When we get out on the road, we sometimes cannot avoid being hurt by another driver’s careless actions. The same situation is true when it comes to being a passenger in someone else’s vehicle. A driver can put his or her passengers in danger in a number of ways, such as distracted driving, intoxicated driving, or violating well-established traffic laws like speeding and right-of-way rules. Under Tennessee law, for example, drivers are prohibited from texting behind the wheel, and novice drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone in any form when operating a vehicle. Both intoxicated driving and drugged driving are also prohibited. Dedicated Knoxville car accident attorney Mark Hartsoe is ready to help you assert your legal rights as a passenger who has been harmed by the carelessness of the vehicle’s driver.Bringing a Claim for Compensation as an Injured Passenger
If you were involved in a crash as a passenger in another person’s vehicle, and you believe the driver’s carelessness was to blame, you can potentially bring a claim to recover compensation for your costs and losses. Generally speaking, in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is required to establish that the defendant’s conduct was negligent and that this negligence led to the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. Negligence is a legal standard that describes the minimum level of ordinary care and skill that people must exhibit in any given situation, including operating a motor vehicle. Under this standard, a reasonably prudent driver would most likely refrain from engaging in behavior that poses a foreseeable risk of harm to others, including passengers who are riding in that driver’s car.
Tennessee drivers are obligated to follow the “rules of the road” that we all learn when we get our driver’s licenses. Failure to follow these safety rules is negligence conduct. Additional safety rules and laws are codified in the Tennessee Code. Violation of these statutes amounts to negligence per se (as a matter of law).
Once you have shown that the defendant acted carelessly, you must also demonstrate that your injuries occurred as a direct result. This means that you likely would not have been hurt if the driver had taken the appropriate precautions to account for the safety of his or her passengers. Finally, you would need to point to relatively quantifiable damages that arose from the crash.
In the tragic event that a passenger loses his or her life as a result of the driver’s negligence, the victim’s surviving heirs can potentially bring a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for funeral expenses, burial expenses, and the loss of their loved one’s society, support, and love.
In particularly drastic situations when the defendant’s conduct was intentional, fraudulent, malicious, or reckless, the plaintiff may seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for his or her egregious conduct while providing a deterrent against additional instances of the same conduct. Since punitive damages are available in only the most egregious cases, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s intentional, fraudulent, malicious, or reckless conduct with clear and convincing evidence, which is a higher standard than the preponderance of the evidence standard usually applied to the elements of a personal injury claim. These rules on punitive damages were established by the notable Tennessee Supreme Court case of Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co.Explore Your Options with a Knoxville Attorney after a Car Accident
If you or someone you love has been hurt as a helpless passenger in the vehicle of someone who drove carelessly or recklessly, you may have legal options to explore. Knoxville car accident lawyer Mark Hartsoe has provided dedicated and experienced legal counsel to injured people throughout Tennessee, and he can guide you through the judicial process while ensuring that your interests are protected at each step of the way. Enlisting a motor vehicle collision lawyer also may be useful in dealing with any insurance companies who may become involved. Call us now at 865-524-5657 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.