Bad Road Conditions- Who is Liable for Car Accident?

bad road conditions, car accident lawyer

Bad Road Conditions- Who is Liable for Car Accident?

Curious about who is responsible for an accident during bad road conditions?

Many of us in Memphis went to bed last night expecting to wake up to a Winter Wonderland. While weather experts predicted several inches of snow and most local schools and businesses announced closures in advance, what we ended up with was just a small dusting of snow. Enough to make our neighborhoods sparkle, but not even enough to build a good snowman.

However, with all the warnings on the news to stay at home and avoid the roads, you might be wondering what the law is concerning car accidents that occur in icy or snowy conditions. What if another driver slides into you, causing significant damage to your car? What about the cars you always see speeding by in icy conditions, without a care in the world? Are they excused from liability just because of the road conditions?

Drivers Are Responsible, Even in Icy or Snowy Conditions

Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-8-136  requires drivers to exercise due care “under the existing circumstances” to avoid crashing into any other vehicle.

This duty was clarified by the Tennessee Court of Appeals in the case of MacLeod v. McKenzie. In MacLeod, a driver lost control of her car in wet road conditions. While the driver argued that she was driving carefully, she admitted that she was driving at or slightly above the speed limit and that she panicked and hit the brakes when her car started to slide. The injured party argued that the driver was driving too fast for the wet condition of the road (even if she was driving the speed limit), and in panicking and losing control of the car once it started to skid. The Court stated that the question of whether a driver exercised due care under the circumstances is a question of fact, which means that a jury should decide.

So, what’s the lesson for driving in bad road conditions?

If you are involved in an accident during bad road conditions, don’t just assume that the other driver is not at fault.  Icy, snowy, or wet road conditions don’t provide a “get out of jail free” card for the other driver. Drivers in Tennessee are always responsible for their actions while driving, regardless of the road conditions.  If a person chooses to drive when road conditions are bad, then he or she is responsible for driving safely and avoiding collisions.

The determination of who is legally responsible for the car accident will depend on a number of factors and there may not be a clear answer.  Even if the other driver was going the speed limit, he or she may still be responsible for the collision, but an insurance adjuster is unlikely to tell you that. This is why you need an experienced lawyer on your side. If you need help with a car accident that occurred in rainy, snowy, or icy road conditions, call us at 901-372-5003.  We know the law and we can help you maximize your claim.

Can I Represent Myself in General Sessions Court?

injury lawyer memphis for general sessions court

Can I represent myself in General Sessions Court?

Can you represent yourself in General Sessions Court?

Yes, you may always represent yourself in any court matter – it’s called proceeding pro se.  However, you may only represent yourself.

If the true party in the case is actually a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) – even if you are the sole shareholder/owner/member – then you may not represent “yourself” because, technically-speaking, a business organization is a distinct legal entity separate and apart from you as a natural person.  And unless you are a lawyer, you cannot represent another person or entity, or else you would be guilty of the unauthorized practice of law, and no Judge will allow that.

Should you represent yourself in General Sessions Court?

If you are the party in the case as an individual, or as a sole proprietorship, then you may always represent yourself.  The real question, though, is should you?  Many people believe General Sessions Court is a “small claims court” similar to the TV court shows where two parties stand at podiums and, with great drama, show or tell the Judge whatever they want. While it is true that General Sessions Court disputes are typically limited to smaller matters under $25,000, and further that any judgment can be appealed to Circuit Court, it would be a mistake to assume that General Sessions Court is somehow informal or easy.

In many cases, litigating in General Sessions Court is easier and less expensive than litigating in Circuit Court. However, General Sessions Court is serious. All parties, even those representing themselves, must follow the Rules of Court and the Tennessee Rules of Evidence and must observe the proper rules of courtroom decorum.  You cannot simply tell or show the Judge whatever you want.

So the question really is this: do you know the Tennessee Rules of Evidence? Do you know what makes a piece of evidence objectionable? Do you know how to lay a proper foundation to get a document or a witness’s testimony admitted in evidence? Attorneys are trained to know the rules and to use them to their client’s advantage. You may have a perfectly winnable case and lose it because you do not know how to properly present evidence.  We’ve seen it hundreds of times.

Many people say they cannot afford an attorney, while others simply don’t want to pay an attorney to handle something they believe they can handle themselves.  However, is the potential of recovering nothing on your claim – or, conversely, subjecting yourself to a judgment that will be reported to creditors – preferable to paying an attorney fee?

Helpful Resources for pro se litigants

If you truly can’t afford to hire an attorney, here are a few resources you may find helpful:

Rules of General Sessions Court (Shelby County)

General Sessions Court–Civil Case Forms

Attorney of the Day Courthouse Project. Each Thursday Memphis Area Legal Services hosts an advice clinic at the Shelby County Courthouse at 140 Adams Avenue in Memphis.  Volunteer attorneys meet with walk-in clients and provide advice and counsel.  The clinic starts at 1:30 p.m. in Room 134 of the Courthouse.

