Common Questions About Car Accident Cases in Tennessee
It isn’t uncommon to feel confused about your rights or your options after you or a family member has been hurt in a wreck. Find the answers to your questions here, or simply browse our answers to other common questions from Tennessee car accident victims. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to call our Franklin car accident lawyers directly at (615) 807-7900.
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Why can’t a jury hear about insurance at trial?
When you sue the driver whose recklessness caused your car accident, you are really suing an insurance company. If the driver is found to be responsible for the accident and he has insurance, it is the insurance policy that will pay the damages. This is true even if the case goes to a jury trial. The defendant will be represented by an attorney appointed by the insurance company and the insurance company will pay the attorney fee. If the jury finds that the defendant was at fault in the accident and awards the plaintiff a sum of money, the insurance company will pay the plaintiff.
However, under the rules of evidence for the state of Tennessee, none of this can be mentioned during the trial. Any information regarding an insurance company is inadmissible in a Tennessee courtroom.
What This Means for the Plaintiff
Car accident cases usually go to trial because the at-fault driver’s insurance company won’t settle the claim. This means that the victim has already fought with the insurance company and has either been denied any money or has been offered less than what they are entitled to. The next course of action in this situation is to go to trial. However, the attorney for the plaintiff will not be able to mention the problems his client has had with the insurance company in court, nor will he be able to sway the jury by explaining that the defendant will not have to pay anything out of pocket. This rule makes it much harder for a victim to win compensation and is one reason you should never go to court against an insurance company without an attorney representing you.
Reasons for the Rule
Tennessee has this rule primarily to prevent jury bias. If a jury learns that a defendant is covered by insurance, they may be more likely to find fault and award damages. On the other hand, if they learn the defendant does not have insurance, they may relax their standards in determining fault because they sympathize with the defendant. If a jury member were to learn that she is represented by the same insurance company as the defendant, she may worry that her premiums will go up if the company has to pay out on this policy and this could affect her decision. Likewise, if a jury member has had a negative experience with the insurance company on trial, he may find against them out of spite.
The purpose of a jury trial in a car accident is simply to determine whether the defendant is at fault for the accident and, if so, how much he should be required to pay in damages. Tennessee’s rules of evidence ensure that insurance issues do not play a part in this decision.
You Need an Experienced Car Accident Trial Lawyer on Your Side
While this rule doesn’t always work against the plaintiff, it can complicate a case. An experienced car accident attorney will know how to present your case to your best advantage, regardless of the mention of insurance coverage. Call GriffithLaw at 615-807-7900 now to discuss the details of your particular case. We are here to help.
How do pre-existing injuries that are made worse affect injury claims?
The law states that if an accident can be proven to have directly caused the worsening of a pre-existing condition, the injured victim is entitled to compensation for the increased damage.
The keywords in this statement are “can be proven.”
Without substantial evidence showing a link between the worsening injury (or increased pain and suffering) and the impact force of the accident, the insurance company can deny the claim, stating that the current injuries were not related to their client's accident.
Proving an Injury/Accident Relationship
When pursuing a car accident claim, the thing you need to remember is that insurance companies are—how should we put this?—
not helpful. In fact, insurance adjusters will do anything and everything to keep from having to pay out a substantial claim. One of the most notorious tactics they use is trying to convince you that you’re responsible for your own injuries, or at least that they’re not responsible. In some cases, insurance companies go as far as to pass the blame onto God, as long as they don’t have to pay.
Knowing how ruthless they can be, it’s easy to see how they’ll try to weasel out of paying a claim when an accident aggravated a pre-existing condition. However, despite what the insurance company wants, they can’t legally justify a denial when you can provide proof that the accident caused you further damage or increased pain. The fact of the matter is that even if you had a previous injury, the impact of the collision made that injury worse, and therefore deserves attention.
Below are a few tips that can help you secure your claim by securing necessary evidence and support.
- Be diligent. Seek medical attention immediately after the accident, no matter how minor your injuries appear. By securing a medical report, you can verify trauma and close the timeline between accident and injury, preventing the insurance company from arguing that your injuries were caused by something other than the accident.
