How to Maximize Your Tennessee Car Accident Settlement

Regardless of the extent of your injuries, a car accident can be very stressful. Dealing with a damaged vehicle and repairs is much easier than dealing with physical injuries and emotional issues. Remembering these five things can help to make your accident much less traumatic:

5 Ways to Maximize Your Tennessee Car Accident Settlement

1) Keep a record of all expenses and days lost from work due to your injuries. Also, get written documentation from your employer verifying your missed work. This proof will enable you to claim lost earnings. If you’re having difficulty getting your employer to work with you, then your lawyer can assist in obtaining this documentation. If your injuries prevent you from returning to work or school, ask your doctor for a signed letter confirming that you cannot attend.

2) Keep track of time spent by friends and family caring for you and overseeing household and family obligations. If you must now pay someone to mow your lawn or drive you places, you can make those payments part of your claim. If possible, pay those individuals with a check so that you have documentation.

3) Keep all bills and receipts related to your accident. If you don’t save them, you may not be able to prove the amount of your damages. Be sure to save everything, including hospital charges, pharmacy bills, therapy bills, and all other bills associated with your accident. If you buy over-the-counter pain medication, heating pads, crutches, special clothing to fit over casts or braces, or similar items, you may be able to recoup these expenses. If you find such thorough documentation overwhelming, then you should hire an experienced attorney to help you sort, organize, and calculate the total of your medical bills. You don’t want to miss out on any potential reimbursement.

4) Know all your injuries. Injuries caused by accidents may not show symptoms for days or even weeks. Thus, in the days following your accident, you should avoid describing your injuries to the claims adjuster. Don’t give a statement to an adjuster unless you are confident about the status and healing progress of your injuries.

5) Keep a journal of your experiences, and pay close attention to the emotional toll of an accident. Record sleepless nights, pain levels, and limitations or restrictions from regular activities. Be sure to take note of special events, hobbies, and interactions with your loved ones that you missed because of the accident.

By investing a little time and effort before you’ve even had an accident, you can learn how to properly document and record the events related to an accident and save yourself money and potential headaches down the road.

Originally published on KnoxFocus.com.

The Ultimate Guide to Tennessee DUI Laws and Penalties

Tennessee DUI Laws

In Tennessee, a DUI is a Class A misdemeanor charge with a minimum sentence for a first conviction of DUI is 48 hours in jail, but can be as much as 11 months, 29 days in jail with fines, court costs, loss of license for a year and community service assessed.

2nd Offense DUI Laws in Tennessee

A second DUI conviction carries a sentence of a minimum 45 days in jail, but can be as much as 11 months, 29 days in jail with fines, court costs, loss of license for 2 years and community service assessed.  Never drive drunk, get a taxi or have a designated driver.

What to Do If You Get Pulled Over

Okay, so you have been pulled over by a police officer, probably late at night, and probably shortly after you’ve left an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.  The officer has already asked for your license, insurance information and (possibly) registration, which you are required to provide, and begins to inquire about your recent alcohol consumption.  Asking how many drinks you had tonight, the officer suspects that you might be intoxicated.  What do you do?

STOP AND THINK!!!

Because the Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination, you have the right to refrain from answering any and all questions that the police officer asks you.  This means that you do not have to tell the officer how many drinks you had (or tell him you only had 2, which is what everyone says).  You do not have to answer the interrogating questions.

If you are afraid that you might slur your words or fear your nervousness will cause your speech to stumble, you have the right to remain completely silent or cite your right to refrain from speaking.  If you do not say anything, the officer can’t testify later in court that you were slurring when he pulled you over.  Your refusal to speak cannot be held against you.

Do NOT get out of your car unless the officer asks you to do so.  First of all, police officers tend to get very defensive if you jump out of the car when they pull you over.  The officer doesn’t know if you are armed or what your intentions are when you suddenly flee your vehicle, therefore it is not wise to give them the wrong idea or a reason to draw their weapon on you.  The officer is likely experiencing some amount of nervousness (albeit not as much as you) when they pull you over.  Don’t make it worse!  If the officer orders you to get out of the car and asks you to perform any number of field sobriety tests, you are not required to complete any of these tests.

Field sobriety tests are NOT the same as chemical testing which is discussed below.  Field sobriety tests check for coordination and balance–acts people don’t normally perform sober or drunk–can set you up for failure.  You are not required by law to complete these tests and refusal to comply cannot be held against you.  While these strange exercises are called “tests” to give them the feel of authority, they are merely subjective tests which are performed to give the police officer more “proof” that you are under the influence.  No matter how well you perform these “tests” they can be manipulated and used against you in a court of law and officers can arrest you even if you feel that you passed the tests because they are based on the officer’s subjective opinion.  Why incriminate yourself by trying to stand on one foot and touching your nose when you can barely do that stone sober?  If you are charged with DUI based on failing sobriety tests, a review of the field sobriety test video will be critical to the validity of the test.

The breathalyzer is a device used by the police to determine your blood alcohol content.  Although these tests are widely used, they do not always provide correct information about one’s level of intoxication.  However, all states have what is called an Implied Consent Law. The government has decided that when you obtain a driver’s license, it is a privilege that comes with certain implicit obligations.  By obtaining a license, you (unknowingly) have agreed to submit to chemical testing of your blood, breath, or urine, at the request of a police officer.  If you refuse to comply with chemical testing, such as the Breathalyzer, you will receive automatic vehicle sanctions.  Usually your license will be automatically suspended for failure to comply with chemical testing.  If a chemical test shows that you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater, this is enough to prove that you are legally intoxicated and you may be arrested on criminal DUI charges.

