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When Punitive Damages are Available After a Tennessee Accident

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;

  • When the defendant had specific intent to inflict injury and the intentional conduct injured the plaintiff;
  • When the defendant intentionally concealed, falsified, or destroyed records;
  • If the defendant was under the influence of non-prescription alcohol, drugs, or intoxicants that resulted in substantial impairment and caused the death of the victim; and
  • If the defendant’s conduct results in the defendant being convicted of a felony, that act caused the victim’s demise.

For instance, a Tennessee news publication recently reported that a man faces multiple charges, including vehicular homicide, after an Antioch crash. According to reports, a 44-year old Escalade driver was driving at a high rate and passing vehicles when he veered off the roadway. The driver tried to overcorrect and ended up slamming into an SUV in the opposite lane. Emergency responders transported the SUV driver to the hospital; however, the passenger died at the accident scene. Officers explained that the 44-year-old driver showed signs of impairment. In cases like this, the family members may pursue punitive damages against the negligent and reckless driver.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Car Accident in Tennessee?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died due to another’s negligence, contact the Hartsoe Law Firm. The firm consistently provides high-quality legal representation to those who have suffered injuries in Tennessee. Attorney Hartsoe has decades of experience successfully representing accident victims in their claims stemming from Tennessee car accidents, defective products, premises liability, and medical malpractice. Through his diligence and experience, he has secured significant amounts of compensation for injury victims and their loved ones. Contact Knoxville car accident lawyer Mark Hartsoe at 865-524-5657 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your rights and remedies.

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