In an east Tennessee automobile accident case, an injured party may receive compensation for his or her medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by a negligent driver.
If the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault in the accident, his or her judgment for compensation will be reduced in proportion to his or her fault. For example, if the court finds that the plaintiff’s total damages are $100,000 but he or she was 10% at fault, the net judgment will be $90,000.
It is important to note that this rule only applies to cases in which the plaintiff is found to have been less than 50% at fault; if the plaintiff is 50% or more to blame for an accident, he or she will not recover any compensation.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who was injured in a motor vehicle accident in Shelby County, Tennessee. The accident happened when the plaintiff’s “bob truck” collided with a bucket truck driven by an employee of the defendant utility company. The plaintiff’s back was injured in the accident, and a doctor who performed an independent medical examination opined that the plaintiff had suffered a herniated disc that might require surgical intervention at some point in the future. If such surgery was required, the doctor stated that the plaintiff’s medical treatment could be between $59,500 and $76,500.
The case was tried to a trial court judge in the Circuit Court for Shelby County. The judge first ruled that the defendant was 70% at fault and the plaintiff was 30% at fault. The court further held that the plaintiff’s total damages were $150,000; after apportioning fault, the court entered judgment in the plaintiff’s favor in the amount of $105,000. The defendant appealed.
Decision of the Court
On appeal to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson, the defendant argued that the trial court had made two reversible errors: first, in including some $68,500 in future medical expenses in its assessment of the plaintiff’s damages and, second, in failing to properly consider evidence that the plaintiff had failed to mitigate his damages. After considering the issues and the respective arguments of the parties thereon, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
The defendant argued that it was speculative for the trial court to include the cost of future surgery in its damages assessment because the plaintiff had repeatedly testified that he had elected not to have surgery. According to the court of appeals, the testimony of the plaintiff’s physician took the issue out of the realm of speculation, such that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to include the estimated cost of surgery in its damages award.
The appellate court also rejected the defendant’s argument concerning the plaintiff’s alleged failure to mitigate his damages, holding that, given the plaintiff’s previous experience with surgery and his need to support his family financially, he had made “reasonable efforts” to minimize his loss.
Hire a Knoxville Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a member of your family has recently been injured in a car accident, you need to talk to a lawyer about filing a claim for fair compensation. Medical costs, lost earnings, and the like can quickly add up, wreaking financial havoc on those hurt by others’ negligent and careless driving. To set up a free case evaluation with an experienced Knoxville automobile accident attorney, call the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657. We handle cases throughout east Tennessee, including Maryville, Oak Ridge, Gatlinburg, and Rockwood.