
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional trauma
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Loss of enjoyment of life or decrease in quality of life
The value of your damages depends on the facts of your case. Cases involving permanent disabilities are often worth more than cases involving minor injuries. A personal injury lawyer can help you determine how much your tort claim is worth.
Deadlines for Filing Tort Claims
Most states have statutes of limitations for tort claims that require you to file your case within a certain amount of time. The Oklahoma statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of injury. The two-year deadline applies in most tort cases. However, there are exceptions.
Children may have longer to file claims. In most cases, the time does not begin until the child turns 18 years old. If the person who caused your injury flees the State of Oklahoma, the time to file a lawsuit may be paused until the person returns.
In some cases, a delayed diagnosis could extend the time to file a tort claim. The time may begin when the person discovers the injury.
However, there are cases in which the time to file a tort claim may be shorter. Tort claims against government agencies have a very short timeline. You must file a notice of claim within a few months to pursue a lawsuit against the government.
In most cases, it is beneficial to seek legal advice as soon as you can after an accident. Knowing your legal rights helps you protect your right to fair and just compensation for your claim.