Tennessee and its courts have implemented several laws and legal rulings to address the state’s personal injury cases. Many of these are in Title 20 and Title 29 of the Tennessee Code.
If you sustain serious injuries in an accident, you may contact a personal injury lawyer in Chattanooga. They help victims recover damages for their losses. Law firms usually offer a free consultation to discuss the case briefly.
Credible Publications Trust The Personal Injury Center
The Personal Injury Center has a vast collection of legal resources and explainers that discuss different personal injury cases. Medical and legal publications have cited The Personal Injury Center in articles relating to medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers. You may check LHL Trial Lawyers and Medical News Today for reference.
What is personal injury?
The 4th leading cause of death in Tennessee is accidents. In 2020, the city of Chattanooga in Hamilton county recorded more than 2000 serious injuries in 12,377 car crashes.
However, personal injury law does not only involve car accidents. It includes every injury to a person’s reputation, emotion, and body. Some examples include defamation, invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, etc.
Generally, there are three grounds for establishing personal injury cases: negligence, strict liability, and intentional wrongs.
Negligence occurs when a person fails to behave with the same standard of care as others under similar circumstances. It is the most common basis for personal injury claims. The most common negligence claims include car accidents, medical malpractice, etc.
Meanwhile, strict liability holds a person liable for an act, regardless of their intent and mental state. It also covers their products or properties which caused harm to others. For instance, a product defect injured a person. The product’s manufacturer can be liable for the accident.
Lastly, intentional wrongs include a person’s intentional acts. It includes battery, assault, trespassing, etc.
How can personal injury law firms help me?
Establishing personal injury cases can be overwhelming if you are doing it alone. Especially for those without prior experience with legal matters, proving your case can be as time-consuming as it can be stressful. Seeking a personal injury attorney’s services can help alleviate the burden of navigating your claim independently.
For starters, there are four things to prove in a personal injury case: duty, breach, causation, and injury.
- Duty: The party at fault owed a duty of care not to cause others harm.
- Breach: The defendant violated the standard of care, which led to an injury.
- Causation: There is a correlation between the negligent act and the injury a person suffered.
- Injury: Someone’s negligence resulted in losses, injuries, or other expenses.
Build your case and collect documentation
Personal testimonies are not enough to successfully prove your personal injury case. Insurance companies require claimants to submit relevant documentation like medical records, police reports, etc. Other crucial evidence includes photos and videos of the accident scene and property damage, if any.
Personal injury attorneys will help you collate these official reports and records. They have the resources and time to investigate your case, which also involves tracking and seeking witness testimonials.
These records are essential to insurance claim as they provide context on what happened during the incident. It also determines the value of compensation you deserve to receive. For instance, insurance adjusters consider medical bills and employment records when evaluating damages for losses.
Negotiate with insurance companies
Insurance companies may not have your best interest in mind. Experienced personal injury lawyers will know how to negotiate so that you can recover maximum compensation for your losses.
Generally, the best approach to personal injury cases is to let your lawyer do the talking when dealing with insurance companies. Often, insurance adjusters undermine your claim and will convince you to settle with a lesser amount of damages.
This scenario is particularly true with motor vehicle accidents. You want to ensure you receive compensation equal to your losses.
Represent clients at trial
Sometimes, insurance companies will refuse to settle with victims outside of court. Victims can file a personal injury lawsuit and go to trial in this event. At this point, a personal injury lawyer will formalize their legal theories, hire expert witnesses, and handle allegations against you.
A judge typically provides every facility for the parties to agree to a settlement. They encourage the holding of settlement conferences to address these issues early. However, if the parties still do not settle, the court will assign a date to commence trial.
Generally, a personal injury trial can take several months, depending on the case. Your legal team should have the experience and knowledge to navigate court processes. They also have the communication skills to convince a jury, which is advantageous in court trials.
Common Personal Injury Cases in Chattanooga, TN
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 24.2 million emergency visits for unintentional injuries in 2020. The types of personal injury cases included burns, head, and spinal cord injuries, food poisoning, and aviation and boating accidents. However, the most common are vehicle, slip and fall, animal control accidents, nursing home abuse, and medical malpractice.
Car and truck accidents
In 2020, Tennessee had 23,815 motor vehicle accidents due to distracted driving. Forty percent of these car accidents were rear-ended collisions, while 26 percent were angle collisions.
