In Bonner v. Deyo, a woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against a driver who rear-ended her vehicle at a stop-light and the owner of the allegedly at-fault automobile. In her complaint, the woman sought damages for head, neck, and other injuries she claimed to have suffered in the collision as well as reimbursement for her medical costs. Her husband also asked the court to award him financial compensation for his loss of consortium. Prior to trial, the parties agreed that the injured woman’s medical and vehicle repair bills were both authentic and admissible. Despite this, the defendants denied a number of material allegations included in the hurt woman’s complaint.
In Hudson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., a woman was rear-ended by an unidentified driver in October 2010. Following the car accident, the woman reported the collision to her automobile insurance company. She also made arrangements to have her vehicle inspected for damage. About seven months later, the woman sought payment for medical expenses that were apparently related to the car wreck as part of her uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
About three months later, the insurer sent the woman a letter stating the statute of limitations would expire on the one-year anniversary of her traffic accident if she failed to settle her claim or file a lawsuit against the company prior to that date. A statute of limitations is a maximum time limit during which a lawsuit may be filed. If a plaintiff does not file his or her case before the prescribed statute of limitations expires, the plaintiff is normally permanently barred from recovering any damages, regardless of his or her harm. Soon after receiving the letter, the woman finally sought medical treatment for the injuries she allegedly sustained in the rear-end automobile crash. After an initial consultation, the woman’s doctor diagnosed her with a “lumbar torsion” that may have been caused by the motor vehicle collision, and she began receiving physical therapy. Her auto insurer then denied the woman’s personal injury claim because it determined that her physical harm was not related to the traffic crash.
A few days before the statute of limitations expired, the injured woman filed a case against her insurer in Blount County, Tennessee. Several months later, she filed a second case, adding her husband as a loss of consortium plaintiff and the unknown driver as a defendant. She later amended her lawsuit to include a claim for negligence against the unknown motorist who struck her vehicle as well as Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), bad faith, and breach of contract claims against her car insurance company. The insurer then successfully removed the lawsuit from state court to the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division.
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In Pyle v. Mullins, a landscaper filed a personal injury lawsuit against a woman following a three-vehicle traffic wreck in Farragut. Although the woman admitted to liability for the crash, a jury trial was held on the issue of damages. Following trial, the jury awarded the landscaper $15,000 in damages for the injuries he sustained in the collision. After the trial court affirmed the jury’s award, the man filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville.
On appeal, the man alleged that the jury’s verdict should be set aside because it was based on erroneous evidentiary rulings and instructions. The landscaper also claimed the award was inadequate based on the evidence. After examining the testimony and other evidence offered at trial, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was sufficient material evidence to support the jury’s damages award. Because of this, the court refused to disturb the jurors’ award based on the material evidence.
Next, the appellate court addressed the landscaper’s claim that the trial court committed error when it refused to instruct the jury regarding the woman’s liability for any alleged aggravation of the man’s purported pre-existing injuries. The court stated a trial judge should only provide a requested jury instruction where it is supported by the evidence, is part of a party to a lawsuit’s theory of liability, and correctly states the law. According to the appeals court, the lower court did not commit error when it refused to issue the requested instruction to the jury because there was no evidence offered regarding the issue of the man’s pre-existing injuries.
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In Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company v. Simmons, a man filed a wrongful death lawsuit after his son was tragically killed in a four-wheeler accident with a motor vehicle. According to man’s complaint, his son was being supervised by a neighbor’s adult daughter at the time of his death. Testimony offered at trial stated the child began operating the four-wheeler without permission after the woman went inside to retrieve a jacket. While the woman was inside, the boy apparently rode the four-wheeler into a nearby street and struck a car that was being driven by an unrelated man. Unfortunately, the child was killed in the collision.
Following the fatal incident, the child’s father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner, her adult daughter, the property owner’s insurance company, and the driver of the automobile that was involved in the accident. Although the insurer initially defended the property owner at trial, the company sought a declaratory judgment from the court after claiming the child’s accident was not covered under the policy. Due to his interest in the outcome, the child’s father was allowed to intervene in the action. The trial court held a hearing on the matter and ultimately agreed with the insurance company. The court determined that the property owner’s coverage did not extend to the boy’s fatal collision in the roadway. After the father’s post-trial motions were denied, he asked the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, at Knoxville to review the lower court’s decision.