- Be honest. When speaking to the doctor, do not withhold any information about previous injuries. If you previously broke your ankle and you’re currently experiencing pain in the same place, let him know. The previous break could have weakened the bone and made it more susceptible to the impact force of the accident. This information can help him in his diagnosis and can also help explain the severity of injuries.
- Be precise. Make sure to list every single injury that you may have, even if you think the injury may be minor. Start from your toes and work your way up, scanning for any pain or potential problems. It is important that the doctor records all issues at the time of the initial exam to ensure that they’ll be included in the report in case they worsen.
- Be smart. Let us help you secure all the necessary evidence you need to prove your case.
Call us at 615-807-7900 or 1-877-959-8847, to schedule your FREE, no-obligation consultation. Our vast experience and eagerness to help you get justice for your injuries makes us a great asset to your claim. Contact our Franklin car accident lawyers today to see how we can help you uncover and explain the complexities of your injuries to get the compensation they deserve.
How are police reports used in Tennessee injury claims?
Police reports are unreliable and fall under the category of speculation or hearsay. Since an officer does not physically witness the car accident or see the circumstances that led up to it, his report can’t be considered legitimate evidence of what actually occurred. Consequently, the state of Tennessee considers police reports inadmissible as evidence for proving liability in a car accident case. However, just because the police officer’s report is inadmissible, doesn’t mean the officer’s personal testimony can’t be used.
Police Officer Testimony
A police officer’s report can’t show the actions leading up to an accident or what occurred during the collision. However, an officer’s testimony of what he witnessed first-hand can bring necessary evidence to light on what occurred after the incident. This evidence is admissible and can be used to piece together what occurred and illustrate the severity of the wreck. Essential information that the responding officer can legitimately give includes:
- Position of vehicles. How the vehicles were positioned can give insight into where they were before and during the collision. This, in turn, can provide speculation into liability—or at least a window for your attorney to question impact locations. It’s important to note that if the officer draws the scene of the accident in his report, that illustration (although part of the report) may be admissible as it reflects what he saw when he arrived.
- Unadulterated witness statements. When it comes to injury claims, it’s amazing how defendants and plaintiffs alike can develop selective memory. They can say one thing at the time of the accident, but change the story completely when it comes time to testify. However, although he may not have witnessed the accident first-hand, the responding officer can affirm or refute statements by comparing them to the ones he took at the time of the accident.
- Injury conditions of parties involved. Insurance companies are quick to question the severity of victims’ injuries as well as how they sustained them. However, an officer can verify the injury conditions of both parties by testifying about the physical conditions of those involved once he arrived at the scene.
- Mental and physical conditions of parties involved. Finally, the responding officer can give insight into the conditions and appearance of each driver at the time of his arrival. A driver’s condition can help prove liability. For instance, if a driver appeared to be overly tired, his fatigue could have been distracting enough to lead to the accident. Likewise, if the officer noticed signs of intoxication, this could be evidence of reckless driving.
Securing the Evidence You Need
When pursuing a car accident injury claim, you’ll need as much help as you can get to convince the insurance company and the court that your injuries require a fair settlement. At GriffithLaw, we’re here to give you the guidance you require to file your claim, and the resolve to secure your claim’s success. We know how frustrating and complicated car accident claims can be, especially when so many things can make or break your case. Let our experience and knowledge work for you. Contact us today at 615-807-7900 for a FREE consultation.
Need more information about traffic accident claims? Feel free to browse our site to see how our vast experience and knowledge can help you get the settlement you deserve.
What can I do if I’m involved in a traffic accident with an uninsured driver?
Each state has a minimum requirement for car insurance. In Tennessee, the minimum is $25,000/$50,000 for bodily injury liability and $15,000 for property damage liability. Even though it’s illegal to drive without insurance, according to the Insurance Research Council, more than 14 percent of U.S. drivers are uninsured. If you’ve been involved in an accident caused by another driver, you are entitled to claim damages for medical expenses and repairs to your vehicle. But what happens if the other driver is underinsured or has no insurance at all?
