Tennessee Negligence Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

When someone is negligent, it means they can be held legally responsible -- or liable -- for the injuries suffered by another person. A person is considered negligent by acting (or failing to act) in a certain way that results in someone else becoming injured or otherwise suffering losses. For example, you may be sued for negligence if you fail to fix a dangerous walkway to your front door and a mail carrier becomes injured because of the hazard. In that example, the homeowner owes a duty to others to maintain a safe walkway.

Tennessee Negligence Laws: The Basics

Tennessee negligence law is generally the same as negligence laws in other states. The basics of how the state handles negligence claims are listed in the following chart, written in a "legalese-free" format for your convenience.

Statutes

Tennessee Code:

Comparative Negligence Comparative negligence is recognized under Tennessee law, which means the parties involved in an incident that causes injury are assessed percentages of blame (where applicable).
Contributory Negligence: Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery Damages for negligence claims are reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff's fault. If a party is 50% at fault (assuming there are 2 parties), neither party may recover damages.
Contribution Among Tortfeasors Where 2 or more individuals are jointly or severally liable in tort for the same injury, there's a right of contribution among them even though judgment has not been recovered against all or any of them.
Statute of Limitations for Negligence Claims 1 year for personal injury and 3 years for injury to personal property (see Tennessee Civil Statute of Limitations).

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

The Elements of a Negligence Case

In order for a defendant to be held liable for negligence, the plaintiff must be able to prove certain elements. These are relatively uniform from one state to the next:

  1. The defendant owed a duty to another individual (in other words, defendant was expected to do something or refrain from doing something in order to ensure the safety of the other individual).
  2. The defendant breached this duty.
  3. The defendant's breach of duty caused an injury to the plaintiff.
  4. The defendant's action or inaction was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury (the defendant should have known that his or her breach of duty was likely to cause injury).
  5. The plaintiff suffered actual, quantifiable damages.

Negligence may extend to additional parties in certain cases. For example, someone who is injured by a garbage truck whose driver was negligent may be able to sue the driver's employer in addition to (or instead of) the individual driver.

Research the Law

  • Tennessee Law - Summaries of select state laws covering a wide variety of legal practice areas, including consumer, criminal, injury, and family law.
  • Official State Codes - Links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and DC.

Tennessee Negligence Laws: Related Resources

Need to File a Tennessee Negligence Claim? Contact an Attorney

You probably have some idea of what that accident injury will cost you, such as lost wages and medical bills. But what about the cost of special modifications to your home, the need for rides to doctor's appointments, or ongoing physical therapy? Also, you may not know all of the parties potentially liable for your injuries. That's why it's a good idea to work with a Tennessee personal injury attorney, who can guide you through the process.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.