Auto Accident Case is Remanded for New Trial on Damages, Following UM Carrier’s Appeal to Tennessee Court of Appeals

Many people labor under the mistaken impression that pursuing fair compensation is easier when the defendant in a car accident case is the victim’s own uninsured motorist insurance company. This is simply not true.¬†As the case set forth below illustrates, an insurance company can likely align itself with the negligent motorist that caused the collision – not its own insured – and fight tooth and nail to pay out as little as possible on a claim, even when liability is clear.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who was involved in an accident with the defendant driver in Shelby County, Tennessee, in January 2016. The man was joined in the suit by his wife as co-plaintiff. The plaintiff’s uninsured motorist carrier was served with a copy of the complaint pursuant to the Tennessee Uninsured Motorist Act. The defendants did not dispute that the driver was liable for the accident in question; rather, the primary issues before the court were the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and their impact on the plaintiff’s earning capacity.

The case tried to a jury in the Circuit Court for Shelby County. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs in the amount of $250,000, some $235,000 of which was attributable to the plaintiff’s loss of earning capacity due to the accident. The trial court entered judgment upon the jury’s verdict. The defendant UM carrier filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, for a new trial. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and it appealed.

Decision of the Court on Appeal

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson vacated the trial court’s judgment upon the jury’s verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. The court first observed that one of the principal points of contention in the case was the parties’ disagreement over the propriety of certain evidence relating to the plaintiff’s spinal injuries and the alleged corresponding loss of earning capacity complained of by the plaintiff. The UM carrier argued that the video testimony of one witness and the live testimony of another witness was either inappropriately speculative or was without a proper foundation.

Because the court agreed with the UM carrier that some of the complained-of testimony should not have been admitted, the court found that the appropriate remedy was to grant the defendant a new trial. Insomuch as the parties agreed as to the issue of liability, the new trial was to be on the issues of damages only. (In other words, the plaintiff will likely “win” at trial on remand, but he may receive a lesser amount of money in compensation for his injuries and lost wages than in the first trial.)

Schedule a Free Personal Injury Case Evaluation

Pursuing fair compensation for injuries caused by another’s negligence in an automobile accident is not a quick and easy task. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a wreck, you should talk to an experienced Knoxville car accident attorney about getting started on your case as soon as possible. The Hartsoe Law Firm offers a free case evaluation in car crash cases. To get started, call us at 865-524-5657 to schedule an appointment.

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