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Who Is Legally Responsible for My Car Accident?

In legal terms, responsibility for something is also known as “liability.” We often hear claims about liability in a personal injury case, meaning that someone is responsible for someone else’s injuries.

Personal injury laws are designed to provide financial compensation for an injury, also called “damages.” If you’ve been harmed by someone else, you can sue them for damages. To calculate the damages you are owed, you must look at what the injury cost you financially. You may have had to pay a lot of money out of pocket for your medical treatment. While recovering, you might have missed work, losing income. Perhaps you were on the verge of receiving a big promotion, but you lost it due to your injuries. Maybe your injury was so severe that you could not return to work at all. This would be considered the loss of “potential income.” All of this financial impact could be reimbursed in a personal injury suit.

There is also the potential to recover damages in the form of “pain and suffering.” This is extra compensation on top of your direct financial loss. It is often awarded to people who suffered permanent injuries or disfigurements.

In a car accident, liability is determined by the details of the case. You cannot simply sue someone because you were badly injured. The severity of your injury has no bearing on who was responsible for the accident. To win a lawsuit, you must prove that the other driver was negligent.

Legal Negligence

When discussing a car accident, we often talk about what the other driver did. They were speeding; they rolled through a stop sign; they were too busy playing with their radio; etc. Legally speaking, it is more appropriate to explain what the other driver didn’t do. This is referred to as “negligence.” If they were speeding or rolled through a stop sign, they neglected to obey traffic laws. If they were looking down at their radio, they neglected to pay attention to the road. In a personal injury case, you want to show the court that the other party’s negligence directly led to your injuries.

Tennessee’s Comparative Negligence Laws

Personal injury cases allow for the fact that, in the real world, people often share the blame for a vehicle crash. In Tennessee, this shared responsibility is handled with a system called comparative negligence. In essence, both a defendant and a plaintiff can be held partially responsible for an accident.

To see this system in action, let’s imagine a scenario. Perhaps someone did roll through a stop sign, hitting you. Even though this appears to be completely their fault, you must also judge your own actions. For example, were they far enough away that you had time to brake, avoiding collision? If so, the court will take that into consideration before awarding your damages.

Using comparative negligence, the court assigns a percentage of blame to each party. In our scenario, the other driver broke traffic laws, and you were hurt as a result. The court agrees that the defendant is mostly to blame for the accident. Therefore, they assign the defendant 90% of the liability. However, it also agrees that you didn’t react in time, and they hold you 10% responsible. These percentages affect the final compensation.

Since the defendant is 90% responsible for the accident, they must pay you only 90% of the total damages. If the total compensation is $100,000, you will receive $90,000 because you were 10% responsible for your own injuries.

In Tennessee, if a plaintiff is found 51% or more responsible for their own injuries, they cannot receive any compensation in a lawsuit.

Getting Help from an Attorney

In a personal injury case, you must show a “preponderance of evidence” to win. Put simply, you must prove that your case is more likely to be true than the defense’s case. This contrasts with a criminal case, where the prosecution must prove someone’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

To help prove your case, your lawyer will conduct an investigation. There are several methods they can employ. They can observe the physical evidence of the crash. Any little detail can reveal details of the event, from the size and shape of a dent to the darkness of a tire mark. Your attorney can request to see police and medical records, reconstructing the event. They may even be able to obtain nearby security footage, proving that the other driver was at fault.

Ultimately, your lawyer’s job is to mitigate your liability and prove the negligence of the other party. Through tenacious fact-finding and skillful arguing, they can prove that you were hurt by someone else’s actions, and you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries.

If you were hurt in a car accident, contact our office today. We may be able to take on your case and start investigating right away. Our number is (865) 544-2010, and you can reach us online.