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Determining Who is at Fault for an Injury

Determining which party is at fault for an injury depends greatly on the type of legal claim being asserted by the injured party. Fault also affects the amount and types of damages, or monetary awards, a party may recover for their injuries. Fault is determined by the individual facts of each personal injury claim.

Fault in Intentional Tort

Determining fault in an intentional tort case is relatively straightforward. An intentional tort occurs where one party, the tortfeasor, purposely engages in harmful conduct. For example, when Party A intentionally hits Party B with a bat, Party A has committed an intentional tort and fault is easily attributed to Party A.

Fault in Product Liability

In cases where the injured party’s harm was caused by a defective product, fault can be attributed to both the manufacturer and the seller of that product. This is referred to as strict liability. Tennessee law holds companies strictly liable for injuries caused by products that they either manufactured or sold, regardless of who purchased the harmful product. For example, if the brakes on Ann’s car suddenly fail, causing injury to Betty, the manufacturer of the car will be held strictly liable for Betty’s injuries, even though she did not own the car.

Fault in Negligence

Fault may be more difficult to determine in situations where a party’s injuries were caused by either negligent or accidental behavior. To establish fault in a negligence case in Tennessee, the injured party must prove four legal elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. In other words, the negligent party must have owed a duty to the injured party, must have breached that duty by not acting in conformity with a certain standard of care, the breach of care caused the injuries, and the injured party suffered damages. In most cases, the injured party’s damages are financial. Medical bills for treatment of an injury qualify as the requisite damages in a negligence claim.

Often there may be more than one person or one entity at fault. In fact, the injured party may actually be somewhat at fault for their own injuries. In cases where one or more parties have contributed to a person’s injuries, these parties are referred to as “joint tortfeasors” and the injured party can recover damages from each tortfeasor involved. However, it is important to note that under Tennessee law, joint tortfeasors are only responsible for the percentage of fault allocated to their own conduct. For example, consider that Party A and Party B commit an intentional tort on Party C, causing them to suffer damages amounting to $100,000. If 60 percent of the fault is allocated to Party A, and the remaining 40 percent of the fault is allocated to Party B, then Party A is only responsible for paying damages of $60,000. Party B must pay the remaining 40 percent. Because of this rule, Party C must file suit against both Party A and Party B in order to recover all $100,000 of his damages.

As mentioned, there are situations where the injured party may also be at fault in causing their own injuries. For example, if Party A and Party B are both speeding down a windy road when they get into a collision that injures Party A, then both parties are at fault. In Tennessee, if the injured party is at least 50 percent at fault for his own injuries, then they will not be able to recover any amount of damages from any other party. However, if the injured party is less than 50 percent at fault, then they can recover damages from any other negligent party but only for the percentage of fault allocated to that party.

To establish fault under any theory, either a Nashville personal injury lawyer or the injured party should investigate the circumstances giving rise to the injury and gather evidence of the same. Evidence can come from eyewitnesses to an accident, medical records, photographs, and many other sources. A judge or jury will determine issues relating to fault if the parties cannot reach an agreement on their own.

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