On appeal, the man argued that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact when it determined the four-wheeler was no longer on the woman’s property at the time of the fatal accident and that the court committed error when it ruled in favor of the insurance company because the policy language was ambiguous. The Knoxville court first stated the trial court’s decision should be upheld unless it is in conflict with the preponderance of the evidence. Next, the court said that an insurance policy is a contract and its terms should be construed according to their logical and plain meaning. After examining the language of the insurance policy, the Court of Appeals dismissed the man’s claim that it was ambiguous. Because the policy interpretation offered by the bereaved father was strained and the trial court properly interpreted the plain language requirements for accident coverage included in the policy, the appellate court refused to overturn the trial court’s holding.
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The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville has affirmed a jury’s award in a car wreck case. In Miller v. Moretz, a 72-year-old driver was involved in an automobile accident with another motorist. According to disputed testimony offered at trial, the man’s vehicle was either backing up into a driveway or preparing to back up when a collision occurred between the rear corner of his vehicle and the driver’s side of the other vehicle. Following the crash, the elderly man and his wife filed a negligence lawsuit against the other driver over the personal injuries each allegedly sustained in the collision. In their complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant motorist failed to yield the right of way, failed to maintain a proper lookout, drove at an excessive rate of speed, followed their vehicle too closely, and more. The defendant responded by stating he was operating the vehicle in a prudent fashion. He also claimed the plaintiff failed to yield and violated the legal limitations placed on backing up a vehicle by Section 55-8-163 of the Tennessee Code.
Before trial, the defendant driver filed a motion in limine asking the court to prohibit the plaintiffs from introducing evidence related to his use of prescription medication at the time of the collision. Such a motion is normally considered by a judge while outside of a jury’s presence at the beginning of a trial. It is used to determine whether certain evidence may be introduced for the jury’s inspection. The defendant driver argued before the trial judge that evidence regarding his use of prescription medication should not be used for impeachment purposes because such evidence would have a prejudicial effect on him. Since the plaintiffs’ lawsuit did not allege the defendant driver was somehow impaired at the time of the traffic wreck, the court granted the defendant’s motion and excluded evidence related to his drug use.
Following trial, a jury found the defendant motorist 10 percent at fault for the car accident. Additionally, the jury held the plaintiff driver 90 percent responsible for the crash and valued his wife’s damages at zero. Since Tennessee is a modified comparative fault state, this means the plaintiffs were not entitled to recover any compensation for their alleged injuries. Under modified comparative fault rules, an accident victim may not recover for his or her harm if a jury or judge decides the injured party was at least 50 percent responsible for the accident. The plaintiffs responded to the jury’s verdict by filing a motion for a new trial. Their motion was denied, and the couple appealed their case to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville.
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A 75-year-old man was tragically killed in a recent motor vehicle collision on East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Walland. According to a spokesperson for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Marian O’Briant, the man was in the process of turning onto the parkway from Rocky Branch Road when his vehicle was struck by an eastbound auto that was being driven by a Maryville teenager. Although the teen attempted to avoid the traffic wreck, she was apparently unable to stop before colliding with the rear driver’s side of the man’s car. Sadly, the 75-year-old was pronounced deceased at University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Following the fatal traffic crash, the teen driver and two other children were transported to Blount Memorial Hospital for medical treatment. Thankfully, all of the minors involved in the deadly wreck were treated and released. According to authorities, each child was utilizing a seat belt at the time of the collision. O’Briant stated the exact cause of the automobile accident is currently under investigation by the Traffic Safety Unit of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office.
Unfortunately, this accident was apparently the second deadly collision on the East Lamar Alexander Parkway in less than one week and the eighth traffic wreck since May. Sadly, a 33-year-old man was killed in a one-vehicle crash on the parkway near Laurel Valley Road a few days prior. Authorities stated the man appeared to have lost control of his car while navigating a curve in the road and struck a tree. Although the airbags in his motor vehicle deployed, the 33-year-old was not wearing a safety belt. He unfortunately died at the University of Tennessee Medical Center after firefighters extricated him from the accident wreckage.
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A recent federal lawsuit demonstrates the importance of protecting yourself by maintaining uninsured motorist accident coverage on your personal vehicle. In the case, the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville ruled in favor of an automobile insurer who was sued for damages following a motor vehicle accident involving a rental car. In Progressive Hawaii Insurance Corp. v. Gulley, a Knoxville woman rented a Nissan Maxima for a family trip. Prior to renting the car, the woman purchased liability auto insurance for her personal vehicle from Progressive Hawaii Insurance Corporation. Under the terms of the rental agreement, the woman was the only authorized driver of the Nissan.
While attending a family gathering in Knoxville, the woman’s son apparently drove the rental car without her permission. He and three others allegedly drank alcohol and drove the vehicle around town before the son’s friend got behind the wheel of the Nissan. While the friend was driving, the Nissan was involved in an injury traffic wreck with another automobile. Unfortunately, one of the occupants of the rental car was also killed in the crash.
