We've all had a chill down our spine when we hear the distinct squeal of brakes—or the cringy sound of metal scraping against metal. Or have you ever felt a jolt when your car hits another object (hopefully not too hard)?
Most people experience 3 to 4 car crashes in their lifetime, or once every 18 years or so. Most collisions will be minor. But even a "minor" crash can be a big hit to your wallet, which is why it's important to know the laws about Tennessee car crash liability and Tennessee insurance laws.
It's also important to know what causes car accidents because awareness of these common pitfalls can help prevent your being involved in one.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists the following as the most common causes of car accidents:
The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security offers a robust dashboard with statistics on crashes on a daily, monthly, and annual basis.
There were 3,862 crashes reported in 2019, which was down from 4,073 in 2018. In 2019, there were the most crashes in September and the fewest in January and February.
The table below reflects special circumstances for crashes in Tennessee in 2019. The total number is higher than the number of crashes because some crashes meet more than one of the special circumstances.
|Conditions in Tennessee car crashes (2019)||Number|
|Large truck involved||430|
|Other non-motorist involved||17|
|School bus involved||13|
Each state in the U.S. is classified as either "at-fault" or "no fault." In an at-fault state, the driver who is at fault for an accident is legally responsible for the costs of damages and injuries. The at-fault driver's insurance company pays for the other driver's expenses.
If you're in a no-fault state, each driver files a claim with their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault. However, Tennessee is an at-fault state, which means the person responsible for the crash is also responsible for covering the bills that arise as a result.
Tennessee is a comparative negligence state. Each driver is assigned a percentage of liability in an accident. A driver who is more than 50% at fault for an accident cannot recover any damages in a lawsuit.
Here's an example of how comparative fault works:
Speedy Stephanie was traveling East on Maple Avenue. She was in a hurry to get to her destination, so she was driving about 10 miles faster than the posted speed limit.
Thirsty Theodore was driving West on Maple Avenue approaching Stephanie head-on. He was driving carefully, at the speed limit, but he took his eyes off the road for a moment to reach for his water bottle on the passenger seat.
At the moment Theodore took his eyes off the road, he and Stephanie collided head-on.
Accident reconstruction specialists find that Stephanie was in Theodore's lane at the time of the crash. Because she was driving too fast, her car moved over the centerline on the curvy road. The evidence shows that Stephanie was 90% liable for the crash.
However, Theodore did take his eyes off the road for an instant. Although he didn't cause the crash, investigators determine that if he had been watching more carefully, he likely could've swerved out of the way and avoided an accident. Theodore is found to be 10% liable for the crash.
In this scenario, the amount that Theodore could recover in damages is reduced by 10%.
You have 1 year from the date of an accident to file a legal claim. If you don't file within that time period, the court can refuse to hear your case.
Sometimes, it's easy to tell how an accident happened. And if you're fortunate enough that everyone involved is cooperative, the process of recovering damages might be quick and simple.
But usually, that's not the case.
There are certain conditions where one driver might be presumed liable. For example, a driver making a left turn across oncoming traffic is often held liable for a collision because the oncoming driver would've had the right of way. If it's a rear-end accident, usually the driver behind is at fault. Usually (but not always), the driver is at fault when it's an accident between a motorist and a pedestrian.
To determine who's at fault, the insurance company will look first at the police report. This report is the primary official document of evidence in a crash. However, the police don't decide who's held liable for damages. If one of the drivers is charged with a traffic infraction, that will often lead to that person's being held responsible.
However, if the insurance companies (yours and the other driver's) can't reach a settlement or agree on fault, the next step will be to file a personal injury lawsuit — and then the decision belongs to the court.
It's important that if you're in a condition to do so, you collect as much evidence as possible immediately after an accident. This might include:
A Tennessee driver must carry the following minimum amounts of liability insurance coverage:
You have the option to add further protection including uninsured motorist, comprehensive, and collision coverage.
The purpose of a personal injury lawsuit — whether it's for a slip and fall, car accident, defective product injury, or any type of injury — is to make the plaintiff whole. The intent is to restore the plaintiff to the financial position they'd have been in if the accident hadn't happened.
Through a car accident claim in Tennessee, you can seek to recover costs that include:
If your car accident was minor and liability is clear (and the at-fault driver is willingly taking responsibility), you might be able to handle it through the insurance company and not involve a lawyer.
But most car and truck accidents aren't so easily handled. You might never need to file a personal injury lawsuit, but you might need assistance in receiving the correct insurance settlement.
If your injuries are serious or will require future medical care or expenses, you should be sure you're recovering the amount you need to cover them. The right lawyer is experienced in calculating and negotiating a settlement that will cover an injured person's long-term needs.
The Enjuris law firm directory is a great source for finding a Tennessee car accident lawyer near you who can help you through what's likely a difficult and stressful event. Find a lawyer who will work with the insurance company to get the settlement you need and deserve, and who will take further steps to reach a resolution if necessary.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more