Steps to Take
If the other driver in your car accident is uninsured and you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, your only recourse to claim compensation is to sue that driver. In order to do this, you need to obtain a variety of important information that documents the accident, including:
- Photographs. Take as many pictures as you can of the damage and the positions of the cars. Make sure you include the scene with both cars, the location, time, and the plates of the other vehicle. This documentation will help prove that the accident took place.
- Details. Write down the make, model, and color of the other car. If the other driver has refused to give you his personal information, or there is a language barrier, note any details you can remember about him.
- Location. Make note of the exact location of the accident, so you can give the police specific details. You may also wish to track any security footage in the vicinity from the time of the accident.
- Witnesses. Write down the contact details of everyone who witnessed the accident. Your attorney may need to use their affidavits later during your court hearing.
The most important thing to remember if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver is to call the police. Even if the damage appears minimal, you need to make a police report; there may be much more damage than you can see. Even if the other driver asks you not to call the police, you should still make that 911 call. It’s the only way you can protect yourself, your vehicle, and any future lawsuit.
At GriffithLaw, we have more than a decade of experience serving people who have been the victims of traffic accidents. If you have been involved in a traffic accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, call us at 877-959-8847, or fill out our online form to request a free, no-obligation consultation. Our Nashville car accident attorneys are ready to help you get the compensation you deserve for personal injury and damage to your vehicle.
Should I have uninsured motorist coverage for my car?
Many times when I have clients who have been involved in a wreck, one of the first things that I want to know is what type of insurance coverage they had on their car. It’s important because we don’t know the full extent of the coverage that the other person that hit you has covering their car.
Tennessee is one of the few states that does not allow you to discover the insurance coverage held by the person that hit you. If a person crashes into you or your family, why would you be worried about uninsured motorist coverage? The answer is because your uninsured motorist coverage also acts as what is known as “under” insured motorist coverage. For example, If you have a claim from a serious incident that exceeds $100,000 and the person that hit you has “full coverage”, that person may only have $25,000 of coverage. $25,000 is the state minimum to meet the car insurance requirements to be legal in Tennessee. If you have your own Uninsured Motorist policy where you purchased $100,000 or $250,000 of coverage, you will be insured up to the amount of your coverage, whichever amount you previously chose. The coverage of your car under your uninsured motorist coverage effectively takes the place of a lack of enough coverage by the party that hit you. Another good rule of thumb is to ask your agent how much it costs for $1,000,000.00 umbrella of uninsured motorist coverage, or for the highest amount of coverage they provide. Usually, Uninsured Motorist (UM) policies max out at $500,000 of coverage in Tennessee. You will be surprised how affordable it is for 6 months of uninsured motorist coverage at $500,000 – usually less than the price of taking your family out to dinner.
Many people are surprised to learn that their own insurance company will often hire a lawyer to defend the person that hit them in the event that that person had no insurance coverage or not enough coverage. This can be problematic because when people first report a loss, they may tell their own insurance company things about their case they wouldn’t reveal to the other insurance company. Many times when you first give a statement to your insurance company and report the claim, you’re not aware that your insurance company will later use this information against you in the event that they hire a lawyer to defend the person that caused all of your harms and losses. This is the reason that I always preach that you need to be very careful about trusting your own insurance company.
Whenever you have a high limit of uninsured motorist coverage, you’re insuring every other person on the roadway that might cross over that center line and hit you head on. Another reason why you need to have uninsured motorist coverage is that it will typically protect you in the event that you are a bicyclist. We represent a lot of cyclists in our firm, and a lot of times their own uninsured motorist coverage from their car will cover them in the event that they’ve been struck by a passing vehicle. If you’re a pedestrian and you get hit by a car, your uninsured motorist coverage will protect you. Always, always, always make sure that you have uninsured motorist coverage at the highest limits possible.