After a personal injury lawsuit was filed against the woman and her insurer in the Eastern District of Tennessee, the insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment. When a party to a lawsuit files such a motion, that party is asking the court to rule that no material facts are in dispute and enter judgment in the party’s favor based upon the undisputed evidence offered in the case. According to the insurance company, it had no duty to defend or indemnify the woman because the rental car was not a covered vehicle under the terms of the liability policy. Additionally, the insurer claimed that the individual operating the car at the time of the crash was not a covered driver.
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The Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville has refused to overturn a jury’s finding that two drivers were equally responsible for a traffic wreck. In Salyer v. Linnen, two motor vehicles collided at a traffic light while both were turning off of U.S. Highway 11-E in Sullivan County. According to testimony offered at trial, the plaintiff was southbound on the highway when she slowed to turn right onto Allison Road. At the same time, the northbound defendant turned left onto the same road. The two vehicles apparently struck one another while each motorist made their respective turns. After the crash, the plaintiff and her husband filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. In addition, the couple asked the court to award compensation for property damage and loss of consortium. In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendant filed a countersuit against her.
At trial, both the plaintiff and a law enforcement officer who investigated the accident offered testimony that stated the defendant admitted to fault at the accident scene. An Officer with the Bluff City Police Department also testified that the rear passenger side of the defendant’s vehicle sustained damage in the collision, while the front driver’s side of the plaintiff’s car was damaged. He stated both drivers appeared nervous, but neither showed any obvious signs of physical harm immediately following the crash. The officer claimed that the automobile crash took place beneath the traffic signal. The defendant testified that she followed all traffic laws and took the turn with caution. She also denied admitting any fault at the scene of the collision.
At the close of evidence, a jury determined that both parties were 50 percent responsible for the injury accident. Because Tennessee is a modified comparative fault accident state, this means neither party was compensated for her accident injuries. In a state that adheres to modified comparative fault, a plaintiff who is 50 percent or more responsible for his or her personal injury may not recover compensation. In contrast, a plaintiff who is held 49 percent or less responsible for his or her accident injuries may recover for any harm sustained, but the award will be reduced by the amount of responsibility a jury or judge attributed to the plaintiff.
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A 27-year-old Walland motorist was recently charged with vehicular homicide, assault, and reckless endangerment in connection with a deadly three-car crash on U.S. Highway 411 in Blount County. According to local authorities, the man was northbound on the roadway when he attempted to pass another motorist at a high rate of speed in the center lane. The 27-year-old apparently lost control of the vehicle and crossed into the southbound lanes where he struck two other automobiles. Sadly, a 72-year-old Tellico Plains woman was killed in the traffic wreck. A 76-year-old passenger in her car was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical center for treatment. Additionally, a 19-year-old Maryville woman was treated and released by Blount Memorial Hospital for injuries she purportedly sustained in the crash.
Local authorities stated all three victims were wearing a seat belt when the wreck occurred. The Walland man who stands accused of causing the fatal accident, however, sustained a number of avoidable wounds when he was ejected from his vehicle. The man was apparently released from the hospital the same day he was criminally charged.
The exact cause of the deadly collision is under investigation by the Traffic Safety Unit of the Blount County Sherriff’s Office. At this time, law enforcement apparently believes drugs or alcohol may have played a role in the fatal traffic accident. A spokesperson for local authorities stated toxicology results on the 27-year-old driver are still pending.
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Recently we discussed the numbers of uninsured (“UM”) and underinsured (“UIM”) motorists on Tennessee roadways. Because of this, it is important to make sure that your insurance policy covers you in case you suffer injuries caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists.
However, your insurance company may try to avoid paying your UM and UIM coverage. Your policy may have limits on the UM and UIM coverage. In Tennessee, there are two common limits to insurance UM and UIM premiums, offsets and subrogation.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, and the at-fault driver has no insurance or inadequate insurance, you should speak with a local attorney who understands Tennessee policies and knows how to protect your rights. The Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. takes car accident cases seriously and has successfully represented clients involved in accidents with uninsured and underinsured drivers.
Offsets: Poper ex rel. Poper v. Rollins
Tennessee Code Annotated § 56-7-1201(d) (“§ 1201(d)”) allows insurance companies to offset their UM or UIM payments against other claims that a policy holder may receive. For example, if you are injured in an accident because of the negligent driving of an uninsured motorist, and you sue the uninsured motorist, the insurance company can offset their coverage by the amount you receive from the lawsuit. The purpose of offsets is to prevent unjust enrichment where a policy holder may get paid twice.