Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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medical evaluationIn personal injury and car accident cases, one of the central issues that a jury must decide is whether a plaintiff has been injured and, if so, the extent of those injuries. This is typically done through the introduction of medical bills, statements of medical providers, and disclosure of results of tests and other treatments. In order to properly mount a defense and argue for lesser damages, defendants are entitled to access to a plaintiff’s relevant medical records and even to have an independent medical evaluation conducted in order to determine the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. Although independent medical evaluations (IMEs) may seem invasive, they are permitted under the rules and must be complied with, as a recent case illustrates.

In this car accident case, C.P. was injured after a severe accident with K.B. C.P. sued K.B. alleging that his negligent driving was the cause of the accident and that he was responsible for her physical injuries, emotional distress, and future medical issues that might arise. K.B. acknowledged that he had some fault for the accident but disputed the extent of Plaintiff’s injuries. During discovery, K.B. sought to set up an IME with C.P. to have her reviewed by an independent medical provider. Despite repeated inquiries, C.P. refused to comply with K.B. in setting up a date for the IME. Eventually K.B. unilaterally set up a date and C.P. failed to appear.  At this point, K.B. went to the court requesting that the court order an IME. C.P. moved for a protective order but failed to provide details for why she needed protection and it was denied. The court ordered that the parties work together to schedule an IME.

K.B. reached out to C.P. four times in separate letters offering dates for a possible IME but received no response. After being unsuccessful at scheduling the IME, K.B. filed a motion to dismiss C.P.’s complaint. The trial court found that C.P. was in willful disobedience of the court’s order to schedule an IME. However, rather than dismiss the complaint, the court imposed sanctions prohibiting C.P. from presenting any evidence of her injuries, including medical bills or medical testimony, at trial. After an eventual trial in the case, the jury awarded C.P. only $500 for her injuries and she appealed.

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graveUnder Tennessee’s wrongful death statute, when a loved one dies, there are certain family members who get priority to bring wrongful death lawsuits on the loved one’s behalf. Spouses have the primary right to bring such a claim, while children have a secondary right after spouses.  Since Tennessee legislators did not want anyone to benefit off the intentional killing of another person, any person who intentionally causes the death of a loved one cannot then bring a claim on that person’s behalf. This principle is known as the slayer statute.  While the slayer statute clearly applies to intentional harm, it is unclear whether it also applies to someone who negligently causes the death of another person. A recent Tennessee Supreme Court decision addressed this issue.

In this Tennessee wrongful death case, C.M. and J.B were involved in a road rage dispute when their vehicles crossed into incoming traffic and caused an accident. As a result of the accident, C.M.’s wife was killed. C.M. and his wife had one daughter, B.N.  Shortly after the accident, B.N. filed a wrongful death action on behalf of her mother and named both C.M. and J.B. as defendants. In the complaint, B.N. alleged that C.M. was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time of the accident and that his negligent actions disqualified him from bringing a wrongful death lawsuit himself. At the time, C.M. was in jail for vehicular homicide resulting from the accident.

C.M. later filed a wrongful death action on behalf of his wife, arguing that B.N.’s complaint should be dismissed because he had priority to file the wrongful death lawsuit as the spouse. C.M’s lawsuit named J.B. as a defendant but did not name himself. Ultimately, the trial court agreed with C.M. that he had priority and dismissed B.N.’s complaint.  B.N. appealed. On appeal, the appellate court held that C.M. had an inherent conflict of interest because he could be both the plaintiff and the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his wife, and accordingly only B.N.’s lawsuit would allow for the full prosecution of all claims C.M.’s wife, and B.N.’s mother, might have. It reversed the lower court and reinstated B.N.’s claim. C.M. then appealed.

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car crashIn personal injury cases, one of the biggest questions that a jury must determine is how much a plaintiff should get, if anything, in damages. Damages are usually the collection of costs like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, damage to property, and other expenses that a plaintiff has incurred. In some instances, however, the amount that the plaintiff was initially charged for an expense is not the same as the amount that was ultimately paid. For example, perhaps a car dealership quoted the plaintiff a certain price, but the plaintiff’s friend agreed to cover half the cost. In these types of situations, a common question in calculating damages is whether the jury should look at the total expense incurred or the total expense paid.

In a recent Tennessee car accident case, the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed this precise question. At the time, A.S. and L.S. were driving their vehicle when they were hit by a truck driven by a Tennessee Department of Transportation employee. The employee turned in front of their car without giving them time to stop, and they experienced both physical injuries and damage to their property. At the time of trial, A.S. and L.S. both presented evidence of their medical bills to support their claim for damages based on medical expenses. The Department of Transportation argued that both plaintiffs had received medical discounts on their bills, and the amount of those discounts should be provided to the jury under a Tennessee statute that provided for the presentation of “actual damages.”

In response, A.S. and L.S. argued that the collateral source rule prevented defendants from using evidence that a debt had been reduced or forgiven. The idea behind the rule is that the true measure of the damages a plaintiff has faced is the damages that were billed, even if those bills were later decreased. Ultimately, the jury was allowed to review evidence of the full amount billed, and the Department of Transportation appealed.

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question markThe way lawsuits are structured presumes that plaintiffs will usually know which defendant they want to sue. They will know the name of their neighbor or doctor or employer and be able to identify that person in a lawsuit. Sometimes, however, it isn’t so simple. You may want to sue a manager who inspected the equipment that injured you but not know that person’s exact name, for example. In those instances, plaintiffs typically use “Jane Doe” or “John Doe” to stand in for an unidentified individual. While cases can proceed against Does for some period of time, courts will require that they eventually be identified or be dismissed.