I share this to give you information and insight as to how personal injury cases are tried and litigated in the state of Tennessee. If you have questions about your case – I want to speak with you. Call me at 615-807-7900 or email me. Thank you.
Do I need an attorney to handle my personal injury case in the state of Tennessee?
Each week I receive dozens of calls from people who have been hurt in car wrecks who ask me the same question. And every time I speak with them, they have waited a certain period of time before calling me, and they have made the same mistakes over and over again. Let me share with you the top 3 mistakes people make trying to handle their personal injury case themselves.
Top 3 Mistakes People Make Handling Their Car Accident Case
1. They allow the adjuster too much access to their case. This includes allowing the liability adjuster access to all of your prior medical bills and giving them a recorded statement. You are required to give a recorded statement to your own insurance company, but not the insurance company insuring the car that hit you. These same people trust that the claims adjuster is going to help them document all of the harms and losses the injured person has sustained. This is a mistake.
2. Failure to document injuries. People fail to document their harms, including bruising, cases, scars, incisions, lacerations, attempts at trying to walk again after being disabled from an injury, attempts and struggles during rehabilitation and physical therapy, etc. Six months from now you may forget how painful and how difficult it was trying to get back into your normal activities of daily living. Pictures and video document these situations and give force to your struggles and pain. This documentation will help the insurance company see that you are an individual person and not just another claim number to have to deal with. You are unique and special, and so should their evaluation of your case. More importantly, if you are hurting, you must go to the doctor to document your injuries. The sooner you go, the better. Gaps in treatment hurt your case. An insurance adjuster and their attorney will infer that “if it is not in a doctor’s note, then it did not happen.” Document, document, document! A lot of people will try and “tough it out” and just take over the counter medication to deal with the pain and hopefully will not have to go to the doctor. Then, after agonizing for weeks, or months, they go to the doctor for the first time after a long gap in time. The insurance adjuster will try and infer that you are 1- Making up the claim just to get money after having time to sit around and think about it after watching personal injury commercials on TV, and 2- you must have been involved in another wreck or were injured again somehow in a way that is totally related to the wreck you were involved in with their insured. Waiting is a big mistake!
When you do go to your doctor, make sure that you document each injury you sustained in your incident, starting at your head and going down to your toes. Even if the pain is not excruciating, document it by telling the doctor of each injury you have sustained.3. They fail to document the property damage caused in your wreck. Many times people will only have pictures of their car, but not pictures of the car that hit them. This is another big mistake. Why? If you are rear-ended by another car, for example, and the car that hit you pushed you forward 15 feet and sustained a lot of front end damages, the insurance adjuster will likely only take pictures of the rear of your car which may not show a lot of damage, and not take (or not provide, or conveniently lose) pictures of the defendant’s car. This is for the sole purpose of trying to create an image that your impact was very minor, and there is no credible way you could have been seriously hurt. In the meantime, they will not provide pictures of their insured’s car which shows a smashed grille, a leaking radiator, crushed hood, front fender damage, airbag deployment, etc. This is an attempt to deceive you and the jury. Show your own story. Take control and take pictures of the other cars in their resting position at the scene of the wreck if you are able. If not, try to get loved ones or the police to take photographs if you think of it. Obviously, take care of yourself and your family first!
Make sure to show the resting positions of the cars. Many times in a wreck your car will be propelled forward for a great distance. While the impact to your car may be relatively minor, the impact to your body in that situation will be hopefully realized when you can show how large the force was that hit you, and how far that you were propelled. If airbags deploy in your car, take pictures. If there are gashes in the roadway, take pictures. Whenever you take pictures of the vehicles, take both wide angle pictures, as well as close ups of the damages. If your radio fell out, take pictures. Document, document, document! There is no such thing as taking too many pictures or too much video.
Remember, YOU are unique. Don’t let the adjuster try to minimize your case by hiding or destroying evidence. Help yourself by being prepared and be ready to SHOW your own story.
If you have any additional questions about your personal injury case, let us stand up and fight for you. Call us today at 877-959-8847 or download our FREE guide for personal injury cases in Tennessee.