Your Nashville Personal Injury Case: The Basics
There's a lot of Nashville bashing that goes on. But those who live here know: life in Nashville is pretty great - despite any impressions the TV show might have given otherwise. Great coffee, great beer, great food, and (of course) great music. They say all great art comes from pain - and those country boys and girls might not have made such wonderful songs if life in the Athens of the South was always peachy keen. This article has some great information on how accident and injury law works in Nashville so that you can be prepared next time you have to sing the blues.
There is No One Type of Personal Injury Case
It's difficult to find a lawyer that specializes in all of "personal injury law" because personal injury is a large area of law. These cases include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Slip and falls;
- Product liability, including unsafe food, and defective household products and automobiles;
- Medical malpractice;
- Dog bites and animal attacks;
- Disputes stemming from a physical altercation, like assault and battery;
- Cases where there is no physical injury, like defamation; and
- Some workplace accidents.
However, all these cases have one thing in common: they are all resolved through the civil litigation system. Here's an overview of how the civil litigation system works in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as some tips for what to do after an injury.
First Steps after an Accident
Regardless of the type of accident you experience or where you experience it, the first steps after an injury are the same: 1) go see a doctor to treat any injuries you might have; 2) if applicable, contact your insurance company to file a claim; and 3) document what happened so you can remember it later.
Seeking medical attention should be an obvious first step. Delaying medical attention could make an injury worse, and your health is much more important than the outcome of your legal claim. In addition, the medical records your doctor visits generate will probably be useful if you decide to sue later. If you were involved in a car accident that caused over $400 in damages, you also need to file a form within 20 days of the collision regardless of whether the police investigated the accident at the time of the crash.
Many accidents are covered by insurance. Some business owners may also have insurance policies that cover workplace accidents. Accidents that happen in and around the home are often covered by homeowners' insurance, and auto insurance covers many auto accidents. Promptly filing a claim with the relevant insurance company will get access to many benefits, including reimbursement for some damage, and if someone decides to sue you, a lawyer for your defense. Be sure to file a claim as soon as possible so you do not miss the deadline for filing a claim.
The details of even the most memorable accidents can start to fade a few days, or even a few hours later. Careful documentation will help lawyers reconstruct what happened months later when the case finally ends up in court. Written documentation can be very valuable in a lawsuit, so be sure to get and keep copies of any official records: police reports, medical records, insurance paperwork, bills, receipts, and even some correspondence. Pictures are often worth 1,000 words, so be sure to photograph anything that seems relevant - injuries, the scene of the accident, property damage or anything else. Take notes about what happened as soon as possible after the incident while the memories are fresh. Witness accounts may be helpful later, so get the name and contact information of anyone involved in the accident, or anyone who happened to see it.
Every state has what's known as "statutes of limitation," which are time limits on when you can bring a suit. You do not want to miss your opportunity to file suit because of Tennessee's statutes of limitations, which range from 1 to 3 years. This means that it's wise to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. The person who sues someone else is known as the "plaintiff." Be sure to look for plaintiffs' attorneys who specialize in the type of accident that caused your injury in the Nashville area. These kinds of lawyers try many cases exactly like yours each year, and can get the best result using the least amount of time and money because they are experts in local law. Plaintiffs' attorneys often operate on contingency fees, which means they will get a portion of whatever award you get at trial or in settlement.
If you're suing a company because you bought a product which injured you even though you used the product correctly, you are bringing a product liability case. Since many of these products are sold nationwide, many people often sustain the same injury from the same product. Your local lawyer may be able to connect you with these other resources so that you can sue as a class.
If you are being sued, the legal world knows you as the "defendant." If your insurance company will not provide a lawyer for you, you will most likely pay your attorney an hourly fee for handling your case.
Early Stages of a Case: Discovery and Settlement Negotiations
Lawyers typically begin representation by investigating your case. This is when all those notes, photos, and documents you saved come in handy. Giving your lawyer high quality copies of these notes will speed the process along and allow your lawyer to get a really clear picture of what happened. Your lawyer will probably exchange some of these documents with the opposing side in a process called discovery.
After her investigation is complete, your attorney will start to offer settlement deals to the defendant and the insurance company. Meanwhile, she may begin to file the complaint and other pleadings or pretrial motions to ensure that you don't lose your chance to be in court.
If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, your case will go to trial. Civil cases are heard in the Justice A. A. Birch Building. How long your trial lasts depends on how complicated your case is - in general, trials can last anywhere from a day to several weeks.
If the judge or jury rules for the plaintiff, the plaintiff will get a monetary award. However, this does not mean all the money goes straight to the plaintiff. First, the lawyer will take her share. Then, the plaintiff's health, auto, and homeowners' insurance will try to take some of the award as compensation on the claims they have already paid out.