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limo accidentIf you are injured while on the job, you may find that there are multiple parties who potentially may be liable for your damages. If you were in the course of your employment when you were injured, your employer may be required to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages through your workers’ compensation program because the injuries occurred while you were working. At the same time, if a third party was involved in the accident that caused your injury, for instance if they ran into a vehicle that you were driving for work, they may also have some liability for your injuries. But this does not mean that you can recover from both your employer and the third party. As discussed in a recent court case, if doing so would require you to sue a co-worker or fellow employee, recovery from both may be precluded in Tennessee.

In this recent Tennessee car accident case, C.W. and J.B. were carpooling to work when they were involved in a motor vehicle accident. After the accident occurred, C.W. filed for workers’ compensation benefits from his employer at the time, Progression. Progression did not dispute that the accident and C.W.’s injuries had occurred on the job and paid C.W.’s benefits. Shortly thereafter, C.W. also filed suit against J.B., arguing that J.B.’s negligence in driving the vehicle had caused his injuries. J.B. moved for summary judgment on the claim, arguing that since C.W. had previously asserted that his injuries occurred in the course of his employment, his exclusive remedy was workers’ compensation, and he was precluded from bringing tort claims against J.B. The court granted the motion, finding that C.W. had previously represented that the accident occurred as part of his employment, and, as a result, Tennessee law provided that workers’ compensation was his exclusive remedy. It therefore dismissed the case, and C.W. appealed.

On appeal, C.W. argued that the court erred in concluding that just because he sought workers’ compensation benefits he was precluded from filing separate tort claims. Under Tennessee law, the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits excludes a plaintiff from other claims for injury. However, Tennessee law also provides that when a worker recovers against a third party, an employer may recover for costs paid through workers’ compensation. Reviewing the case law, the Court of Appeals noted that workers may sometimes be permitted to recover against entirely separate third parties for their injuries, but employers may be reimbursed for expenses they have paid. However, these third parties do not include other employees, who are, in fact, a part of the “employment” and fall within the scope of workers’ compensation. If a co-employee caused the accident, it is the employer that will be liable, but the employer is already liable under the workers’ compensation scheme. Thus, the dual claims against the employer cannot succeed.

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haircutIf you are injured in a car, truck, or pedestrian accident, there are multiple categories of damages that you may seek to recover in a personal injury lawsuit. First, you may claim expenses that you have incurred as a result of your accident, such as medical bills or repair costs for your car or other property. Second, you may seek pain and suffering damages for the pain you experienced during and after your accident, as well as any suffering that may continue to linger long after the accident is over. Third, you may also have lost earnings and lost future earnings. These damages arise when you are unable to work or forced to reduce your workload as a result of your accident, or when your accident leaves you permanently injured in a way that affects your ability to work and make money down the road.  A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals looks at how lost future earnings are calculated in Tennessee.

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broken truckTypically, negligence and personal injury claims are evaluated by considering the testimony presented by each party as to what happened at the time of the accident and who was at fault. The credibility of witnesses is evaluated, experts and evidence may be provided to support each party’s version of the facts, and ultimately a judge or jury must determine whose story they believe. But what happens when one party can’t remember what happened at the time of the accident? A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals addresses this issue.

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ambulance

In negligence cases, defendants can only be held liable for damages that result from actions that they have directly caused. For example, if a plaintiff is involved in an accident during a thunderstorm, she may be able to sue the other driver for injuries that she sustained during the car accident. However, if she is also struck by lightning from the thunderstorm, she cannot seek damages for any damages related to those injuries, since they were caused by an independent intervening event, the lightning strike. While the intervening cause is clearly separate and distinct from a driver’s negligence in that example, separating the two is not always so easy. In a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the court considered whether the suicide of a young woman was an independent cause of the daughter’s and her family’s injuries, or a foreseeable result of a police department’s failure to take action.

