Articles Posted in Car Accidents

After a Knoxville car accident, victims and their loved ones may face an immeasurable amount of psychological, emotional, and financial harm. While recovery entails more than just financial compensation, monetary damages are often the first step to rebuilding after an accident. In Tennessee, the law allows for three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Damages refer to the money a liable person pays to an injury victim after an accident. These compensations are available through insurance settlements, negotiations, or trials. However, the type and amount of damages depend on various factors primarily, the circumstances surrounding the accident and the ensuing losses.

Under the law, economic damages refer to payments to a plaintiff to compensate them for quantifiable monetary losses. These damages typically include medical expenses, pay stubs, and repair bills. Non-economic or non-monetary damages often called general damages, include subjective losses that are harder to quantify. Common examples include pain and suffering damages, payments for emotional distress, and loss of companionship or consortium.

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are designed to punish and deter the defendant. Courts rarely award these damages, and they are available in a narrow set of circumstances. Under Tennessee Statute § 29-39-104(a)(1) (2014), punitive damages are only applicable when a plaintiff establishes by “clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly.” The statute provides caps on the number of punitive damages a plaintiff can recover. However, there are certain exceptions to the cap, including;

Good Samaritan laws protect those who provide safety to others during dangerous situations or necessary rescue. Tennessee’s Good Samaritan Law protects people from liability if they meet certain conditions. These laws stem from public policy considerations that those who voluntarily perform care in emergencies outside of a medical setting should be immune from liability in most situations. Generally, the law protects from negligence lawsuits against good Samaritans; however, these individuals still maintain their right to sue for personal injury or wrongful death in most scenarios.

Tennessee good Samaritan law protects those giving aid in an emergency without financial gain and so long as they act in good faith. Good faith generally includes situations where a person holds a reasonable opinion that the immediacy of situations requires them to render aid or care. The law does not define precisely what constitutes an “emergency.” However, in most cases, life-threatening situations fall under that umbrella. The law applies to the general public and certain medical providers providing emergency care at an accident scene.

Good Samaritans often put themselves in precarious positions to provide care, safety, and rescue to those in imminent danger. In some situations, these helpers can sustain serious injuries or even death in their effort to aid another. For instance, national news reports described a tragic accident involving a Tennessee good Samaritan. According to reports, the 22-year-old man was on his way to church when he stopped to help a driver involved in an accident. The man parked his vehicle and approached the car accident victim. While rendering aid, another driver slammed into the man’s unoccupied vehicle, which was pushed into him. Tragically the man died from his injuries, leaving behind a one-month-old daughter and wife.

Head-on collisions do not occur as frequently as other types of accidents; however, they tend to result in the most serious injuries. Tennessee head-on or frontal collisions refer to instances when two vehicles traveling toward each other collide. Although many cars have safety features designed to lessen the impact of an accident, the protections may not be enough to shield occupants from a head-on collision.

Tennessee head-on collision lawsuits typically fall under the theory of negligence. As such, the victim must establish that the at-fault party failed to use reasonable care in preventing the accident. Specifically, the claimant must prove that the other party had a duty of care to the victim; they breached the duty of care, and that breach caused the victim’s injuries and damages. While head-on collisions may seem straightforward, at-fault parties often purport theories to avoid liability and pay compensation.

Defendants in Tennessee frontal crashes may blame their actions on inclement weather, road conditions, incorrect traffic signals, or even the victim’s conduct. While the Tennessee law allows claimants to recover even if they hold some fault for the accident, the law bars recovery if the victim was 50% or more responsible for the accident. As such, it is crucial that accident victims consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that they recover the damages the law entitles them.

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Establishing fault and determining liability after an accident can prove to be a challenging and daunting process for many injury victims and their loved ones. These cases become more complicated when there are multiple parties and theories of liability present. This is most frequently seen in Tennessee chain-reaction and multiple-vehicle crashes. Multiple vehicle or impact accidents refer to crashes that encompass more than one impact. These types of crashes often result in “pile-ups.”

Tennessee pile-up accidents typically occur on moderate to high-speed roadways, like highways and freeways. After an initial collision, the vehicles following may be unable to reduce their speed to avoid the initial crash. The subsequent impact may result in a series of impacts that may cause the vehicles to pile upon each other. This differs from a chain-reaction accident which may cause subsequent impacts; however, those impacts may cause vehicles to change directions.

Pile-up accidents can result from various negligent and reckless conduct. Some common causes of Tennessee multiple impact collisions include driver distraction, recklessness, fatigue, impairment, and general carelessness. This conduct can have devastating and costly consequences to anyone in the vicinity of the incident.

Recently, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from an incident where a man totaled his vehicle when a trench underneath a road split and caused the asphalt to crumble. The man and his wife filed a lawsuit against the City, alleging personal injuries and property damage and loss of consortium. In response, the City purported that the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA) provided them with immunity from the lawsuit. The plaintiffs averred that the Tennessee Code section 29-20-203 removed their immunity. However, the trial court found in favor of the City, reasoning that the plaintiffs did not establish that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the road’s dangerous condition.

