Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Car-Crash-Cell-Phone-PhotoLike all states, the Volunteer State sees its fair share of motor vehicle accidents. Accidents can cause one’s life to flip upside down in the blink of an eye. While some victims are fortunate in that the wreck causes little to no damage to anyone’s vehicle or property, others are not nearly as lucky. Catastrophic accidents can cause permanent injuries or even death. The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security works to protect Tennesseans and reduce motor vehicle crashes, which includes providing driver education and keeping track of statistics.

2017 Tennessee driving statistics were recently released, and they yielded interesting results. For starters, there were a total of 208,104 motor vehicle crashes statewide, with 50,174 deemed to have caused an injury. Of course, these would only include injuries reported at the scene, so this figure is likely much higher considering some motor vehicle accident related injuries can take hours, days, or longer to develop. The total accident figure is an increase from 2016, when 206,404 wrecks were reported. While accidents saw a slight increase from 2016 to 2017, these figures represent a stark increase from 2008, when 159,214 accidents were reported.

In 2017, fatal car accidents slightly increased from 2016, going from 1,037 to 1,040. July was the deadliest month, with 120 fatal crashes. This can likely be attributed to the 4th of July, a holiday that typically sees a higher rate of drunk driving. 83 of the fatal crashes in 2017 involved teen drivers, compared to 103 in 2016. While teen driving fatalities decreased, the opposite occurred to seniors aged 65 and older. In 2017, 250 seniors were involved in deadly accidents, compared to 231 in 2016. Pedestrian fatalities also increased from 2016, going from 110 to 134.

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Car-Driving-in-RainCar accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. However, when bad weather is involved, the chances of a wreck taking place increase exponentially. According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 22% of auto accidents each year occur in bad weather such as rain, sleet, snow, fog, heavy winds, or ice. On average, 73% of weather-related wrecks occur on wet pavement, 46% when it is raining, 17% during snow or sleet, and 13% on icy pavement.

Between 2005-2014, there were more than 1.2 million weather related car accidents across the United States. In these accidents, more than 445,000 people suffered injuries, and nearly 6,000 involved lost their lives. These are troubling statistics no matter how you read them, but they are even more concerning when considering most could have been prevented through exercising caution.

To recover for your losses following a car accident, you will likely need to show the other driver acted negligently. Negligence is generally defined as the failure to act reasonably under the circumstances. Generally speaking, drivers always owe other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and others a legal duty to act reasonably, exercise caution, and drive safely. In the context of bad weather, additional precautions are typically needed.

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Officer-Writing-Ticket-SmallAccording to a recent report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the number of traffic citations issued to Hamilton County drivers decreased for the 5th year in a row in 2017. For example, in 2012, police officers in Chattanooga wrote 6,776 tickets for speeding and 1,653 tickets for seatbelt violations. In 2017, officers only wrote 2,119 speeding tickets and 378 seatbelt violation tickets. On a similar note, tickets for red light violations dropped from 668 to 280.

With tickets going down, that must mean more people are choosing to follow the rules of the road, right? Not so fast. The Chattanooga Police Department has provided several reasons why traffic citations are declining in the area. The first concerns officer discretion. A supervisor of the Chattanooga Police Department’s traffic division stated police officers have discretion when it comes to issuing tickets and citations. For example, if an officer pulls someone over for speeding, he or she can issue a verbal warning instead of writing a ticket. Since the police department wants to always encourage safe driving, some officers believe that having a conversation with the offender and providing a verbal warning can do more to prevent violations in the future than writing that person up with a citation.

Police attrition may also be linked to less tickets being issued. Losing officers has been a problem for many municipal police departments over the year, and the issue is no stranger to Chattanooga. According to the Chattanooga Police Department, between three and four police officers leave the department each month, on average, with some being transferred to new divisions and others leaving the force altogether.

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Keys-Laying-on-Insurance-Policy-SmallCar insurance is required in all states. The law requires drivers to carry valid liability insurance in case they cause an accident that harms another person or damages their property. Drivers caught operating a vehicle without valid coverage can be subject to fines and citations for financial responsibility. Repeat offenders may be subject to imprisonment. In most states, vehicle owners are only required to purchase liability coverage. Vehicle owners then have the option of purchasing additional coverage to protect them in the event that they are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.

When it comes to purchasing auto insurance, the term “full coverage” is thrown around fairly often. Before making the ultimate decision, people consider the price of additional coverage and the likelihood they feel they may use it. It is common to hear many who have the following types of coverage believe they have full coverage.

  • Liability coverage. This covers bodily injuries and property damage caused by your negligence, or the negligence of an authorized driver. This coverage is required in all states.
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Man-Car-at-Crosswalk-SmallNashville, Tennessee, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. The 13-county Nashville metropolitan area is currently home to nearly 1.8 million people. According to data tracked by the U.S. Census, this area gained close to 31,000 people per year between 2010 and 2015. This annual growth rate of 1.8% is more than double the national growth rate of 0.8%. A surging population has contributed to an economic boom in Nashville and Davidson County, but it has also come at a cost. Pedestrian deaths are on the rise.

As of October 2017, 19 pedestrians have died in Nashville. In the entire year of 2016, just 16 pedestrians were killed. With Nashville roads being crowded, many people walk when possible to avoid such dense traffic. According to safety experts, pedestrians are most at risk during the winter months, in part because it gets dark much earlier. As a result, people are walking home when it has already become dark.

