If you've been injured by another person's negligence, you should know your rights. Knoxville personal injury cases involve everything from slip and falls, to dog bites, and wrongful deaths caused by dangerous products. Read on to learn about important first steps to take if you or a loved one has been harmed by another's carelessness. It's also important to know about the time limits, procedures, and general law involved in these types of cases, and this general guide of Knoxville personal injury law may be a good starting point.
Statute of Limitations
The standard time limit for a personal injury claim in Tennessee is one year from the date of your injury. It's also known as a "statute of limitations." There are some exceptions for minors and mentally impaired persons. Remember, even if you have a legitimate claim, don't miss the deadline or you won't be able to recover anything.
Here's a guide to courthouses in Knoxville. If you do decide to file a lawsuit, your attorney will file the paperwork for you, but just to give you an idea -- The Tennessee General Sessions Court will hear your case only if your damages are less $25,000 or less. The Circuit Courts hear all other personal injury cases with a value of more than $25,000.
Tips to Consider
Here are a few things you might considering doing if you are injured.
First, seek medical attention immediately. Your health should always be a first priority. See a doctor or go to the nearest emergency room if you are injured. Try not to minimize any pain or suffering you're feeling. Be completely honest with your doctor and explain how the injury happened.
Also, document all injuries and any damage to property. You should get copies of accident reports, take pictures, keep receipts and invoices, keep notes of new symptoms, and document any time you've had to take off from work.
Most important, don't agree to sign any releases of liability or potential claims before at least discussing your case with a lawyer. You could lose your right to bring a lawsuit later.
In order to win your case in Knoxville, you'll have to prove the other person or company was negligent or "at fault" for your injuries. There are a number of different ways to prove fault. It will depend on the particular circumstances.
Modified Comparative Negligence
It's possible that both you and the defendant were responsible for the accident. Why is that important? Because what you did may affect your ability to recover damages.
The rule you need to follow is called "modified comparative negligence." Yes, it's a bit of legal mumbo jumbo, but what it boils down to is that an injured person will only recover damages from a defendant if he or she is less than 50 percent at fault. Even then, the defendant is only liable for the percentage of damages he or she caused.
There are several types of injuries for which a person can collect damages. The most common type is physical injuries, which include direct trauma to the body. A victim may be to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of life's pleasures, scarring and disfigurement, and loss of consortium. You might be able to recover for mental and emotional injuries. A victim may also collect money for property damages including damages to cars, houses or other personal property.
Punitive damages are usually only rewarded if the defendant's conduct was grossly reckless or intended to injure the plaintiff. These damages are awarded as punishment to make sure the defendant won't commit the act again.
Tennessee law places a limit in personal injury cases for non-economic damages (pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of intimate relations)at $750,000 and $1 million for catastrophic injuries. This is also known as a damages cap.
What's a catastrophic injury?
You can find the law in T.C.A. § 29-39-102(c) but if you prefer a summary, the bottom line is, an injury is catastrophic if it results in:
Economic damages aren't capped and include can loss of past and future earnings, past medical expenses, and future medical bills if reasonably certain.
Settling Out of Court
Many Knoxville personal injury cases never see the light of a courtroom and end up in a settlement agreement. There are several reasons for this.
1. Trials can be time-consuming and expensive. The expense of continuing outweighs the expected award from a trial.
2. Trial can be stressful. Either party may have difficulty in finding expert witnesses for the trial. Either party may want to avoid the publicity of a trial. Settling removes the risk of going to trial and then losing. The defendant can avoid admitting fault by settling.
3. One of the parties learns of a weakness in their case.
Talk to a personal injury attorney about your chances if winning at trial. While we lawyers don't have a crystal ball, we can give you an educated estimate of your chances based on knowledge and experience practicing in the Knoxville legal climate.
Contact a qualified attorney.