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staircasePremises liability and negligence claims arise when property owners have knowledge of circumstance or conditions on their property that could potentially cause harm, but they do not do anything to address those risks. While knowledge or awareness of a risk can be broadly interpreted, courts have consistently held that property owners should not be held liable for conditions that they could not have anticipated would cause harm. Thus, when a stair breaks unexpectedly, without reason, the owner of the stairs usually will not be at fault. Similarly, as discussed in the case below, when a restaurant owner has never had problems with the safety of a handrail before, and a fall occurs, the restaurant owner will not be held responsible unless he had some indication that the injury and fall could happen.

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penWhen a litigant appeals a decision by a lower court in a personal injury or wrongful death action, the appeals court must review the record that was before the lower court, the evidence presented to the judge or jury, and the reasoning behind the court or jury’s decision. In order to conduct an adequate review, the appellate court must have enough information from the lower court to fully understand what happened and how the court reached the outcome that it did. When a lower court fails to do so, the appellate court may be forced to overturn or vacate the decision, as it did in a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals case.

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hiding faceWhen a party is injured by the negligence of another party, that individual typically has claims for the pain and suffering and other damages that they experienced. Additionally, in some states, like Tennessee, those who knew the party, were closely related to the person injured, or witnessed the injury that occurred may also have their own claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). Since NIED claims could potentially open a defendant up to many claims by many different parties, they are typically construed quite narrowly and require plaintiffs to show that they were immediately affected by an “injury producing event.” In a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the court considered whether an injury producing event had to occur instantly or could be the product of prolonged negligence over time.

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If you’ve been severely injured in a Tennessee car accident, you may be able to access workers’ compensation funds if the car accident occurred while performing work for an employer. Workers’ compensation provides payments to an injured employee to cover lost wages and medical expenses. If the employee suffers a partial or total disability, he or she may receive a lump sum or series of payments to cover the wages that cannot be earned as a result of the disability. If the employee dies as a result of the workplace injury, the estate or family may recover the designated benefits.Carpenter toolsWorkers’ compensation was designed to provide employees with quicker access to funds while shielding an employer from liability. However, this does not prevent an injured party from pursuing damages in a negligence action against other parties who share responsibility for the injuries.

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently issued an opinion stemming from a workplace car accident that caused a carpenter to suffer numerous serious injuries. The accident fractured the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck and herniated discs in his lower back. The injured carpenter underwent surgery to alleviate his neck pain, but he still experienced back pain whenever he bent forward or backward. After reviewing the carpenter’s complaints, the surgeon recommended additional surgery to help heal the residual pain. The insurance company denied the coverage for surgery, due to the peer review performed by three other physicians, who did not think surgery was necessary. The additional request for epidural steroid injections was also denied. To manage the pain, the carpenter took opiates. When the pain became too great, he took a greater amount of medicine than prescribed and consumed alcohol. The injured carpenter admitted this to a pain management specialist, and he agreed to take his medication as directed and call before adjusting his dose.

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fileOne of the foundational principles of the public judiciary is that judicial proceedings should be open and transparent for the public. For this reason, filings, papers, and arguments made by parties in a lawsuit are typically considered part of the public record and can be viewed by others, although sometimes for a small fee. In very limited circumstances, parties can request that a court “seal” a paper that is filed, or the record of the proceeding in its entirety, in order to protect the privacy of parties involved. This can happen when one party is a minor or when sensitive information is being discussed, such as with medical records, cases involving sexual or child abuse, or situations when confidential financial information is at issue. Even when a court agrees to seal a record, the parties cannot use that to their advantage to keep important information from another party in a related lawsuit, as illustrated by a recent decision by the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

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wooded roadWhile relevance may seem like a straightforward concept to grasp during a trial, it can often be surprisingly complex. Judges are tasked with the difficult directive of keeping a trial on task and on point, which includes excluding evidence that may not be relevant to the actual issues being decided. Often, parties may feel that negative evidence about the other party is relevant to their whole story and should be considered by the jury, or small details should be included so that the jury has the full picture, while a judge finds such evidence irrelevant, unnecessary, and maybe even prejudicial. As discussed below, a recent case out of the Tennessee Court of Appeals considers whether evidence of a driver’s error, ultimately irrelevant to any legal claims, was wrongfully excluded from trial.

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