Trucking Company Seeks to Avoid Personal Injury Lawsuit Based on Release that Injured Man Thought Pertained to Property Damage Only

It is truly appalling the lengths to which some businesses and insurance companies will go in order to limit or prevent recovery by those hurt due to the negligence of truckers and trucking companies.

In the case discussed below, a professional trucker allegedly presented an accident victim with a document releasing the trucker’s employer from all liability – at the scene of the accident! When that didn’t work, the trucking company hired an investigator, who contacted the victim later that day to discuss a settlement.

Even though the investigator was aware that the accident victim was hurt in the wreck and had been to the hospital, he asked the accident victim to sign a “Release of All Claims” document just two days after the accident. Of the $10,000 settlement, just $215 was allocated for the victim’s personal injury claim. Unfortunately, the man signed the document.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently decided by the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville, the plaintiff was a man who was hurt in a motor vehicle accident on March 13, 2012, in Hamilton County, Tennessee. The accident allegedly occurred after a semi-truck jackknifed and slammed into his vehicle, causing the plaintiff to lose control and strike a barrier wall.  The plaintiff filed suit against the defendants (the truck driver and the driver’s employer) on March 7, 2013, seeking to recover compensation for injuries he suffered in the crash.

Thereafter, the plaintiff amended his complaint to request reformation of the release document that he signed two days after the accident. As grounds for reformation, the plaintiff averred that he understood the release to only include the property damage portion of his claim, not “all claims,” as stated in the document.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the grounds that the plaintiff had not acted promptly in seeking reformation of the release.

Decision of the Appellate Court

The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s summary judgment order in the defendants’ favor, holding that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether the plaintiff’s actions to obtain equitable relief were sufficiently prompt. The court began its analysis by rejecting the defendants’ argument that the plaintiff had effectively waived the issues presented for review because his appellate brief failed to meet certain procedural requirements. Rather, the court opted to exercise its discretion and waive the technical briefing requirements in this particular case.

The court went on to agree with the plaintiff that the trial court had erred in determining, as a matter of law, that he had failed to act promptly in seeking a reformation of the release document at issue. In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff’s delay in seeking reformation of the release was, at most, 14 months.

Talk to an Experienced Knoxville Truck Accident Attorney

As this case indicates, those in the trucking industry can be extremely aggressive in their attempts to avoid or limit payouts to those injured in big truck wrecks. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a tractor-trailer collision, the seasoned east Tennessee truck accident team at the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. can help. To schedule an appointment in our Knoxville or Maryville offices, call us at (865) 524-5657. There is no charge for your confidential case evaluation, and most cases are handled on a contingency fee contract – we get paid when you get paid.

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