If you have been injured in a Tennessee car accident due to the negligent or reckless actions of another, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. When it comes to auto accidents, Tennessee is a “fault state,” which is exactly what it sounds like—the party or parties at fault (responsible) for the crash, will be liable for any resulting damages.
At Dennis and King, our experienced car accident team has helped countless injury victims obtain compensation and justice after a motor vehicle accident. Monetary damages following a crash can be substantial, and may include medical bills, lost income, emotional pain and suffering, and vehicle repair costs. Contact Dennis and King today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.
Tennessee is An At-Fault State
The law in Tennessee states that the at-fault party in a car accident is legally and financially responsible for resulting injuries and other damages. This means that the at-fault driver will be on the hook for any damages over and above their insurance policy’s coverage limits, assuming they have insurance in the first place.
In Tennessee, all drivers are legally required to carry a minimum amount of liability auto insurance. According to the TN Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), current minimum coverage amounts are as follows:
- $25,000 in an accident where one person is injured;
- $50,000 in an accident where two or more people are injured; and
- $15,000 in an accident that only involves property damage.
Can You Sue an At-Fault Driver in Tennessee?
In short, the answer is yes, you can sue an at-fault driver in Tennessee. If you are injured by a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance, or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages, you can sue them. But keep in mind that individuals who don’t have car insurance may not have the financial means to pay out of pocket for your damages.
The required amounts above are state minimums, but you have the option to purchase additional coverage, including collision and uninsured motorist coverage. If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, having this type of insurance will allow you to obtain compensation to cover your injuries and other damages. If you can afford to add uninsured motorist coverage to your policy, it’s a good idea to do so.
But even if the at-fault driver has excellent insurance, don’t make the mistake of trying to represent yourself after an auto accident. Insurance companies are notorious for offering low settlements to car accident victims, taking full advantage of their vulnerable state. This is particularly true of victims who come to the table without legal representation. A skilled Tennessee auto accident attorney can protect your rights and help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an auto accident.
Tennessee Auto Accident Laws
As stated above, Tennessee is considered a “fault state,” which means that when a motor vehicle accident occurs, the at-fault driver is legally and financially responsible for resulting damages. In most cases, injury victims can obtain compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. But in fault states, such as Tennessee, they can also sue the driver. In “no-fault” states, on the other hand, drivers are limited to recovering from their own insurance policy, even if the other driver was 100 percent at fault.
In TN, if you can prove that the other driver was at least 50 percent at fault for your damages, you can make a claim against their insurance policy, but you may also be able to obtain compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Compensation received will depend on various factors, including whether or not you were partially responsible for the accident, and the extent of your injuries and other damages. Possible damages include medical expenses, lost income, emotional pain and suffering, and vehicle repair bills.
Proving fault After a Car Accident
Although Tennessee is an at-fault state, proving fault isn’t always a straightforward and easy process. In order to obtain compensation for damages, you must be able to prove that you were less than 50 percent at fault for the motor vehicle accident. The steps below will help you prove fault.
- Call law enforcement—This will ensure that everyone is safe and result in the creation of an official police report, which can be invaluable to your injury claim or lawsuit.
- Get witness contact information—If anyone witnessed the accident, ask for their name, phone number, and email address. You may need to call on them later.
- Take pictures—Photograph property damage, visible injuries, and any factors that may have contributed to the accident. Injuries fade with time, so take pictures while they are visible.
- Never admit fault—Even innocent statements, such as, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you,” can be used against you. Limit any conversation with the other driver to making sure that everyone is safe, and exchanging insurance and contact information.
- Call your attorney—An experienced TN car accident lawyer can help you gather evidence, calculate damages, prove fault, protect your rights, and negotiate with the insurance company for the maximum settlement.
When it comes to motor vehicle accidents, the burden of proof is placed on you, the injury victim. Proving your case will be much easier with photographic evidence, witness testimony, a police report, medical records, and details of the accident.
To prevent memories of the accident from fading, it’s also a good idea to keep a journal. Record the details from the incident, but also keep a record of your recovery. In some cases, it may be necessary to call in professionals who can re-create the crash. A skilled TN auto accident lawyer can help.
Can You Sue If You Were Partially at Fault?
In addition to being a fault state, TN is a “modified comparative negligence” state, which means that both drivers may share blame for the accident, and any recovery will depend on the percentage of fault. As long as you were less than 50 percent responsible for the accident, you can recover damages. However, if you were partially responsible, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of fault.
Let’s say that you were 20 percent responsible for an injury collision, and your total damages are calculated at $25,000. In this scenario, you will receive $20,000, which is the total damages minus 20 percent ($5,000). This is significant, because if you happened to live in a “contributory negligence” state, you wouldn’t be able to sue the other driver if you were even one percent responsible for the accident.
All that being said, never admit fault for an accident before speaking with an experienced car accident attorney. For starters, without deep knowledge of the law, it’s impossible to know whether you were, in fact, at fault, and to what extent. Furthermore, even seemingly-innocent statements such as, “I’m so sorry, the sun was in my eyes,” can be used against you in a personal injury claim or lawsuit. The best thing to do after an auto accident is to say as little as possible until you’ve had a chance to speak with your lawyer.
What About Rear-End Accidents?
Because Tennessee is a fault state, determining liability is the most important step in any motor vehicle accident case, including rear-end crashes. The tailing driver is almost always liable in a rear-end collision. The law in Tennessee states that “the driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. For example, what if the car ahead suddenly brakes when both vehicles are traveling at high speeds? In most cases, the tailing car will still be liable, as TN law requires drivers to maintain a reasonable distance from other vehicles. But what if the lead car’s brake lights weren’t properly functioning, or the car behind you rear-ends you, causing you to crash into the car ahead?
Whatever the circumstances of your rear-end collision, it is legally possible for both drivers in this type of accident to be found liable. An experienced car accident attorney can review the details of your case and help you determine how to proceed.
Contact a TN Car Accident Attorney at Dennis And King Today
If you have been injured in a car accident due to another’s negligence, the skilled legal team at Dennis and King can help. In a fault state such as Tennessee, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company and sue them individually for damages. But proving fault is critical to a favorable outcome. As such, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced car accident attorney immediately. Our highly-knowledgeable, compassionate personal injury lawyers have helped countless car accident victims get the compensation they deserve in a timely manner. Don’t go through this stressful situation without the help of skilled legal counsel. Contact Dennis and King today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.