Tennessee is a “modified comparative fault” state. This means that, in deciding the effect that a plaintiff’s own negligence has on the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff can only recover damages if he or she is found to be less than 50% at fault.
If the jury attributes 50% or more of the fault to the plaintiff, he or she cannot recover any compensation from the defendant. If the plaintiff is 49% or less at fault, he or she recovers the percentage of his or her damages assigned to the defendant. For instance, if the jury finds that the plaintiff suffered $100,000 in damages but was 25% at fault, the trial court will enter a net judgment of $75,000 in the plaintiff’s favor.
Facts of the Case
In a case recently reviewed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals at Nashville, the plaintiffs were a husband and wife who sought compensation for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident that they alleged was caused by a box truck driver who was traveling behind them through a construction zone on Interstate 65. The driver’s employer was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit on the ground that it was vicariously liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries.
The defendants produced a video from the driver’s truck that showed the plaintiffs signaling and merging into the driver’s lane, with the crash happening shortly thereafter. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the ground that reasonable minds could not differ as to the plaintiffs being at least 50% at fault for the accident.
Decision of the Court of Appeals
The appellate court reversed, holding that the trial court had erred in granting summary judgment to the defendants. While the defendants insisted that their video proved that the driver “acted as a reasonable person,” the court of appeals did not agree with this assessment. Admittedly, the video did show that the plaintiffs changed lanes in an “abrupt fashion,” but it also established that the truck driver did not slow his speed while passing through a construction area, despite police presence. In the court’s opinion, genuine issues of material fact remained. On remand, the trial court was to instruct the jury to determine whether the trucker breached the duty of due care under the existing circumstances and, if so, allocate the fault between the parties.
Speak to a Lawyer in Knoxville or Maryville
Being involved in an accident with a tractor trailer or another commercial vehicle can result in devastating injuries and even death. The Hartsoe Law Firm in Knoxville handles rear-end collisions and other truck accident cases throughout Knoxville, Maryville, and other cities in East Tennessee. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 865-524-5657. Tennessee has a very short statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits compared to other states, so it is very important to talk to an attorney about your case as soon as possible.
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