More than 3,000 car wrecks in Tennessee led to possible injuries. Motor vehicle accidents typically cause facial injuries, broken bones, organ damage, and head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Meanwhile, car occupants are prone to sustain whiplash regardless of whether the crash happened at high speeds.
Injured victims can negotiate most car accident claims with the driver at fault’s insurance company. However, there are times when the drivers involved are not liable for the auto accident. For instance, a car’s malfunctioning brakes caused it to collide with another vehicle.
The victim can file a product liability claim against the car’s manufacturer in this case. Three forms of defective products pose a liability to manufacturers and suppliers: design defects, manufacturing defects, or marketing defects.
Design defects are when the issue leading to product failure existed before manufacture. Meanwhile, manufacturing defects occur when a fault happens during the production or construction of the product. Lastly, marketing defects cover improper or the lack of warnings and instructions to warn consumers of the product’s latent dangers.
Data from the CDC revealed that slip and fall accidents affect more than 25 percent of older adults yearly. Many falls do not lead to serious injuries. But 20 percent of falls cause injuries like fractures or a head injury. Severe injuries like these make it challenging for patients to continue their routines or live independently.
Several risk factors make people more prone to slip and fall accidents. It includes the following:
- Lower back weakness
- Balance and walking difficulties
- Vision problems
- Poor footwear of foot pain
Sometimes, hazards like broken or uneven steps and household clutter cause a person to slip and fall. In such cases, the property owner may be liable for your injuries. There are several elements to establish premises liability in a slip and fall case successfully.
Several conditions may give rise to a slip-and-fall claim:
- The property owner failed to fix an unstable surface on the property and caused an injury.
- The owner does not regularly maintain and inspect the area to protect others from harm.
- There was a misplaced object that caused your accident.
- The area lacked barriers or warning signs to prevent accidents.
- Weak light conditions led to the accident.
Animal control accidents
An animal’s owner can face civil liability if their dog attacks someone. There are two conditions for a dog bite statute to create liability. The conditions are: the owner failed to keep the dog under control, and the dog must be at large.
The owner may be liable regardless of whether the dog displayed dangerous tendencies before the incident. However, the following are exceptions to this rule:
- The dog is a military or police dog, and the injury happened when the dog was on official duty.
- The injured victim was trespassing on the private, nonresidential property of the animal’s owner.
- The dog was protecting its owner or other innocent parties from an attack. This exception also covers attacks from the injured person’s dog.
- The dog was in a crate, kennel, or other enclosure.
- The injured victim disturbed, enticed, harassed, alarmed, or provoked the dog.
Nursing home abuse
Nursing home abuse occurs when personnel from assisted living facilities mistreat older adults in their care. Abuse in this context covers intentional and unintentional harm in nursing homes. It can lead to medical emergencies, trauma, and even wrongful death.
Nursing home abuse does not only include physical abuse. It includes sexual assault, neglect, emotional harm, and other concerns. Warning signs of abuse in nursing homes include:
- Bruises, welts, and burns on the skin
- Lacerations, cuts, and skin tears
- Fractures and broken bones
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Dental and facial injuries
- Falls that cause head injuries or fractures
- Unexplained weight loss
- Infections that result in sepsis
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
Medical malpractice happens when a doctor, healthcare professional, or hospital causes an injury to a patient. It includes errors in diagnosis, aftercare, treatment, or health management, regardless of negligence or omission. There are different kinds of medical malpractice, including surgical, anesthesia, and robotic surgery malpractice.
Under the law, medical malpractice should have three characteristics:
- A healthcare provider violated the standard of care. A patient expects professionals to provide care consistent with acceptable medical procedures the profession recognizes.
- A negligent act caused the injury. The patient must prove there is a direct correlation between the breach in the standard of care and their injury.
- The injury led to significant damages. For a case to be feasible, the patient must prove the injury caused substantial losses. It includes unusual pain, disability, suffering and hardship, loss of income, or significant medical expenses.
Recoverable Damages in Personal Injury Cases
Tennessee’s Financial Responsibility Law requires its residents to be financially responsible in case of a motor vehicle accident. Since 2017, Tennessee has imposed fines on uninsured drivers if they could not prove financial responsibility. In some cases, uninsured drivers also lose their right to drive their vehicles.
