Personal injury law is a violation of tort law, which applies when someone is negligent or carries out intentional wrongdoing harming another person. The most common personal injury situations are accidents (called “negligence” in legalese), intentional acts like fraud or battery, and product liability cases initiated when a product is defective or unreasonably dangerous.
Every personal injury claim has two issues: liability and damages. “Liability” means that someone else is responsible for the injury you’ve suffered, and “damages” is the legal term for the injury or harm incurred by the wronged party.
Many situations exist where people who suffer serious injuries resulting from negligence or wrongful acts could file a personal injury lawsuit. For example, there were over 35,000 collisions in Memphis’ own Shelby County during 2020. Car accidents can lead to personal injury lawsuits when insurance companies try to avoid paying out legal claims or attempt to settle for less than what the injured party deserves.
If you need a personal injury lawyer, we are here to help you through the legal aftermath of your accident or injury. We can answer your questions, evaluate your legal problem, and help you determine if a personal injury lawyer is right for you.
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What do personal injury lawyers do?
Personal injury attorneys are civil litigators who advocate for their clients’ (i.e., the injured parties’) legal rights. Your personal injury attorney can deal with the court and opposing counsel on your behalf, handling the following:
An attorney can help evaluate your case to know if you have a valid compensation claim. They can also present you with your best options to pursue remedies and your chance of a successful outcome with whichever scenario you choose.
Your attorney can decide what claims to present to the court to ensure a positive outcome.
Attorneys know case law and statutes relevant to your injury lawsuit. Attorneys have adequate training and knowledge to find the needed answers if presented with a complex or unique issue.
Your attorney can inform you of the documents you need to compile for evidentiary support of your claim, such as medical bills, employment records, doctor’s notes, medication or other product labels, etc. If you’re having trouble retrieving certain records (e.g., police reports, driving histories, insurance cards, hospital notes or treatment directives, etc.), your attorney can help obtain them.
Your attorney knows what documents to prepare, what arguments to assert, and where to file your claim and initiate your lawsuit. Your attorney will also be aware of court rules and proper procedures to ensure service of process and other legal requirements and standards are followed and accurate to avoid delaying your case or risking the judge dismissing your claim due to a minuscule and preventable error.
Attorneys spend a fair amount of time on a case collecting facts and information relevant to and supportive of your claim. Your attorney can use different discovery requests, including requests for production, interrogatories, admissions, depositions, and third-party subpoenas to obtain the evidence needed to help ensure a satisfactory outcome.
Your personal injury attorney can prepare a complaint to start your lawsuit. Additionally, your lawyer will know what documents to prepare and file to defend motions, conduct discovery, respond to court directives, and make requests from the court or opposing counsel. They also know what supporting laws and legal standards to include in the different documents.
At any point throughout your lawsuit, you can settle with the opposing party or parties and the insurance companies. Your attorney can help guide these discussions and negotiate on your behalf for fair compensation.
If your case doesn’t settle, you’ll need to proceed to trial. Each side will have to assert their arguments and defenses and present evidence of their claims. Your attorney can be your voice in court while following courtroom procedures, evidentiary rules, and other necessary legal protocols and practices.
In summary, your personal injury attorney’s job is to navigate an often complex and convoluted legal system to help you receive the compensation and justice you deserve after being wrongly or negligently injured by someone else.
Types of personal injury cases in Memphis
If a negligent or reckless party injures you, a personal injury attorney can help you on the following case types:
Legal standards for personal injury cases
The law imposes a duty on everyone to act reasonably so as not to harm themselves or others. If someone fails to act with an appropriate standard of care and another person gets injured, they can be liable for negligence.
Injured individuals should talk to a personal injury attorney about their legal options. Every jurisdiction within the US has a legal definition for negligence. In Tennessee, a victim must prove the following five elements:
- The defendant owes a duty of care to the plaintiff.
- Conduct by the defendant falls below the standard of care owed to the plaintiff.
- Cause-in-fact, meaning the plaintiff would not have suffered the injury without the actions of the defendant.
- Proximate cause, meaning the injury the plaintiff suffered was foreseeable and not interrupted by superseding events.
- The plaintiff sustained damages, entitling them to monetary compensation.
What is the process for filing a personal injury lawsuit?
