You're heading west on Summit Hill, minding your own business. You see the light ahead of you has turned red and you begin to slow down. Unfortunately, the lady behind you didn't get the memo, and she's driving way too fast! She rear-ends you hard, and your car slams into the stopped vehicle ahead of you. Everyone pulls to the side of road. Tensions are high. That southern gentility so characteristic of Knoxvillians seems to have deserted everyone. Your car has sustained pretty serious damage, and your back and neck are beginning to really hurt. So what happens next? This guide to car accidents in Knoxville outlines the key Tennessee laws and regulations that affect car accident liability and gives you some other helpful car accident information. It also serves as a handy guide to figuring out what to do after a car accident in Knoxville.
Fault, Liability and Proof
Who's going to pay for the damage resulting from your accident? In Knoxville, under Tennessee law, liability for damages caused in an accident is based on fault. Once fault is determined, Tennessee's modified comparative negligence rule says a person involved in an accident who is 50% or less at fault can recover money for his or her losses from another person bearing fault.
Tennessee is a "fault" state when it comes to car accidents, meaning that generally the at-fault driver must pay for damages resulting from a car accident. Of course, as discussed below, this is why auto liability insurance is so important.
How do you prove fault after a car accident? Whoever is determining fault will take into account all of the evidence available him or her when making the determination. This could include statements from witnesses, a police report, admissions of guilt, evidence that one driver violated traffic laws, or evidence of careless driving, such as texting or eating while driving.
Who determines fault in a car accident? Because Tennessee is a "fault" state and requires that drivers have auto insurance, usually an insurance adjuster is the first person to determine fault in a car accident. If you later end up filing a lawsuit over your car accident and your lawsuit goes to trial, a judge or jury will make determinations of fault.
As you are deciding what to do after a car accident in Knoxville, let's talk more about financial responsibility and insurance requirements.
Financial Responsibility Rules and Auto Insurance in Tennessee
What's financial responsibility? Many states require that drivers show proof of financial responsibility, usually in the form of auto insurance. Tennessee is no different. Tennessee's Department of Safety and Homeland Security has information about the state's financial responsibility requirements on the department website. Minimum liability limits for auto insurance in Tennessee are:
Because of these financial responsibility requirements, you'll probably be dealing with an insurance company after your Knoxville car accident. As discussed above, Tennessee is a "fault" state. Therefore, a person with property damage or injuries resulting from a car accident may either file a claim with his or her own insurance company, or file a third-party claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. FindLaw's article Insurance Claims After and Accident can help you get started on your insurance claim.
Alternatively, an injured party can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in civil court.
Filing your Car Accident Lawsuit in Knoxville
Maybe you've worked with an insurance company and aren't satisfied with a settlement offer. Perhaps the party at fault in your accident has no insurance. Whatever the reason, you feel that it's time to pursue a lawsuit.
How much time do you have to file your lawsuit? There are laws called statutes of limitations that limit the amount of time a person has to bring certain kinds of lawsuits. The statute of limitations for a Knoxville civil suit for a personal injury is only one year after the accident, while the statute of limitations for damage to property is three years after the accident. This means that if you've sustained an injury in your car accident, you have one year from the time of your accident to file your lawsuit.
Where should you file? You'll most likely file your Knoxville car accident lawsuit with the Knox County Circuit Court's Civil Division.
Get Additional Legal Help With Your Knoxville Car Accident Claim
Car accidents most often result in busted taillights and dented fenders, but sometimes can result in serious injuries. It's not always that easy to get the compensation you deserve through the normal procedures. If you believe you're entitled to more compensation after a car accident in Knoxville, you should speak with a Tennessee injury lawyer today.
Contact a qualified attorney.