While you must submit to chemical testing, these tests are not infallible and do not necessarily mean you will be convicted of a DUI.

 

Article originally published on KnoxFocus.com.

Lemon Law in TN: What It Is and Why It’s Important

The Lemon Law in Tennessee

What is the lemon law? That’s a term you may have heard before.

A “Lemon” is a motor vehicle sold or leased after January 1, 1987, that has a defect or condition that substantially impairs the motor vehicle; and the person you bought it from cannot repair the vehicle after three attempts or the vehicle is out of service for repairs for a cumulative total of 30 or more days during the term of protection.  This Law is ONLY applicable if the vehicle was bought new.  So the lemon law does not apply to used vehicles at all.  If the above conditions apply though, the manufacturer is required to replace the motor vehicle or refund the purchase price.

“Substantially impair” means to render a motor vehicle unreliable or unsafe for normal operation, or to reduce its resale market value below the average resale value for comparable motor vehicles.

The term of protection is defined as one year from the date of original delivery or the term of the warranty, whichever comes first.

In order to take advantage of the lemon law protections, I would recommend reporting any problem within the first year or within the term of the warranty, whichever comes first.

If you have a lemon, you must notify the manufacturer of the problem in writing by certified mail. The manufacturer has an additional opportunity to repair your car within 10 days. If the manufacturer cannot repair your car and the manufacturer has an informal dispute settlement procedure that complies with Federal Trade Commission regulations, the refund and replacement provisions of the Lemon Law won’t apply until you submit to the procedure. You are not bound by the decision and can still seek available legal remedies, including asking a court to award a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of the purchase price (less a reasonable allowance for use), plus attorney fees and court costs.

You can read more about the lemon law in my column for the Knox Focus.

Public Intoxication in Tennessee

My name is Jed McKeehan, and today, we’re going to talk about the term public intoxication and what that statute says about people who may or may not be publicly intoxicated. It’s codified at Tennessee Code Annotated 39-17-310, and that statute says that if someone is in a public place and they are under the influence of a controlled substance and they are a danger to either themselves or others, then they may be arrested and charged with public intoxication.

The Tennessee public intoxication law also states:

(a) A person commits the offense of public intoxication who appears in a public place under the influence of a controlled substance, controlled substance analogue or any other intoxicating substance to the degree that:

(1) The offender may be endangered;
(2) There is endangerment to other persons or property; or
(3) The offender unreasonably annoys people in the vicinity.

(b) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

That’s the entirety of the law on public intoxication in Tennessee. So when I read this law, a few things jump out at me.

First, you don’t even have to be drunk driving to be arrested for being drunk. If you are drunk and in a public place, you have met the first criterion for possibly being arrested for public intoxication.

That’s why its important to know that restaurants and bars are not actually public places. They are private businesses. While they may usually be open to the public, they are allowed to refuse to serve individuals, making them private places. So you cannot get arrested for public intoxication if you are in a private business, and obviously you cannot get arrested while in a private residence.

However, once you walk out on the street, or are at a public park, or any other place owned by a government entity, you are fair game.

Second, you don’t have to be under the influence of alcohol only. If you are under the influence of narcotics of some kind, the police can arrest you for public intoxication.

Finally, you can read for yourself what a person has to be doing to violate the public intoxication law. Unreasonably annoying people in the vicinity?!?!?! That seems pretty vague. Drunk people annoy me all of the time, can I get them arrested?

The language here is very broad, “endangering themselves,” “endangering others,” those are broad terms that could mean almost anything and the legislators may have designed it that way to allow the police to have broad abilities to arrest individuals.

The lesson here is, if you are enjoying any kind of intoxicant, minimize your time in public places.

What Are a Father’s Rights in Tennessee to a Child Born Out of Wedlock?

Father’s Rights in Tennessee

Unfortunately, this issue comes up a lot in this day and age, and it’s surprising how few people know the answer.

So, a couple that is not married has a child. Then something happens and the mother is no longer allowing the father to see the child and he is all upset and worked up about this. What rights does the father have in Tennessee?

The answer is, none. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-2-303 states, “Absent an order of custody to the contrary, custody of a child born out of wedlock is with the mother.” What can the father do? He needs to go to juvenile court and file a petition for custody. Then the court will go about having a hearing or setting a mediation when the father can attempt to get some established custody/visitation rights.

A court order or mediated agreement is the only way that the father can get his visitation and custody rights protected. Otherwise, the father is completely at the mercy of the mother to allow him visitation with their child.

Tennessee Child Custody Laws: What You Need to Know

Whether you’re married or not, it’s necessary to put a child custody arrangement in place if you and your child’s other parent decide to part ways. But how does a court determine what the arrangement will be?

There are actually several factors used to determine child custody in Tennessee.

You may have heard that mothers typically get the vast majority of the time with children when there is a custody determination, and fathers usually get every other weekend. That’s not the case anymore, and judges typically start with a 50/50 split unless there’s a reason not to.

So what is the judge required to consider when making that determination?

Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-106 lists 15 factors that the judge is to weigh in making their decision as to custody. And only one of these factors is the child’s preference. If a child is 12 years old or older, they will be able to say where they want to live, but it’s not a guarantee. That’s only one of the 15 factors. Some of the other factors are continuity in the children’s lives, where have they lived previously, their relationship with siblings, and the parents’ work schedule.

Click here to read each of the 15 factors used to determine child custody in Tennessee.