For instance, in a recent Tennessee auto accident case, S.S. brought claims against K.S. for being hit by a truck driven by K.S. while at a truck stop. S.S. also sued K.S.’s employer, CCI. During the course of discovery, CCI learned about the possibility that another individual had actually hit S.S. Specifically, CCI learned that a 911 tape of the accident existed. It requested a copy of the tape first by subpoena and then by public record request. Once it had the tape, it located the number of the man who had called in, found him, and deposed him. He testified that S.S. had in fact been hit by an unidentified driver driving an Averitt tractor trailer truck.

When CCI learned this, they moved to amend their complaint to add an affirmative defense that Averitt and the John Doe driver were responsible for the accident. Averitt moved to strike the affirmative defense, arguing that CCI had not properly identified the John Doe, and, since they could not identify him, the claim should be dismissed. The lower court agreed and dismissed the affirmative defense. CCI appealed.

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car accidentTennessee, like most states throughout the country, imposes limitations on how long plaintiffs have to bring their legal claims, including claims for personal injury. These limitations ensure that claims must be brought within a reasonable amount of time and that plaintiffs cannot simply sit on claims for years before deciding to bring them.

Statutes of limitations are one of the most common ways that plaintiffs accidentally lose their opportunity to bring a lawsuit. Unless very special circumstances exist, after a statute of limitations has passed, a plaintiff is out of luck. For this reason, both plaintiffs and their attorneys must pay close attention to statute of limitations deadlines in order to avoid accidentally losing their opportunity for justice and compensation.

In a recent Tennessee car accident lawsuit, the Tennessee Court of Appeals addressed precisely this type of circumstance. In this case, J.P. was injured after she was involved in an accident caused by B.L. on February 2, 2015. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Tennessee is one year, so J.P. brought a lawsuit against B.L. on February 2, 2016.  Unbeknownst to her at the time, B.L. had died on January 4, 2016. Several months after filing her complaint, J.P. learned of B.L.’s death and sought to bring her claim against B.L.’s estate instead. At the time, B.L.’s estate did not have an administrator, so J.P. petitioned for an administrator and in October 2016, moved to amend her complaint to name the administrator as the defendant.

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car crashThe Tennessee wrongful death statute permits the surviving spouse and surviving children of an individual who passes away to recover compensation on behalf of the deceased individual for injuries and pain and suffering that the deceased individual experienced prior to death. Wrongful death statutes often allow a surviving family member to sue third parties who negligently caused a loved one’s death. Subject to special exception, Tennessee’s wrongful death statute gives a strong preference to allowing a spouse or children to recover after a wrongful death, but a recent case before the Tennessee Supreme Court considered whether a husband who had essentially abandoned his wife and child should still be able to recover under the statute.

In this car accident case, C.S. and K.S. were previously married, but K.S. abandoned C.S. in April 2009, shortly after they had their child, U.S. C.S. and K.S. never divorced, but K.S. never lived with C.S. and their son again, and he did not pay any child support. In October 2010, C.S. died after an automobile accident with H.R. U.S.’s grandmother, C.O., was awarded guardianship over U.S. after C.S.’s death. In November 2010, K.S. filed a wrongful death lawsuit against H.R., alleging that H.R.’s negligence caused C.S.’s death. Shortly thereafter, C.O. sought to intervene in the wrongful death lawsuit and argued that U.S. was actually the primary representative in the wrongful death lawsuit and that she should be appointed as plaintiff, rather than K.S., because she was U.S.’s guardian. C.O. argued that K.S. could not recover on C.S.’s behalf in a wrongful death claim because he had abandoned C.S. and U.S. and owed child support to four other mothers for four other children. According to C.O., Tennessee’s statute prohibiting a parent from recovering under a wrongful death statute when he owed outstanding child support prevented K.S. from being a plaintiff.

Several months later, the court conducted a hearing on the matter. Around the same time, H.R. announced that she had agreed to settle the matter for the insurance policy limits of $100,000 and would leave it up to the court to determine how that $100,000 should be distributed between U.S. and K.S. The trial court ultimately decided to grant C.O.’s motion and dismiss K.S. from the lawsuit. The court further held that U.S. was entitled to the full $100,000. K.S. appealed.

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roadOften in a Tennessee truck accident, it may not be clear who is completely to blame. One party may fail to check a lane before merging, while the other is busy texting on her phone. In some states, the courts deal with this by apportioning fault and damages between parties in a negligence claim. Others, like Tennessee, are comparative fault states. Tennessee only allows for a negligence or personal injury claim to be successful when the defendant is more than 50% responsible for the accident. Thus, the plaintiff can have some degree of fault but not too much, or the claim is not viable.

In a recent automobile accident case, the question of comparative fault arose. At the time of the accident, D.P. was driving a delivery truck for his employer on a highway in Tennessee. The defendant, D.T., was also driving on that highway with his wife, ahead of D.P. and in a different lane. D.P. approached a construction site with police but did not observe any signs requiring him to slow his speed. He proceeded around the site at his same speed of 60 miles per hour. As he passed the site, D.T. decided to change lanes, immediately moving into the lane in front of D.P. D.P. was unable to slow down and ran into D.T. The accident was caught on a video camera on D.P.’s truck.

D.T. filed suit against D.P., alleging that D.P. failed to use reasonable care while driving, including failing to drive at an appropriate speed under the circumstances. According to D.T., D.P. should have slowed his vehicle when he approached and went around the construction site. D.P. quickly moved for summary judgment, arguing that the video camera clearly recorded the accident and showed that he was driving within the speed limit and that D.T. had quickly crossed lanes ahead of him. He claimed that his actions were reasonable and prudent under the circumstances and that D.T. was more than 50% at fault for the accident. The plaintiffs admitted that the video recording of the accident was correct, but they argued that reasonable minds could differ as to whether D.T. was 50% or more at fault.

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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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