Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Under federal law, for an expert report to be admissible the party introducing the report must show the expert witness is qualified, the report sets forth an opinion relevant to determining an issue of fact, and the testimony is reliable. The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee recently explained that a district court evaluating whether an expert report should be admitted is not required to analyze whether the report is correct, but only if the report is supported by a reliable foundation. If you were the victim in a Tennessee car accident, it is in your best interest to retain a knowledgeable car accident attorney to discuss the circumstances surrounding the accident and develop a plan to assist you in recovering damages.

Factual Scenario

Allegedly, the plaintiff and the defendant driver were involved in a car accident. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant driver, a truck driver, was negligent and that his employer should be held vicariously liable for her injuries. In response, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff caused the accident. The defendants served the plaintiff with expert disclosures as required by Federal law. The defendants’ expert reviewed photographs, video footage, and analyzed the specifications of the plaintiff’s vehicle, a reconstruction program and his own experience in determining that the plaintiff caused the accident by driving into the path of the defendant driver and that the collision was minor. The plaintiff moved to preclude the expert and his report, arguing that the report was contrary to the photographs of the accident and the physical evidence. The plaintiff also argued the report alleged negligent behavior on behalf of the defendant driver, not the plaintiff.

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Under Federal and State laws regulating motor carriers, tractor-trailer drivers are required to keep logs of their driving times. If you were involved in a car accident with a tractor-trailer, the logs may be important evidence in proving the tractor trailer’s driver was negligent. While the employers of tractor-trailer drivers involved in collisions have a duty to produce any logs in a lawsuit arising out of the collision, it may not always be clear when it is necessary to retain records. The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee recently held that boilerplate language in an incident report was not sufficient to place the employer on notice that it needed to retain records. If you are involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer you should confer with an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney as soon as possible, to ensure any evidence that is helpful to your case is not lost.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff and a defendant tractor-trailer driver were involved in a collision in October 2016. Plaintiff sued defendant driver for negligence and defendant’s employer for vicarious liability. In June 2017, plaintiff sent defendants correspondence in which she requested that defendants preserve any evidence related to the accident, and specifically asked defendants to retain any daily logs produced by the electronic logging device in the truck for the date of the accident and the six months preceding the accident. Defendants advised plaintiff they no longer had the logs due to the fact that they were automatically overwritten every six months. Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions against defendants alleging that defendants purposefully destroyed evidence related to the accident.

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If you were injured in a car accident, the other driver may dispute the cause and extent of your injuries. One method the other driver’s attorney may employ to attempt to diminish your injuries is to introduce medical records that indicate that your alleged injuries existed prior to the accident. While you may think it is in your best interest to preclude any medical records that are not related to treatment from injuries caused by the accident, in a recent case, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee held that a trial court erred in excluding medical records indicating a pre-existing condition at the plaintiff’s request and remanded the case for a new trial. As such, if you are involved in a Tennessee car accident, it is important to retain a knowledgeable Tennessee personal injury attorney to assess the facts of your case and assist you in gathering evidence to support the claim you suffered new injuries or that an existing injury was exacerbated due to the accident.

Facts of the Case

Plaintiff sued defendant, alleging defendant’s negligence caused a car accident that resulted in plaintiff’s injuries. The case was tried in front of a jury, who found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her damages in the amount of $70,000.00. Defendant moved for a new trial, which the court denied. Defendant appealed.  On appeal, defendant argued, in part, that the trial court erred in excluding plaintiff’s pre-accident medical records and testimony regarding plaintiff’s medical expenses. Defendant further argued that plaintiff lacked sufficient testimony to establish her injury was permanent, and justify the award of damages that arose out of permanency.

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Recently, a 53-year-old man from Del Rio was killed on in a Tennessee car accident on East Highway 25/70. A trooper reported that she and other first responders had been sent to the intersection of the highway and another road shortly before 6:30 p.m. due to the 2-vehicle accident. When the trooper arrived, she learned that the man was traveling east when he tried to pass a 2013 Honda CRV that was being operated by a 59-year-old man and his 63-year-old wife, who was 63. Their vehicle was stopped in the roadway.

When the accident happened, the decedent’s front tire hit the couple’s CRV from behind causing both vehicles to move to the left of the road and roll over. The decedent hit a utility pole and came to a stop. The decedent wasn’t wearing his seat belt.

If your loved one was killed in a car accident, you may be able to recover damages by bringing a wrongful death claim. Under Tennessee Code section 20-5-106, a wrongful death is a death caused by the injuries suffered from another or by another’s killing, omission or wrongful act. Wrongful death claims are basically personal injury claims, in which the injured person has passed on and so a family member or personal representative of the decedent’s estate has the right to bring the claim.

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Recently, a Tennessee car accident led to a man being charged in criminal court. The car crash occurred on I-55 and I-240 and killed a 13-year-old girl. At the time of the accident, the man was driving on a suspended license and didn’t have insurance. He collided with an SUV parked on the side of the road. The thirteen-year-old was taken to the children’s hospital in critical condition, and later died from her injuries. Others were taken to the hospital while not in critical condition.

Inside the man’s truck were empty beer cans and vodka bottles. Someone who knew the man told the press that the man was disabled and helped people in the neighborhood find jobs.

If you are injured or a loved one is killed in a drunk driving accident, you may be able to recover damages through a civil suit. As with other types of car accident cases, you’ll likely need to show the drunk driver’s negligence by proving: (1) the drunk driver owed you a duty, (2) breach of duty, (3) actual and proximate causation, and (4) actual damages. It’s unusual for juries to award punitive damages for car accidents. However, punitive damages are sometimes awarded in drunk driving cases in order to punish the defendant and deter future misconduct. In order to obtain punitive damages you’d need to show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted recklessly, fraudulently, intentionally or maliciously.

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In 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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Under 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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In 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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The 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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Tennessee, 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.