Nashville Personal Injury Lawyer
A personal injury lawsuit is one of the most common types of lawsuits filed with the courts. A personal injury lawsuit is a legal proceeding that an injured party files with the court system in order to hold another party or parties responsible for their negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct. If another party is determined to be at fault for the other party’s injuries then the injured party can seek to hold the other party responsible for one’s injuries. The injuries that someone suffers as a result of another party’s negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct can have have severe financial and emotional consequences on the injured party and their family. The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to compensate the injured party for these costs.
Different Types of Personal injury Claims
Any time another person suffers an injury as a result of another person’s negligence, reckless, or intentional conduct, the injured party may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries. There are a variety of personal injury claims; however, the more common types of claims include:
- Animal attacks;
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Defective products;
- Medical malpractice; and
- Premises liability.
What to Do If You Are Involved in an Accident
If you are involved in an accident as a result of another party’s conduct, it is important to take certain steps to protect your legal rights. The following are some important steps that one can take after being involved in accident:
- Seek immediate medical attention if necessary;
- Exchange contact and insurance information for the parties involved in the accident;
- Take pictures of the accident scene;
- Identify any witnesses to the accident and obtain contact information;
- Report the accident the police;
- Document one’s injuries by taking pictures;
- Keep a record of all medical expenses, property damage, and loss of wages;
- Do not sign any document that waives one’s rights to obtain compensation or releases any claims against other parties; and
- Contact a personal injury attorney for legal advice.
By taking these steps following an accident, a person can strengthen the legal claim that they may have against another party and make it easier to recover compensation for their injuries.
Establishing Fault in Personal Injury Claims
In most personal injury lawsuits, the ability to recover compensation against another party hinges on whether the other party acted negligently. Negligence is a legal term that means that the other party failed to act in a manner that is expected of the person under the law. 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.
Under the first element, there must be a duty of care owed between the parties. This means that the law expects one party to act or to not act in a particular manner towards another party. For example, a driver operating a motor vehicle has a duty of care to other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the road.
Second, the party who caused the injuries must have breached the duty of care. For motorists, the law expects that drivers operate their vehicles safely, keep a proper lookout, and give sufficient warnings to other people on the road. When a driver does not do this, the law considers the driver to have breached the duty of care. For example, driving through a stop sign without stopping is a breach of the duty of care.
Third, there must have been some injury or loss. This is relatively easy to establish. For example, in a car accident, an injury or loss would be the physical injuries suffered from the accident or the property damage to a victim’s car.
Finally, the damages must have been caused by the other party’s conduct and the injuries from the conduct must have been foreseeable. In a car accident, it is foreseeable that injuries may be caused to other drivers or pedestrians if a driver fails to operate a car with proper due care.
Reducing Damages in Proportion to Fault
If a party establishes that the other party acted negligently then the injured party may be able to recover compensation for their injuries. However, even if the other party is determined to be negligent, the injured party may not be able to recover full compensation for their injuries. Under Tennessee’s modified comparative fault system, a person’s injuries may be reduced in proportion to their fault, as long as the fault does not exceed a certain percentage. Under Tennessee’s modified comparative fault, if a person is less than 50 percent 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 percent or more at fault then then they will not be entitled to any damages.
Intentional Tort and Strict Liability
In addition to negligence, an injured party may also be entitled to recover compensation for damages under the theories of intentional tort or strict liability. An intentional tort is premised on the theory that the alleged wrongdoer intended to commit the wrongful conduct. The focus is on whether the party intended to commit the conduct and not whether the party intended to commit the injury. An example of an intentional tort is punching someone in the face. The law is focused on whether the party intended to punch the other party and not whether the party intended to injure the other person.
Under strict liability, one party is held responsible regardless of whether they intended to commit the conduct or cause the injuries. Unlike negligence or intentional tort, the law will hold a party responsible regardless of fault. A person injured by a defective product may be able to recover compensation under the theory of strict liability. For example, a person who suffers injuries from a toaster may be able to recover under strict liability if they can show that the toaster was improperly designed or manufactured. It is not necessary to show that the manufacturer intended to cause harm or should have known that the toaster might cause the harm.
Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
All personal injuries are subject to time period within which the personal injury claim must be filed with the courts. This is known as a statute of limitations. In Tennessee, personal injury claims are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. The one-year time period commences when the cause of action accrues, which is the date of the personal injury and not the date of the negligence or the sale of a product.
Normally, it is relatively easy to determine when the cause of action accrues. For example, in a car accident, the cause of action accrues on the date of the accident. The party injured in the accident will have one year from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim. Other times, however, when the injuries are latent it can be difficult to determine when the cause of action accrues. For example, in medical malpractice claims, an injury may not develop until several years after the underlying action that caused the injury. In these cases, the statute of limitations may not commence until the injured party first discovers the injury or should have discovered the injury. This is known as the discovery rule. If there is a dispute concerning whether the statute of libations has run, the judge presiding over the personal injury claim will determine if the personal injury claim was filed within the statute of limitations.
There are two notable exceptions when the statute of limitations does not commence on the date of the personal injury. This is known as tolling the statute of limitations. First, the statute of limitations is tolled for parties under the age of 18. Instead, for a minor, the one-year statute of limitations will commence when the minor reaches 18 years of age. Second, the statute of limitations is tolled for parties of unsound mind. For example, if a person is in a coma as a result of a car accident, the one-year statute of limitations will commence when the person comes out of the coma. If the statute of limitations was not tolled then the one-year time period would continue to run while the injured party was in the coma.
It is important that any party injured by another person’s reckless or negligent conduct act diligently to protect their rights. If an injured party fails to file a personal injury claim within one year from when the cause of action accrues then they will likely be precluded from recovering damages against the party who caused the injuries.
Recovering Compensation for Personal Injuries
When someone is involved in an accident as a result of another person’s negligent or reckless conduct, the accident can cause significant injuries that can result in considerable financial and emotional costs. The goal of personal injury lawsuits is to compensate victims for the damages caused by another person’s negligent conduct. Typical damages that an injured party may recover in a personal injury lawsuit include past and future medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity, and loss of property. These damages are often referred to as compensatory damages.
Determining the value of compensatory damages is often difficult. Certain compensatory damages can be calculated relatively easily. For example, past medical expenses can easily be totaled by looking at past medical bills and future medical bills can be predicted with a reasonable degree of certainty. Quantifying the value of physical and emotional pain and suffering, however, can be more difficult and subjective. The facts and circumstances of each case will affect the value of these damages, including the nature of the accident, whether there are temporary or permanent injuries, and how the injuries have affected the person’s daily life.
In addition to compensatory damages, an injured party may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded in intentional tort or strict liability personal injury claims to to deter or punish misconduct. These damages are based on the conduct of the wrongdoer and not the injuries suffered by the other party. Tennessee caps the amount of punitive damages at two times the total amount of compensatory damages awarded or $500,000.
In order to obtain compensation for personal injuries, it may be necessary for the party to file a personal injury lawsuit. Prior to filing a lawsuit, however, one party may try to negotiate with the other party or other party’s insurance company to obtain compensation. Depending on the facts of the case, the other party may or may not be will to settle out of the court. If the other party refused to pay for the victim’s personal injuries then the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit will bring the dispute before the courts and allow a judge or jury to decide who is responsible for the injuries and how much, if anything, should be paid to the injured party. While an injured party may be able to negotiate and settle a claim out of the courts, it is advisable that an injured party consult or retain an attorney, or both, when filing a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury attorney can help an injured victim navigate complex laws and the court system.