What Should I Do After a Car Accident in Tennessee?

If you are in an automobile accident and it wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to compensation for any injuries, bills, etc. that may accrue during your recovery, as well as compensation for any pain and suffering that you may endure. The basis of an automobile accident lawsuit lies in the legal theory of “negligence.” There are four elements of a negligence claim: (1) there must be a duty of care to act in a certain manner; (2) an individual must breach that duty in some way; (3) the breach must cause some injury; and (4) the injured individual must suffer damages as a result. Let’s use the following hypothetical to demonstrate a negligence claim:

Suzy Homemaker is driving her minivan down the interstate just outside of town. Suzy comes to a stop at a stop sign. Looking in her rear view mirror, she notices that a red sports car is bearing down on her vehicle at a dangerous rate. The driver of the sports car looks up from his phone just in time to slam on his brakes, but it’s too late. The sports car crashes into Suzy’s vehicle, throwing her violently about the interior of the car.

The Duty of Care
A duty of care is the legal obligation owed by one person to another to conform to a reasonable person standard of care for the protection against unreasonable risks of harm. On the road, all drivers owe other drivers the duty to drive safely and obey all traffic laws and regulations. Therefore, drivers are expected to follow traffic laws, maintain control of their vehicles, and properly use all vehicle equipment.

Rodney “Hot Rod” Stevens is taking his new Mustang for a ride down the interstate. When he merges onto the interstate, he notices a high volume of traffic around him. Whether Hot Rod knows it or not, he owes a duty of care to every other driver on the road to drive safely and to follow the rules of the road.

Breach
To breach the duty of care simply means to fail to act in the manner required by that duty. On the road, a driver breaches the duty of care owed to other drivers when he fails to drive safely or fails to follow the rules of the road, among other things. Examples of drivers breaching the duty of care owed to other drivers include: running a red light; speeding; failing to maintain a lane of travel; and driving recklessly. When a driver acts in this manner, he fails to live up to his duty of care and has therefore breached that duty. However, simply breaching a duty of care is not enough to create an action in negligence.

Hot Rod reaches the outskirts of town and traffic thins out. When he notices no other drivers around, he puts his pedal to the metal,  reaching about ninety miles per hour. At this point, Hot Rod has most likely breached his duty of care to follow the rules of the road. However, no one else is around, so the remaining elements of a negligence claim have not been satisfied… yet.

Causation
To establish negligence, a breach of a duty of care must cause some kind of damages. There are two key types of causation: (1) actual causation,  i.e., the injury would not have occurred but for the breach; and (2) proximate causation, i.e., the injury must be the natural and direct consequence of the breach. If the injury would not have occurred without the breach and the injury is a natural consequence of the breach, then the injury is most likely caused by the breach.

Hot Rod is still cruising on the outskirts of town. As he reaches the peak of a hill, he looks down at his cell phone. When he looks up, he sees a minivan stopped at a stop sign. He slams on the brakes, but can’t stop his vehicle in time, crashing into the minivan. If the driver of the minivan suffers any injuries as a result of the collision, those injuries are most likely caused by Hot Rod breaching his duty of care. The collision is the actual cause of the injuries, i.e., the injuries would not have occurred without the collision, and the collision is the proximate cause of the injuries, i.e., the injuries are a natural consequence of a violent collision.

Damages
As mentioned above, any breach of a duty of care must cause some kind of damages. There are several different types of damages; however, the two main categories of damages are economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages include those damages that can be measured by monetary value, such as medical bills and repair bills. Non-economic damages include those damages that cannot be measured by monetary value, such as emotional pain, psychological damage, and suffering. A victim in a car accident may be entitled to compensation for both types of damages.

Suzy Homemaker suffers from a laceration on her forehead as a result of the collision. Her minivan is also totaled. Suzy treats at the local emergency room and has her car repaired. However, she suffers nightmares as a result of the collision. Suzy’s medical bills and repair bills are an example of economic damages. Her nightmares and emotional suffering are an example of non-economic damages. Suzy may be entitled to compensation for both types of damages.

Conclusion
Hopefully you now understand why an individual who gets in a car accident through no fault of their own may be entitled to recover compensation for their injuries, bills, etc. The bottom line is that every driver on the road owes every other driver a duty of care to drive in a safe and reasonable manner. If one driver breaches that duty and causes injuries to another driver, then he has acted negligently and may have to compensate the innocent driver for his negligent behavior.

Operation: Adopt a Hero

We would like to take a moment and recognize a fantastic local project going on here in Murfreesboro. Matthew O’Dell, the owner of Reveille Joe Coffee Company, has started “Operation: Adopt a Hero.”

The goal of the Operation is to get at least one stocking for every military veteran currently at the Tennessee Valley VA here in Murfreesboro. Volunteers are asked to take a stocking from Reveille Joe, fill it up with around $20 worth of materials, and return it to the store on or before December 20.

If you would like to get involved, contact Matthew at Reveille Joe. You can find them on Facebook or at their website: www.reveillejoe.com.

This holiday season, take at least one small step to show appreciation for those who secured your freedom. Joe and I are proud and thankful to support Matthew and Operation: Adopt a Hero. Join us!

-Scott-

How a Lawyer Can Help: Court Grants Motion to Waive Jail Fees; Client Gets Driver License Back

This week, a former client walked into our office to show me his driver license. As I held the license in my hand, I couldn’t help but smile.

In June, this young man had come to our office for help getting his driver license back. He had made some poor choices in his past, which resulted in a series of criminal charges, including an underage consumption charge and a DUI. As part of his DUI offense, the state revoked his driver license and he could not reacquire his license until he paid his court costs and fees in full. His total bill in costs and fees was over $15,000.

Unfortunately for our client, he was caught in a circular dilemma. He could not pay his court costs and fees until he secured employment, he could not secure employment without a driver license for transportation, and he could not get a driver license for transportation until he paid his court costs and fees. In short, until his court costs and fees reached a manageable level, he could not work or go back to school.

After a consultation with our office, we decided to take the matter head on. Our office pulled all of his court files and researched the nature of every fine and cost levied against him. We discovered that, of the $15,000 in costs and fees, over $10,000 had been assessed by the county jail. Our client had served over a year in jail and had been charged for every day he served. In our experience, a court is more likely to reduce or waive jail fees than court costs, especially those arising out of DUI offense.

Our office prepared and submitted a Motion to Waive Jail and Workhouse Fees, submitted that Motion to the court, and fought for our client to get his costs and fees reduced or waived. After negotiations with the District Attorney, our office successfully reduced our client’s court costs from $15,839.15 to $5,234.15, a reduction of over $10,000.

Had our client not decided to speak with an attorney, he may have never reduced his court costs and fees, and he may have had to wait several more years to attain his driver license.

I knew that day that I had helped him get much closer to his goal of getting his driver license back. However, to hold that license in my hand and see him smiling reminded me why I do what I do.

Do you or someone you know have a similar problem? If you have a legal issue and you aren’t sure whether a lawyer can help, don’t hesitate to ask. Our office offers free consultations precisely because we think everyone should know whether there are legal options that may provide relief.

W. Scott Kimberly Nominated for 2013 Ruthies Award for Favorite Attorney

The nominees for the 2013 Ruthies Awards, which highlight the best that Rutherford County, Tennessee, has to offer, have been published by the Daily News Journal. I am honored to be among the nominees for 2013 “Favorite Attorney.”

To support our office, you can go to the ballot for Favorite Attorney and vote for W. Scott Kimberly. You will have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find me, but it’s worth the wait!

Remember, every registered user can vote once per day, so feel free to vote early and vote often!