If you sustain an injury in an accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Sometimes, injuries may reveal themselves later after the initial adrenaline wears off. Also, if you do end up filing a compensation claim, opposing counsel may use the delay in seeking medical care to shift liability away from their client. It’s also helpful to have a record of your medical diagnosis and treatment as evidence of your injuries.
If you can, find out if the defendant has insurance and get the policy number. Lawsuits are costly, and while a judgment in your favor might entitle you to monetary compensation, if the defendant does not have sufficient funds or assets, collecting on that judgment will be very difficult. If the defendant has insurance coverage, though, you may be able to collect the entire judgment from the insurance company.
You must complete and file a complaint in the appropriate court before the statute of limitations tolls, meaning you’ve run out of time to initiate a lawsuit. Before starting your case, though, you should get the name of the potential defendant’s insurance company and their policy number. Consult with a personal injury attorney before negotiating a settlement.
Most personal injury cases find resolution via a settlement. Settlement negotiations occur between the plaintiff or their attorney and the defendant’s attorney or a claims adjuster for the defendant’s insurance carrier. These negotiations typically end in a written agreement where both sides agree to halt all legal action and resolve the matter by compensating the plaintiff for their injuries. A personal injury attorney is beneficial throughout these negotiations to get you fair compensation, as many insurance companies will try to avoid paying out the total amount you deserve. You should never speak with the opposing party or their insurance company or admit fault of any kind before speaking with an attorney.
If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful or there’s not enough time to complete negotiations before the statute of limitations runs out, you should file your complaint in the appropriate court. Like all court documents submitted to civil courts in Tennessee, complaints are subject to the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. There are three courts in Tennessee in which it may be appropriate to file your complaint: the general sessions, chancery, or circuit court. If you’re bringing a claim against a state official or agency, like the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Claims Commission will handle your lawsuit. The best venue to file your claim will depend on the facts of your case and the remedy you seek. A personal injury lawyer can prepare your complaint, including all relevant laws, necessary wording, and supporting documents, and determine the appropriate venue to file your lawsuit. After filing your complaint with the clerk of court, the statute of limitations stops running, and the action commences.
How long do I have to file a personal injury claim in Memphis?
A statute of limitations is a prescriptive period setting the maximum amount of time after an accident occurs for a wronged party to initiate a lawsuit. Once the time restriction passes, you cannot file a claim on your cause of action, with very few exceptions, if any.
In Memphis, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is one year from the date the accident or injury occurred, allowing you less time to start your lawsuit compared to most other states.
Exceptions to this one-year rule include:
- Minors: The one-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches 18. An injured child thereby has until their 19th birthday to file a personal injury claim, regardless of when the injury occurred.
- Criminals: If the state charges the defendant who directly caused your injuries with a crime or certain traffic infractions, Tennessee law may extend the statute of limitations to two years.
- Mentally incompetent: If the court finds that the plaintiff is mentally incompetent and less than fifty percent liable for their injury, then the statute of limitations is tolled and will resume when the plaintiff recovers.
- Discovery rule: Tennessee adopted the discovery rule because some injuries develop slowly or have hidden symptoms that prevent injured parties and their doctors from learning about the injury and making a diagnosis. Under this rule, the one-year statute of limitations begins to run on the date you learn about or reasonably should have known about your injury. This rule frequently applies in medical malpractice cases.
- Fraudulent concealment: Suppose the defendant (1) knew of material facts that would give rise to a cause of action; (2) took affirmative action to conceal the cause of action or failed to disclose material facts despite a duty to do so; and (3) the plaintiff could not have discovered the cause of action despite exercising reasonable care and diligence. In that case, a court may extend the one-year statute of limitations.
How long will my personal injury case take?
How long it takes to resolve your personal injury case depends on a multitude of factors, including:
What compensation can I receive for my personal injury?
It can be difficult to determine an exact dollar amount you can receive as compensation for your damages. Every case is different, and many factors can influence the outcome and value of your claim, including:
- The extent and duration of your physical injuries. You have the right to seek compensation for all past and future (expected) medical expenses. The more severe your injuries and the longer you require medical treatment for those injuries, the more likely you will receive higher compensation.
- Lost income and diminished future earning capacity. If your accident impaired your ability to work, you might be able to receive compensation for lost wages (or income you would’ve received if you were able to go to work) for the time you missed. Additionally, you can receive compensation for income lost if your injuries prevent you from returning to your job altogether.