In this case, the inquiry focuses on whether the City maintains immunity through the GTLA. Generally, local governmental entities are immune from Tennessee injury lawsuits, except in cases defined by statute or explicitly permitted by the General Assembly. The dispute at issue arises from section 29-20-203, which removes immunity for injuries resulting from a “defective, unsafe, or dangerous condition” of roadways owned and controlled by the governmental entity. However, plaintiffs asserting this exception must prove that the defendant had “actual or constructive” knowledge of the condition.

In this case, the plaintiffs presented evidence of a work order that shows that the trench at issue was inspected a day before the accident and that the City determined that it needed to be replaced. However, the City argued that regardless of the work order, the plaintiffs did not present any other evidence that the road was defective or dangerous. On appeal, the plaintiffs contended that although they did not present opposing affidavits to the City’s motion for summary judgment, procedural rules do not demand this. Instead, when responding, the plaintiffs must present evidence that could lead a trier of fact to find in their favor.

The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security (TNSH) works to serve, secure, and protect people in the state. A part of their duties includes compiling statistics and data regarding the rates of accidents in Tennessee. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that road traffic accidents are a leading cause of death. The TNSH addresses these safety concerns and implements measures to mitigate the dangers to people in the state.

While 2020 saw a .3% decrease in accidents, there has been a nearly 11% increase in Tennessee crashes from 2020 to 2021. According to data, the summer months, specifically July and August, show the highest rate of crashes. The majority of accidents involve a senior driver between the ages of 65 and 99 years old. Further, other leading causes of accidents in the state include drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs and distracted drivers. Moreover, an overwhelming number of Tennessee car accidents involve unbelted occupants.

It is no surprise that these accidents can have a devastating toll on accident victims and their families. Accident victims are often left with significant medical bills related to the incident. At the same time, being unable to work during the recovery process makes it even harder to cover these expenses. While insurance may cover some costs, the coverage rarely covers the extent of an accident victim’s damages. As such, it is critical that Tennessee car accident survivors and their loved ones recoup the compensation they deserve.

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Tennessee has a short statute of limitations compared to many states. Thus, it is not unusual for a person injured in a Knoxville car accident to have his or her case dismissed because it was not filed within the applicable limitations period. This much is to be expected.

What may come as more of a surprise, however, is a situation in which the party moving for the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case is his or her own insurance company. This very thing happened in a recent case in which the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist insurance company filed a motion to dismiss his suit as untimely because of an alleged defect in the complaint – even though the complaint itself was timely-filed.

Facts of the Case

In a car accident case that recently made its way to the intermediate court of appeals, the plaintiff was a man who was involved in an automobile accident on December 2, 2017. He filed suit on November 30, 2018, seeking to recover monetary compensation for certain personal injuries that he suffered as a result of the wreck. The plaintiff served a copy of the complaint against his own uninsured motorist insurance carrier, who was an “unnamed defendant” to the suit.

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All personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are subject to a statute of limitations. The limitations period for filing an action is established by statute and can vary from state to state.

Tennessee has some of the shortest statutes of limitations in the country when it comes to lawsuits for, for instance, automobile accidents caused by negligence. Generally speaking, a person hurt by another’s negligence in a Knoxville car accident has just one short year to file a claim, or else his or her right to seek compensation is forfeited.

Of course, the one-year filing period is only a guideline. As the case discussed below indicates, there may occasionally be exceptions to the general rule, as circumstances can occasionally extend (or, sometimes, reduce) the limitations period, so it is very important to talk to a lawyer if you or someone in your family has been involved in a motor vehicle collision.

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One of the foremost considerations in a Knoxville personal injury lawsuit is whether the would-be plaintiff has standing to file suit. “Standing,” in the legal sense, means that the person who is seeking redress has a right to relief under the law.

This may seem like a straightforward question, but it can be a more complex issue than one might imagine. This is especially true in cases involving persons who have passed away.

Determining who has standing to sue on behalf of a person who, had he or she lived, had the right to bring a lawsuit against an allegedly negligent individual can be a matter of statutory law in some cases. It may also be resolved based on prior case law in some situations.

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If you have never been involved in a lawsuit involving uninsured motorist insurance coverage, you might be surprised to find that the insured individual and their insurance company are in an adversarial relationship in such proceedings. In other words, in an east Tennessee car accident case, to determine the amount due an insured person who has been hurt by the negligence of an uninsured motorist, the injured person is on the opposite side of the lawsuit as his or her insurance company.

Although the case may not be styled in the case of “insured versus insurer,” the reality is that the insurance company is the real defendant in the case because it is the party who will be paying out any monies awarded to the plaintiff. It is possible that the insurance company may eventually recoup some of these funds from the party that caused the crash, but a full recovery is unlikely.

Therefore, the insurance company effectively stands in the shoes of the at-fault, uninsured motorist during the litigation of the case and may assert the same types of defenses that the motorist could have asserted had he or she been present at trial. Of course, the insurance company may have a few defenses of its own, in addition.

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