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Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Sometimes, the legal definition and the usual definition of a word are different. Take for instance the word “damages.”

In common parlance, “damages” means physical harm to a person or thing, thus impairing its value and/or usual function. If a car sustains “damages” in a collision, we think of this as meaning that there was an impact to the car that make it less useful (a smashed headlight and a damaged radiator due to a head-on collision, for instance) or less valuable (a $50,000 SUV may be worth only $10,000 in its post-crash condition).

However, there is a separate definition in the law for the word “damages,” namely the amount of money claimed or awarded in compensation for injuries suffered in an accident. This means that, when a jury awards “damages” of a certain amount, the court then directs the party against whom the award was made to pay that amount of money to the injured individual. It is important to note that, sometimes, there are limitations on the amount of money “damages” that can be awarded to the plaintiff in an East Tennessee personal injury case. One example is discussed in the case below.

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A Knoxville negligence case is based on a simple proposition. If one person owes a duty of care to another and a breach of that duty is the proximate cause of harm, the responsible individual (or business) is liable for the other’s damages.

A personal injury case can take many forms, such as a car accident suit, a medical malpractice claim, a product liability case, or a premises liability lawsuit. These are “typical” negligence cases, but sometimes other, more unusual circumstances can also give rise to a claim for negligence.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a personal injury case filed in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County was a woman who was allegedly injured when a headstone fell over onto her hand while she was setting some flowers on her brother’s grave. According to the plaintiff, the accident was severe enough to fracture several bones in her hand and necessitate her having surgery. The injuries also caused her a great deal of pain and suffering. The plaintiff’s complaint against the defendant monument company asserted that the defendant had been negligent in the construction, placement, and maintenance of her brother’s gravestone. The complaint further alleged that the defendant had either created the unsafe condition that led to her injuries or should have been aware of the unsafe condition.

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In a typical Knoxville medical malpractice case, there is a long list of things that must be done before the case is even filed at the courthouse. It can take weeks or months to complete the necessary tasks in many cases.

Accordingly, it is vitally important to talk to a lawyer as soon as you suspect that you or a family member has been harmed due to a healthcare professional’s error. Waiting too long can seriously jeopardize the outcome of your case, as untimely claims will be dismissed by the court.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case, the plaintiff was the next of kin of a woman who died of acute respiratory failure after being a patient at the defendant hospital in January 2018. The plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court of Davidson County in May 2019, asserting a claim for healthcare liability pursuant to the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 29-26-102 et seq. In his complaint, the plaintiff averred that the defendant was “both directly and vicariously liable” under the principles of respondeat superior for the acts and omissions of its employees and agents. A copy of the complaint was mailed to the defendant on December 21, 2018, along with the notice required under Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121.

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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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An east Tennessee product liability case may involve multiple defendants and various theories of liability. In many cases, both the manufacturer and the seller of the product are named as defendants, and sometimes there are other potentially liable parties as well. Legal theories may include a design flaw that affected a great many products, or there may be an allegation that a manufacturing defect affected only a few products. Failure to warn may also be asserted.

As the case develops toward trial, it is possible that some defendants and/or legal theories may be eliminated through a process known as “summary judgment.” When a court grants summary judgment, it is essentially saying that a particular defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on one or more of the claims asserted by the plaintiff. Summary judgment does not necessarily end the plaintiff’s case, however, as there may still be viable legal theories remaining against a defendant (or multiple defendants) that have not been dismissed from the case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal district court case, the plaintiffs sought to assert a product liability action against the defendants, whom they alleged negligently designed and/or manufactured a heated throw blanket that allegedly caused a fire in the plaintiffs’ home in 2018, resulting in both personal injuries and property damage. As evidence of their claim, the plaintiffs submitted video surveillance footage showing, first, a bright flash from an area around the blanket’s control, and, over five hours later, additional flashes, smoke, and, eventually, a fire.
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In a Knoxville premises liability lawsuit, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. Accordingly, he or she must have credible evidence proving that the defendant breached the duty of care that was owed to him or her under the circumstances.

Unfortunately, evidence of the proper owner’s negligence can disappear quickly. The accident scene may change when an employee cleans up the spill in which the customer slipped and fell. Video surveillance may be “recorded over” if not preserved. Even information about eyewitnesses may be lost over time.

Because of the compelling need to avoid spoliation of the evidence in a slip and fall case, it is important that the plaintiff seek legal counsel in a timely fashion. This can also help avoid the running of the statute of limitations, which is quite short for such matters in Tennessee.

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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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Lawsuits against governmental entities for the allegedly negligent acts of their employees can be difficult. As with other defendants accused of negligence, the government resists being held accountable in many East Tennessee personal injury cases.

Generally, the argument is that the employee in question acted reasonably under the circumstances presented and that the plaintiff was the one at fault. However, this is not always the government’s strategy.

A recent case against a large county school system was the “exception that proves the rule,” so to speak. In this case, the governmental entity insisted that its employee’s conduct was so egregious as to not be considered negligence, thus removing the case from the statute under which the injured party pursued compensation.

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In a Knoxville product liability lawsuit, one of the first considerations is whether the plaintiff has “standing” to sue. Standing is a legal concept that simply means a litigant must have a sufficient enough connection to the action at issue to support that party’s participation in the case.

If a party lacks standing, there is no reason for the case to move forward. The courts are busy enough without entertaining cases that would clearly be a waste of judicial economy.

Of course, opinions can vary on the issue of standing, just as they can on many other issues that arise during the litigation process. Like other decisions involving whether a case should move forward, there is the possibility of an appeal if one party is disgruntled with the trial court’s ruling on standing.

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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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