Is there anything that can be done to fix this problem? In Middle Tennessee, two organizations have decided to team up – Walk Bike Nashville and the Tennessee Highway Safety Office. Together, they have created a campaign called “Look For Me,” designed to raise awareness for pedestrians. According to Walk Bike Nashville, pedestrian fatalities are expected to reach 24 this year, nearly double from 2009, which saw 13 fatalities.

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Gavel-wScales-of-Justice-Medium-SmallIn a great victory for people injured in Tennessee, Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz lawyers Glenn Vines, Mark Geller, Kevin Graham, and Jason Yasinsky were able to ensure injured victims have the right to submit the full value of their medical expenses in their personal injury claim. This case, Dedmon v. Steelmon, was argued all the way up to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Plaintiff Jean Dedmon originally filed suit in the Circuit Court of Crockett County, Tennessee, for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. As part of the lawsuit, Dedmon attached her full medical bills for hospital treatment and doctor visits caused by the accident. While the case was pending, the Supreme Court of Tennessee issued an opinion in another case, West v. Shelby County Healthcare Corporation. That case dealt primarily with hospitals that filed liens (pursuant to Tennessee’s Hospital Lien Act) for the full amount of treatment billed to the patient, regardless of whether they had health insurance. While health insurance companies often pay at discounted rates due to contractual agreements with providers, the Court ultimately decided that based on the language of the hospital lien law, the hospital’s lien is limited to the discounted amount paid by the patient’s health insurance company.

Counsel for Steelman took that holding and sought to apply the principle to all of Dedmon’s medical bills. The trial court agreed and ruled that Dedmon could not submit the full amount of her medical expenses to the jury; instead, she could only submit the amounts of the contractually-agreed payments that the providers accepted from her insurance company. NST Law, on behalf of Dedmon, appealed that decision. After both sides submitted legal briefs and argued their respective positions, the Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the trial court ruling, stating Dedmon could introduce her full bills but Steelman could introduce proof contradicting the reasonableness of those bills. Steelman moved to appeal this ruling to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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Taxi-Service-on-Mobile-SmallThere is no doubt that ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have surged in popularity in recent years. Uber was founded in 2009, while Lyft came along in 2012. These companies serve a useful purpose – affordable transportation at the hands of your fingertips. Across the world, people use ridesharing companies to get from Point A to Point B. Ridesharing can satisfy all of one’s transportation needs – taking people to dinner, sporting events, and even to and from work each day.

When people open the Uber or Lyft app and select a ride, they trust they will be in good hands when they get inside the vehicle. After recent events, getting to a destination without an accident is no longer the top concern. Recent lawsuits have alleged Uber drivers sexually assaulted female passengers. In light of these reports, it is natural to consider whether ridesharing companies do enough to prevent these crimes in the first place, and whether they can face legal liability for their drivers’ actions.

Typically, employers are held responsible for acts of employees committed in the course and scope of employment. For instance, if you were rear-ended by an Uber driver who was transporting a passenger, Uber’s liability policy would likely pay for your losses. This legal principle of respondeat superior may not directly apply in the context of an assault. For starters, sexual assault is an intentional act, in contrast to a negligent act such as running a stop sign. Similarly, abusing a passenger does not fall within the course and scope of employment, which is to transport a passenger to their final destination. Further, Uber is notorious for classifying drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. While the employer’s determination is not determinative, additional factors must be considered.

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Train-Moving-on-Tracks-SmallA recent train crash in the Binghampton area of Memphis serves as a reminder to us all – be extremely careful when approaching train tracks. In the early hours of November 14, 2017, a train collided with a vehicle in Binghampton near Pershing Avenue and Scott Street. According to Memphis Police Department, the law enforcement agency that responded to the scene, the driver got caught between the railroad arms as she was crossing over the tracks. Fortunately, she had enough time to get out of her vehicle and out of harm’s way.

Unique Dangers Involving Trains

It takes much longer for a train to come to a stop than it does for cars and SUVs driven by private citizens. Below are interesting statistics to put all of this in context:

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crash-car-1180834-SmallExercising caution and safety behind the wheel is, and should be, stressed year-round. However, each year, an entire week is dedicated to promoting safety among teen drivers, and it is appropriately called National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW). This year, it was held over the week of October 15-21. While this topic should always be discussed and promoted, safety is particularly stressed during this designated week.

Of all age groups, teens are some of the individuals most-susceptible to getting hurt while driving or riding in a vehicle, according to safety experts. Drivers between 15-20 years old are most vulnerable to passing away in a car accident. Many reasons have been given, including lack of driving experience, immaturity, drug and alcohol abuse, driving while distracted (such as using cell phones and listening to music), and driving while drowsy. To reduce teen driver accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking action.

NTDSW includes several campaigns, each with its own message.

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Happy-Halloween-Pumpkins-SmallHalloween appeals to people of all ages, and this time of year always brings fanfare and activities like dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, trick or treating, haunted houses, and corn mazes. While having fun is always a goal on Halloween, an equally important goal should be staying safe.

Across the country, millions of children and their parents will be out on the street to trick or treat on Halloween. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, children are more than twice as likely to be struck by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other night during the year. Another issue on Halloween is drunk driving. Halloween is known as a party night, and one study has shown alcohol violations/citations are 4.5 times higher when Halloween falls on a weekend compared to a weekday.

Using due care, being aware of your surroundings, and not taking unnecessary risks are all ways to avoid injuries and get to and from your destination in one piece. Below are specific tips that parents, families, and members of the community can utilize to make Halloween 2017 a safe holiday.