- Pain and suffering or emotional distress. Pain and suffering includes your physical pain and emotional anguish experienced due to your injuries or the trauma of the accident. You can also receive compensation for a reduced quality of life (i.e., loss of enjoyment or ability to participate in activities you previously enjoyed regularly).
- Punitive damages. If the defendant injured you in a malicious, intentional, fraudulent, grossly negligent, or reckless way, you might be entitled to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages intend to punish the defendant and deter future similar wrongdoing by the defendant and others. You must be able to prove the defendant’s wrongful behavior by clear and convincing evidence, a burden of proof requiring you to show that the claims you present are highly more probable to be true than not.
What evidence do I need to prove my injuries?
Before filing your lawsuit, your personal injury attorney will seek to obtain tangible evidence to support your injury claim. After filing your lawsuit and during the discovery process, your attorney will request evidence from the opposing party (i.e., the defendant) or third parties (e.g., insurance companies, witnesses, etc.). Helpful evidence includes:
How much does a Memphis personal injury lawyer charge?
At Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz, we operate on a contingency fee basis to help make justice more accessible to our clients. This payment arrangement means that we take a set percentage (agreed on at the time of hiring) of your settlement amount or successful jury verdict, so we don’t get paid unless you do.
If your case ends without a settlement or favorable jury verdict, you don’t owe our firm anything other than case costs (e.g., court filing fees, process server fees, court reporters, expert witness fees, photocopying, travel expenses, etc.). Firms that work under a contingency fee agreement typically advance these costs for you, but sometimes you are responsible for reimbursement when your case does not end in a payout.
Your personal injury attorney will discuss all fees and costs with you before you decide to retain the firm.
Why should I hire a Memphis personal injury attorney?
A Memphis area personal injury law firm with years of experience can help guide you throughout the entire legal process to ensure you maximize the amount of compensation you receive. Your lawyer can:
What should I do after an accident in Memphis?
If you’re in an accident in Memphis, you should take the following steps:
Sometimes, when adrenaline is high, or you’re in a hurry to be somewhere, you might feel the urge to flee the scene of an accident, but committing a hit-and-run is illegal in Tennessee. Potential criminal charges for people that leave the scene range from Class C to Class A misdemeanors depending on the extent of property damage and whether someone suffers injuries.
If possible, move your car off to the side of the road or pull into a parking lot where you won’t impede traffic. After you’re in a safe place, you and the other parties to the accident should exchange names and addresses and provide each other with your vehicles’ registration numbers.
You must report the crash to the police if there appears to be more than $400 in property damage or anyone is injured or dies. Given the high price of auto repairs, it’s highly likely this legal duty will apply to most accidents. Aside from your obligation, calling 911 can ensure any needed authorities arrive, such as an ambulance, the police, or a tow truck.
As mentioned in the evidence section, be sure to photograph each vehicle involved, the result of the impact, and the accident scene as a whole if possible. You may also want photographs of any injuries you suffered. Additionally, try to find eyewitnesses and get their contact information.
Police officers responding to accidents must create a report if there is more than $400 in property damage or a person dies or suffers injuries. If you talk to the police office at your accident scene, don’t admit fault or lie to them about what happened. After the officer completes the report, you’re generally free to leave the scene.
A Memphis personal injury lawyer can handle your accident claim in the most efficient way possible to help ensure a more positive outcome. At Nahon, Sarahovich & Trotz, we have a team of knowledgeable motor vehicle accident attorneys. They know important deadlines, what documents you need and how to complete them, and how to file them in the appropriate court. They also know what evidence to gather to support your claims and which witnesses to depose to ensure the most effective impact on the jury. They can negotiate with big insurance companies and properly calculate your damages to help you receive fair compensation.
When should I contact a Memphis personal injury law firm?
If you’ve been injured in an accident or other personal injury matter and wish to file a claim for compensation, you should hire a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The statute of limitations begins running the date of your accident, so you’ll want to move quickly to seek justice and get the compensation you deserve to assist in your recovery.
Call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz (NST) for a free consultation any hour of the day at (800) 529-4004. Our personal injury attorneys can inform you of your legal rights and advocate for your best interests.
NST and its legal team and staff members have experience handling cases throughout the Mid-South, including Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Illinois. If someone else’s wrongful or negligent conduct caused you harm, you may be entitled to compensation for your resulting damages. Contact us today.
Our client was walking in a Tennessee gas station parking lot when he was struck by a commercial concrete truck. He broke both of his legs and underwent extensive medical treatment.