Nashville Auto Accident Lawyer
Car accident lawyers, how can they help? Every year, motor vehicle accidents kill thousands of individuals and injure thousands of more people across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 30,000 people are killed in motor vehicle crashes. Motor vehicle crashes are a serious health problem. Vehicle crashes are a top ten cause of death for people aged 1 to 54. In 2013, approximately 1,000 people in Tennessee died in motor vehicle crashes.
In addition to the thousands of fatalities and injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes, the financial costs are also staggering. The CDC estimated that that motor vehicle crashes resulted in $1.25 billion in crash-related costs to Tennessee residents in 2013. The medical costs were about $13 million. The work-related costs, however, were even more staggering at $1.24 billion in work loss costs. Breaking down the costs across type of road user, motor vehicle occupants suffered $164 million in damages, motorcyclists suffered $167 million, pedestrians suffered $125 million, and bicyclists suffered $12 million in damages.
Different Types of Vehicle Accidents
There are several different types of motor vehicle accidents that one may be involved in. First, the most common type of motor vehicle accident involves cars. Cars are the most common type of vehicle on the road, and therefore, the most likely type of vehicle to be in an accident. Car accidents are usually caused because another driver failed to use due care in the operation of one’s car. Examples of his include speeding, failing to pay attention to the road, aggressive driving, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Two other less common, but serious motor vehicle accidents involve trucks and motorcycles. Truck accidents are particularly dangerous because of the size of the vehicle. Common causes of truck accidents include aggressive driving, driver fatigue, and improperly maintained vehicles. In addition, motorcycle accidents can be particularly dangerous for the motorcyclists. Motorcyclists do not have any seat belts and do not have the protection of a roof or a door. Motorcyclists have the same rights to use the road as other drivers, but some car drivers act aggressively toward motorcyclists. When this occurs, motorcyclists can be involved in serious accidents and can suffer significant and even life-threatening injuries.
Finally, the last type of motor vehicle accidents involves bicyclists and pedestrians. In Tennessee, pedestrians have the right of way when walking at an intersection. Unfortunately, many vehicle drivers believe that they have the right of way and drivers do not pay attention or yield to pedestrians. Every year in Tennessee, there are handful of pedestrian deaths and hundreds of more injuries as a result of pedestrians being struck by vehicles. What is more, drivers often fail to share the road, even though bicycles have the same legal status as motor vehicles. Like pedestrians, bicyclists are particularly vulnerable to suffering injuries if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Common Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents happen for a variety of reasons. While some of these are unavoidable, more often than not, motor vehicle accidents occur as the result of negligent or reckless conduct of another party. Common causes of motor vehicle accidents include:
- Driving at excessive speeds;
- Driving while being distracted, such as talking on the phone, changing the radio, or talking with another passenger;
- Following too closely behind another vehicle;
- Failing to keep a proper lookout for other cars and people on the road;
- Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and
- Aggressive driving.
These are but a few examples where a person may have a claim to obtain compensation for injuries from the other driver. There are, however, numerous other possible situations when another driver may have acted negligently that will allow a person to obtain compensation for injuries.
Steps to Take After a Vehicle Accident
If you are involved in any type of vehicle accident, there are several important steps that you can take in order to protect your legal rights. These steps include:
- Seek immediate medical attention if necessary.
- Contact the police and have them complete an accident report. Obtain a copy of the police report.
- Exchange contact and insurance information with any parties involved in the accident.
- Identify any possible witnesses on to the accident and obtain their contact information.
- Take pictures of the accident scene, as well as pictures of any injuries and property.
- Keep copies of all medical records and receipts.
- Do not sign any document admitting liability or releasing any claims against other parties.
- Contact an experienced personal injury attorney for legal advice.
These are just a few steps that an injured party can take to protect their legal rights after being in accident. These steps will help an injured party work the insurance company to obtain compensation and may be useful if the injured party has to file a lawsuit to recover damages.
Establishing Liability in a Motor Vehicle Accident
In order to obtain compensation for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident, the injured party must normally establish that the other driver acted negligently. Under Tennessee law, there are five elements that must be established in any negligence claim. The elements of negligence include: (1) a duty of care owed by the defendant to plaintiff; (2) conduct by the defendant falling below the standard of care amounting to a breach of that duty; (3) an injury or loss; (4) causation in fact; and (5) proximate or legal cause. In the context of motor vehicle accidents, this means
- The other driver had a duty to other pedestrians and drivers to reasonably operate their car, so as not to unnecessarily place other people at risk of injuries.
