Court Discusses Comparative Fault in Tennessee Car Accident Cases

Many parents rely on bus drivers to safely transport their children to school. If a driver does not arrive at a designated stop at the scheduled time, though, a child may have to seek alternate means of traveling to school, which could ultimately lead to a car accident that causes the child to sustain significant harm. Whether the driver will be deemed liable for the injuries suffered depends on whether any other parties contributed to causing the accident, as demonstrated in a recent Tennessee case in which parents were denied recovery for their child’s harm due to their comparative negligence. If your child was injured in an accident, it is prudent to confer with a dedicated Tennessee car accident attorney to discuss your possible claims.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the driver for the defendant school district arrived at the plaintiffs’ child’s stop seven minutes early, and left when the child was not present. The child later went to the stop, and after he realized the bus was not coming, he returned home, retrieved his bicycle, and told his father he was riding the bicycle to school. The child was struck by a pickup truck on the way to school and suffered severe injuries.

It is alleged that the plaintiffs, acting on behalf of their child, filed a lawsuit against the driver and the defendant school district, alleging claims of negligence. A jury ultimately found that the driver and defendant school district were negligent, but attributed fifty-six percent of the fault for the accident to the plaintiffs. Thus, the plaintiffs were denied recovery of damages. They appealed.

Evidence of Comparative Negligence Under Tennessee Law

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued the trial court erred in barring them from introducing evidence of the school’s internal policies. The appellate court noted that, regardless of whether the preclusion of such evidence was inappropriate, the plaintiffs were required to show the trial court’s alleged error affected their substantial rights, pursuant to Tennessee law. The appellate court found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate such harm, however.

Specifically, the appellate court noted that the jury was tasked not only with determining whether the defendant school driver was negligent, but also the negligence of all other parties, using the nonexclusive factors established by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The plaintiffs argued the jury could not properly apply two of the factors, the reasonableness of the conduct of the parties when confronted with a risk, and the extent to which the defendant neglected to exercise an opportunity to avoid the plaintiff’s harm, without the precluded evidence.

The appellate court declined to adopt the plaintiffs’ reasoning, stating there was no evidence in support of their arguments. Further, the court stated that the jury was not instructed on any specific factors it should evaluate, but was merely told to determine the extent to which each party’s contribution contributed to the child’s harm. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Tennessee Attorney

If you or a loved one suffered harm in a car crash, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to discuss your damages. Eric Beasley is a trusted Tennessee car accident attorney who possesses the skills and resources needed to seek favorable results, and he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Beasley through the form online or at 615-859-2223 to set up a conference.