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Negligence Under Tennessee Law

In any personal injury claim, negligence is a key factor. It is the factor that is used to determine not only whether the claimant has the right to seek compensation for his or her damages, but the total amount of money he or she is entitled to receive.

Determining negligence in a personal injury claim can be complicated. With a personal injury claim, the claimant must prove the following:

  • That the party allegedly responsible for the accident acted in a negligent manner; and
  • That his or her negligence directly caused the victim’s injury.

Proving that Negligence Occurred

When proving negligence, a claimant must prove that he or she was owed a duty by the allegedly negligent party. This means that the responsible party had the duty to protect him or her in some way, such as removing a hazardous element from their property or obeying the posted traffic signals when driving. In some cases, it is this simple. In others, such as medical malpractice claims, there is more that the claimant has to prove – with a medical malpractice claim, the claimant must prove that the doctor somehow breached his or her duty to provide conscientious, appropriate medical care for the victim.

The negligent party should know that his or her actions could have potentially have been harmful. In a personal injury claim, the claimant must prove that the defendant’s breach of his or her duty was the cause of the quantifiable damages in the claim.

Comparative Negligence in Tennessee

In Tennessee, the modified comparative fault doctrine is applicable to personal injury cases. This means that more than one party may be found to be at fault for an accident, but if any of these parties seek compensation for their losses, the total amount each may recover is reduced according to his or her level of fault. To further complicate matters, the law states that if a party is found to be 50 percent or more responsible for his or her accident, he or she may not recover compensation for his or her damages.

For example, if three cars are involved in a collision and all three drivers are damaged, each driver may be assigned a percentage of the blame. In this case, perhaps the driver of Car A failed to yield to Car B, whose driver was using his cell phone, and then Car C collided with Cars A and B because its driver ran a red light. Car A’s driver might be found to be 50 percent at fault, while Car B is found to be 30 percent and Car C 20 percent responsible for the collision. In this case, the driver of Car A cannot recover damages. Car B’s driver, who is seeking $80,000 in damages, may only recover up to $56,000. Car C’s driver, who is seeking $50,000 in damages, may only recover up to $40,000.

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