If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt in a car accident, you may be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit if the crash was caused by the negligent actions of another party. You may have heard term “no-fault state,” and you may be wondering what that means and whether it applies in Tennessee.
“No-fault” refers to the handful of states that require drivers to purchase “no-fault auto insurance,” meaning that in most circumstances, they recover damages under their own insurance policy and are limited in their ability to sue other drivers, no matter who was at fault.
Tennessee is not one of those states. Tennessee is considered a “fault state,” meaning that if you are injured in a car accident here and another driver is at fault, you may be able to recover damages from them and from their insurance company in a personal injury suit.
In a fault state like Tennessee, proving who was at fault is one of the most important elements in a lawsuit over a car accident. If you have been injured in a car accident in Tennessee, understanding how fault works here can help you to determine whether filing a personal injury suit could be the right option for you.
In determining who is at fault in a car accident, Tennessee operates on a standard known as “comparative negligence.” This means a certain share of the blame will be assigned to each driver depending on how much their negligent actions contributed to the accident.
For example, if Driver A was driving the wrong way down a one-way street and hit Driver B, but Driver B might have been able to move out of the way had he not been distracted by his cell phone, a jury might decide that Driver A was 90% at fault and Driver B was 10% at fault.
Under Tennessee law, any driver who is found to be 50% or more at fault is legally barred from recovering any damages in a personal injury suit. In the case of Drivers A and B, then, Driver B could recover damages, but Driver A could not. In a different scenario, if both drivers were determined to be equally at fault — a 50-50 split — neither would be able to win any compensation in court.
After an auto accident, as with any injury, proving fault involves proving negligence. When there is a reasonable expectation that a driver will take some sort of care, such as driving at safe speeds, but the driver violates that expectation, such as by driving at excessive speeds, and injures you because of it, that driver can be said to have acted negligently.
Driving involves attention to so many factors, and accidents can happen so quickly, that even a driver who is later found to have almost no fault in an accident may be said to have done something negligent. In a comparative negligence state like Tennessee, the key is proving that the other driver was more negligent, and that their actions were 51% or more of the cause of the accident.
When the police are called to the scene of an accident, they will assess the scene, take statements from the drivers involved, and write up a report based on their observations. If it was obvious who was at fault, the report might say so. Otherwise, the report might list contributing factors on both sides, such as driving at excessive speeds, failing to yield right-of-way, or texting while driving.
Insurance companies often look to these reports in making their own determinations as to which driver was more at fault. These reports are also a very powerful tool for accident victims filing a personal injury suit, as they represent an official account by the authorities that can help prove each driver’s comparative negligence and assign them a portion of the blame. However, it is important to remember that the police do not have final say on who should be held liable for damages in a car accident. That is ultimately the responsibility of the courts in civil lawsuits.
There are also certain actions that usually result in a driver being found at fault. Drivers making a left turn across oncoming traffic, for example, are usually found to be at fault when they are involved in a collision. Similarly, in most cases, when the collision in question is a rear-end accident, the driver coming from behind is usually found at fault. If you were rear-ended or hit by a driver turning left in front of you, it may be easier to prove that that driver was mostly at fault.
In any case, if you are able to prove that the other driver acted in a negligent manner — that their actions amounted to more than half the cause of the accident — you may be able to recover compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Recoverable damages can include compensation for medical bills, car repairs, pain and suffering, and more.
Car crashes can be very disorienting. The adrenaline and physical pain can make it hard to think in the moment and to know exactly what to do. But there are certain steps that are extremely important to take in order to protect your rights as a personal injury victim.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, the most important step is to call 911. Not only will you get emergency medical treatment if you need it, but the authorities will also arrive on the scene and take a report. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible, even if you don’t think you need emergency treatment. You should also report the accident to your insurer, but do not provide a written or recorded statement about the cause of the crash without the advice of an attorney.
In a comparative negligence state like Tennessee, proving fault can at times seem difficult. That’s why you need a qualified attorney on your side. David Gordon is one of the fewer than 2% of Tennessee lawyers who are Board Certified by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Our experienced car accident lawyers have the know-how to help you prove fault in your personal injury case and increase your chances of securing compensation in court or in a settlement. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact David Gordon Law today by phone or online for a free consultation.