The minimum limits of a car insurance policy in Tennessee are:
- $25,000: each injury or death per accident
- $50,000: total injuries or deaths per accident
- $25,000: property damage per accident
Suppose you or a family member sustained serious injuries that led to a severe disability. In that case, you may also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. There are two requirements to qualify for the program. The applicant must have worked in occupations covered by Social Security. And they must have a medical condition that falls under Social Security’s definition of disability.
Different factors also come into play when computing the damages given to an injured victim. It includes Tennessee’s negligence rules and the amount of compensatory damages an injured victim can receive.
Comparative negligence rules
Comparative negligence is a principle of law that the court uses to lessen the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover in a negligence claim. The amount a plaintiff can receive highly depends on the degree of negligence each party contributed to the accident. It is particularly true for injured victims who were partially at fault for their injuries.
There are two forms of comparative negligence in the United States: pure comparative and modified comparative negligence rules.
Under pure comparative negligence, the state awards damages to a plaintiff proportionate to their fault. For instance, a court assigns the plaintiff 80 percent of the liability. In that case, the plaintiff may only recover 20 percent of the damages.
This rule applies regardless of the fault percentage in the accident. If a plaintiff was 99 percent at fault, they could still claim 1 percent of damages.
On the other hand, Tennessee follows modified comparative negligence. Under this rule, the plaintiff will not receive damages if the court finds them 50 percent or more at fault.
Compensatory damages refer to the compensation the law awards victims after a successful personal injury claim. It has two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are specific costs that an injured victim incurred due to their injuries. It includes medical treatment, future costs of medical care, property damage, lost earnings, and loss of future wages.
On the other hand, non-economic damages cover pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement or dismemberment, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages do not apply to every personal injury case. It is given in addition to actual compensation in specific circumstances as punishment, which the court provides at its discretion.
The court must consider the defendant’s actions especially harmful to award punitive damages. Usually, punitive damages apply to intentional tort cases or when the plaintiff can prove the defendant committed willful misconduct.
Tips When Hiring a Chattanooga Personal Injury Lawyer
A lawyer who is always on your side is the key to a successful negligence claim. People often commit mistakes when hiring a lawyer. The lawyer’s areas of practice and their availability are one of the distinguishing factors clients fail to notice.
A client must always check an attorney’s legal experience. A lawyer with experience in personal injury cases will know what to do with your case. It is especially true for lawyers who are not experts in personal injury law.
In Tennessee, specifically, the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization may certify lawyers in 14 fields. It includes civil trials, DUI defense, medical malpractice, and social security disability.
In addition, a personal injury attorney from a big law firm is not always the best option. Do not rush the process of looking for a lawyer. It is better to be sure than to start from scratch when things go awry.
Generally, lawyers can be intimidating. But it would be best if you were fearless in asking questions to build rapport with your legal team. Some questions that you need to clarify with your accident lawyer include the following:
- How long have they been a personal injury lawyer?
- What are their success rate and track record?
- Do they have the time and resources to attend to your claim personally?
- What strategies do they employ when handling personal injury cases?
- Are they willing to take your case to court if needed?
Connect With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
There are many things to consider when filing a personal injury claim. It is especially true for victims who have experienced traumatic accidents and want to return to their routines as soon as possible.
The Personal Injury Center provides legal resources to those who most need them. You may browse the legal articles that address many questions about your case.
In addition, you can book a free case evaluation on the site. It only takes three steps: briefly describe your case, provide your contact information, and choose personal injury attorneys to contact you.
FAQs on Chattanooga Personal Injury Lawyer
Statistically, hiring a lawyer benefits injured victims when filing a personal injury claim. A study by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association showed that cases handled by a lawyer resulted in damages 14.3 times higher than those that were not.
No, hiring a personal injury attorney means you will have better chances of receiving maximum compensation. About 95 percent of personal injury lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement. Cases only proceed to trial if the insurance company refuses to pay full and fair damages even after a pre-trial settlement.
Under Tennessee statutes, injured victims may file civil actions within one year after the incident. However, the rule applies somewhat differently to victims of medical malpractice cases, as some injuries can take months or years to manifest. They may file claims within one year after they discover their injury.