In the state of Tennessee, like all other areas of the country, a person can file a lawsuit after suffering a personal injury against any party thought to be at fault. There are specific steps one follows to file the suit, but first and foremost you must understand the legal definition of a personal injury. According to The Free Dictionary, this is its definition:
“Personal Injury: Any violation of an individual’s right, other than his or her rights in the property. The term personal injury is not confined to physical injuries, although negligence cases usually do involve bodily injuries.”
This definition broadens the scope to include the violation of an individual’s rights, instead of confining it to a physical manifestation of injury. However, most personal injury lawsuits are filed as a result of physical injury, so that is where this post will focus. Click here to learn more about what is considered a personal injury.
How To File Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
This context leads the steps for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee:
Step 1: File a report of your accident with law enforcement, even if it happens on private property or in a business. After an injury in a car accident, this is an obvious step. Remember you can help your case by filing after any accident where an injury occurs. You don’t need to call 911 to get an emergency response in all cases, but filing a report could be helpful in the long run.
Step 2: Take photos and videos of the scene for court. If able, document the circumstances and aftermath of your accident with photos or video at the scene. If you are unable at the time to do this, you should gather whatever evidence is left to prove fault or negligence as soon as possible. Again, visual evidence is the most valuable, and many times in this world of security and traffic cameras, there is a video available of the incident itself. Also, you should secure copies of any police reports or witness statements.
Step 3: Obtain medical attention for your injury. If you plan to file a lawsuit as a result of physical injury, you need a timely medical evaluation and report to prove it.
Step 4: Get an attorney involved on your side as soon as possible. An attorney will first work with you to determine if you have a valid personal injury claim. If you determine this is the case, he can guide you through actually writing and filing your claim to most likely get results. Jed McKeehan is an attorney in Knoxville who can help you with your personal injury lawsuit.
Step 5: Determine your claim amount. Working with your personal injury lawyer, you compose a demand letter that contains the compensation sought for your personal injury. Usually, your demand letter sets a place to start negotiations by stating an amount a lot higher than the amount with which you’d be satisfied. A common practice is to state an amount of 75% to 100% higher than you need and work from there. In your demand letter be sure to include a summary of the strongest factors of your claim to encourage negotiation. Don’t forget to include the attorney fees you’re likely to incur as part of any settlement amount. Those bills can add up quickly.
In this video, you’ll learn about Punitive Damages. Jed explains what they are and what amount to expect:
Step 6: Work it out with insurance, if you can. Your attorney and the defendant’s insurance adjuster work together to find a settlement of the claim. After your attorney has the evidence and determines the validity of your case, it’s time to contact the defendant’s insurance company. In most cases, your attorney works on your behalf with the insurance adjuster to reach a compromise for compensation for your accident. Caution: This negotiation often takes months to complete. If a settlement cannot be reached, it is at this point your claim becomes a lawsuit and heads to court.
Step 7: File your lawsuit in court. When all efforts to settle with the defendant and the insurance company fail, you have no other option. You are forced to file a lawsuit. The most important factor in Tennessee is one of timing. Tennessee requires you to file a lawsuit in the calendar year following the incident that caused the injury.
This is in accordance with the Tennessee Code 28-3-104 (find full code here), which can be partially summarized to suit this circumstance as a lawsuit must be filed within one year after the personal injury occurred in the following actions:
- Personal injury
- False imprisonment
- Malicious prosecution
- Marriage vow breaches
Pending criminal prosecution as related to the injury causes an exception to this law. Hiring an attorney who specializes in personal injury law can help you navigate this timeline. This is particularly important when negotiating with an insurance company to avoid them pushing you past the filing deadline.
In this video, McKeehan explains the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee:
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
In conclusion, you cannot afford to wait any time to file a claim after an accident with an injury occurs. There are several reasons time is of the essence. Evidence is only available for a limited time for gathering. The opening to negotiate with an insurance company is rather narrow. And in Tennessee, the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit with the courts can sneak up on you. Don’t wait another minute to contact the McKeehan Law Group and get the process started towards compensation for your injury in order to continue healing.