Since automobiles were first invented, there have been car accidents. As the population increases and our roads become more congested, the possibility of collisions increases. As cars travel at higher speeds and developing technology (such as texting) distract both drivers and pedestrians, the seriousness of auto accidents increases as well.
The chance of being injured in a motor vehicle accident in the United States is one in one-thousand in any given year. If you are male you are twice as likely to die in such an accident. Clearly, we should all be as prepared as we possibly can to avoid being involved in a car accident. We should also be prepared to handle the specifics of a car accident should one occur.
Laws differ from state to state concerning the details of fault and liability. Tennessee is a “fault” state in terms of car accidents. This means the driver found to be more than 50 percent at fault must pay for damages. This makes having auto liability insurance particularly important in this state. If you have been injured in a car accident, it is always a good idea to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to help ensure that you receive full compensation for your present and future medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
How is fault determined after a car accident in Tennessee?
Several things are taken into account when comparative negligence is being determined, including the police report, witness statements, admissions of guilt, or evidence that one driver violated traffic regulations (such as speeding, driving under the influence, or driving while distracted). Typically, the insurance adjuster is the first person to determine which driver is at fault in a car accident. If one or both parties file a lawsuit, however, the judge or jury will determine responsibility.
Most states in the U.S. require drivers to show proof that they can assume financial responsibility if they should find themselves at fault in an auto accident. In Tennessee, drivers are required to have a minimum of auto insurance as follows:
- $25,000 for injury or death to one individual
- $50,000 for injuries or deaths to all individuals
- $15,000 for property damage for one accident
If you have suffered property damage or personal injuries as a result of a car accident in Tennessee, you may file a claim with your own insurance company or file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver.You can also file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver in civil court.
Reasons for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Tennessee
There are several reasons you may find it necessary to file a lawsuit regarding a car accident. Among these are that the settlement offered by the insurance company isn’t sufficient or the at-fault party in the accident has no insurance. If the accident has resulted in injuries to one or more drivers or passengers, it it important that you consult with a competent personal injury attorney who is experienced in vehicular accidents.
Time Limits for Filing Car Accident Lawsuits
It is essential that you file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations for the state. Your lawyer will be well aware of such regulations and help you to meet them. The time limit for filing a civil suit for a personal injury in Tennessee is 1 year after the accident; the statute of limitations for property damage is 3 years after the accident.
It is important to note that, no matter how serious the injuries or property damage resulting from the accident are, if you don’t file your lawsuit within the set time limits you will almost definitely be prevented from getting a hearing.
The statutes of limitations listed above only apply to cases filed in civil court. In claims filed with insurance companies, the companies have their own deadlines, stated in their policies. No matter what the time limits spell out, it is always best to file insurance claims as promptly as possible to leave time for settlement negotiations.
Special rules apply when injuries have been caused by a government employee or a defect in government-owned property. In such instances, you have to file an administrative claim concerning the incident promptly.
The “Modified Comparative Fault” Rule
In Tennessee, it is possible for both parties to be found partially at fault for a car accident, meaning that the party who is determined to have lesser fault for the collision will receive a percentage of his/her claim. For example, if you are found to be 20 percent at fault for the accident and are claiming $10,000 in personal injuries, you will be awarded $8,000, or 80 percent of the total. The modified comparative fault rule is only applicable if you are found to be less than 50 percent at fault for the accident. If you are determined to be at least 50 percent at fault for the accident, you will not receive any damage award.
Steps to Take When You’ve Been in a Car Accident
Obviously, the first step to be taken in accidents involving injuries is to offer any medical assistance you are able and to seek emergency medical help immediately. Once injuries are being attended to, the following steps must be taken:
- Report any accident involving personal injury, death, or property damage exceeding $50 to Tennessee Law Enforcement
- Report any accident involving personal injury, death, or property damage exceeding $400 to the Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS)
- Exchange identification and car insurance information with the other driver
- Show proof of adequate auto insurance or post cash or bond to cover all damages to DOS
Failing to report such accidents promptly may result in a suspension of your license. Inability to show proof of insurance or post cash or bond to the DOS will result in a revocation of both your driver’s license and your vehicle registration.
Consult with a Knowledgeable Personal Injury Attorney
Whether or not you foresee a lawsuit in your future as a result of your automobile accident, it is advisable to have a consultation with a competent personal injury attorney who will be able to guide you through the morass of possible complications and will never charge you a fee unless your claim is settled favorably.
In many cases, injuries and post-traumatic stress symptoms show up or worsen after the fact and it is best to be prepared for this eventuality. At Chadwick & Tignor, P.C., our experienced attorneys are available to offer you compassion as well as legal clarification of your options. We can be reached through the convenient form on our website or by calling 615.379.7900.