- The other driver failed to operate their care in a reasonable manner under the circumstances. One example is a driver who speeds and tailgates other cars while it is raining at night. This would not be using proper care under the circumstances.
- The other driver’s actions caused the injuries. In other words, but for the conduct of the other driver, the injured party would not have been in the accident and would not have suffered injuries.
- The injured driver must actually experience some type of loss or injury. This could be a damaged car, a broken leg, or missed time from work because of the injury.
Apportioning Damages Based on Fault
Even if the injured party establishes that another party negligently caused the car accident, there is still the issue of apportioning damages based on fault. Tennessee employs a modified comparative fault system to apportion damages based on the percentage that a party was at fault for the accident. Under Tennessee’s modified comparative fault, if a person is less than 50% at fault for their injuries then they will be entitled to damages, but the damages will be reduced in proportion to their fault. If, however, a person is 50% or more at fault then that person will not be entitled to any damages.
Time Limit to File a Car Accident Lawsuit
Similar to all personal injury claims, car accident claims are subject to a time period within which the legal claim must be filed with the courts. If the legal claim is not filed within this time period then the injured party may lose the right to seek compensation. This is known as a statute of limitations and is intended to minimize the time period within which a tortfeasor may be exposed to legal liability for injuries caused in a car accident.
In Tennessee, a person injured in a car accident who wants to obtain compensation from another driver must must file a legal claim within one year after accrual of the cause of action. In motor vehicle accidents, the cause of action typically commences at the time of the car accident. This means that a person injured in a car accident while have 365 days following the car accident to file a lawsuit for damages.
In addition to the one-year statute of limitations for personal injuries, Tennessee has a separate statute of limitations for recovering damage to one’s property. Under Tennessee law, property damage claims are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. Similar to personal injury claims in car accidents, the three-year statute of limitations normally commences on the day of the car accident.
There are two notable exceptions to Tennessee’s statute of limitation rule. First, if the injury occurs to a minor, the statute of limitations will not begin until the minor reaches the age of 18 years. Therefore, if a 17-year old is involved in a car accident, the minor will have one year after turning 18 within which the car accident lawsuit must be filed. Second, the statute of limitations may be delayed while a person is considered to be of unsound mind. For example, if a car accident causes a person to be in a coma, the injured person will have one year after coming out of the coma to file a car accident lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit Versus Settling Out of Court
One important consideration in determining how to obtain compensation for injuries is deciding whether to file a lawsuit. To be sure, an injured party is not required to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for car accident injuries. The first step in deciding whether to file a lawsuit is to work with the insurance adjuster who will analyze the facts of your case and determine the value of your case. It is important to work with the insurance adjuster in this process and provide them with as much information supporting your damages. An insurance company will not compensate you for unsubstantiated claims so you need to gather evidence of the facts of your case. It is your responsibility to substantiate your claims through medical records, pictures, documents, receipts, other supporting documents, and testimony.
Even if you work with the insurance adjuster throughout the entire process, the insurance company often does not provide sufficient compensation to cover all of your injuries. First, some damages, such as pain and suffering, can be difficult to quantity. Second, the insurance company wants to pay as little as possible to settle a claim.
If you do not believe that an insurance company is adequately compensating you for your car accident injuries then it may be necessary to file a car accident lawsuit. There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to file a lawsuit. First, you may, but are not required to, seek the services of an attorney. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the process and help you understand the law. There are intricate procedural and substantive issues that require the help of an attorney. Failure understand these issues may preclude you from obtaining any compensation all.
Second, in deciding whether to hire an attorney, you must also think about how to pay for the attorney’s services. Most attorneys will charge a contingency fee. A contingency fee is general a percentage of the client’s settlement or damages. A typical contingency fee is about 33 1/3%, or one third of the total recovery. There may also be other costs in the process, such as hiring experts.
Third, you should consider the time value of money and the mental toll that litigation may take. Litigation can be a lengthy process and make take several years to play out in the courts. As such, it may be more beneficial for you to settle a claim immediately and receive some compensation, as opposed to waiting years before any money is received. In addition, litigation can take a physical and mental toll on the parties involved, especially if a victim is recovering from injuries during the litigation process.
Finally, there is no guarantee that you will win in litigation. Even if you win in litigation and another party is found liable for your injuries, there is no guarantee that the judge or jury will adequately compensate you for your injuries. While medical expenses are relatively easy to calculate, other injuries, such as pain and suffering, are much more subjective. In the end, whether or not you should file a lawsuit or settle your claim with the insurance company will ultimately depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and one’s willingness to take a chance in litigation.