Saturday Legal Clinics. These clinics, also hosted by Memphis Area Legal Services, operate on a first come, first served basis and provide opportunity for members of the community to meet with an attorney to discuss their legal issues.  Volunteer attorneys provide advice, counsel, referrals.   Memphis clinics are held the second Saturday of every month at the Benjamin Hooks Main Library, 3030 Poplar Avenue, starting at 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Covington clinics are held on a Saturday every other month at First Presbyterian Church, 403 S. Main Street, starting at 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

We practice in General Sessions Court. 

The attorneys at Wiseman Bray PLLC regularly practice in General Sessions Courts in Memphis, Shelby County. We know the rules and we will use them to effectively present your case or defense to the Judge. We represent both Plaintiffs and Defendants. If you have a pending General Sessions case, or if you are thinking of suing someone in General Sessions Court, and you’d like to talk to us about it, please call us at 901-372-5003.

Medical Care After a Car Wreck

car wreck medical care, personal injury lawyer memphis

Been in an Accident? Next Steps for Your Medical Care.

We have clients who have been involved in an accident, whether a car wreck, slip and fall, dog bite, or other injury, and they often ask what they should do about medical care, and whether it will hurt or help their court case. Our answer is always the same:  you and your healthcare providers should make your medical care decisions based purely on what’s best for your health.  No claim or lawsuit should ever affect your medical care decision-making.

Many also have questions about what to do immediately after an accident.  Here are some frequently asked questions and our typical responses. However, remember that each case is unique, and our lawyers can help you navigate your individual circumstances. Call us today at (901) 372-5003.

Should I seek immediate treatment for injuries after a car wreck?

Yes.  It is best to seek prompt medical care so that your injuries can be properly evaluated by trained medical personnel.  According to DMV.org, it’s important to understand that you may have an injury, even if you aren’t totally sure. Many insurance adjusters will hold delays in medical treatment against you, even assuming you were merely trying to do the right thing by taking a conservative, wait-and-see approach.

What if I’m concerned about the cost of medical care?

If you were injured in a car wreck, you may (and should) rely on your health insurance to cover your treatment. If not, but you have automobile insurance, your policy probably contains Medical Payment Coverage up to a certain amount, and so you may be able to recover some of your medical expenses from your own insurance company.  Depending on what happened to you and whether someone else is responsible, you may be also able to recover your medical expenses from someone else’s liability insurance company.

What else should I do after an accident if I think I might have a claim?

If you are able, get the contact information of any eyewitnesses. Get a copy of the Police Report. Take photos of your injuries. If you’ve been in a car accident, take photos of your car and the scene, if possible. If you are involved in a slip and fall or some other type of accident, take photos of the scene of the accident and its condition at the time of your injury. Keep a list of the medical providers you see, and the limitations and pain you suffer. Claims and lawsuits can sometimes take months to resolve, and you will be surprised at how memories fade.  Make a list of any prescription medications or other medicines that you have to take because of the accident, and keep records of the costs. Document any other expenses you incur because of the accident.

What if I have to miss work?

You may be entitled to recover for lost wages. Obtain written documentation from your employer of the days, hours, and wages you missed because of the accident.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can find answers to more Frequently Asked Questions on our website by clicking here.

 

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

www.WisemanBray.com

Partially at Fault in a Car Wreck in Tennessee?

Partially at Fault in a Car Wreck in Tennessee?

partially at fault, car wreck lawyer in memphisLaw FAQ: I was in a car wreck in Tennessee, and I may be partially at fault. Do I still have a legal claim?

ANSWER:   Maybe.

You can take comfort in the fact that “slam dunk” cases rarely exist.  There are 2 sides to almost every story.  Indeed, real life is never quite so neat and tidy.  Many car crashes are the result of a number of related factors, circumstances and events on both sides that – when combined together – cause accidents to occur.

For example, someone might have run a red light and pulled out in front of you; however, you might have contributed to the problem by speeding, or not wearing your seat belt, or not paying as close attention to the road as perhaps you should have been.  Thus, while you didn’t necessarily cause the wreck, you may be wondering whether your own speed or inattention may have increased the amount of damage or injury caused.

And so the question is: do you still have a legal claim for your car accident or personal injury?

Well, the answer is: it depends.  Many people are partially at fault and some of them are still able to recover damages in a car wreck case.

Doctrine of Comparative Fault

Under Tennessee law, a defendant in a car wreck case is entitled to point the finger at another person (or multiple persons), including the plaintiff.  In other words, a defendant can ask a jury to assign fault for an accident, either in whole or in part, to someone else.  Legally, this is referred to as the “doctrine of comparative fault” – i.e. the jury is asked to literally compare the fault of the parties.

In practice, this means that the jury will listen to all of the competing evidence and then assign a percentage of fault or negligence to each person alleged to have contributed to the accident.   The total of the percentages must add up to 100%.  The jury is then asked to affix the amount of total damages suffered/incurred.

These fault allocations and damage findings determine whether, and to what extent, a plaintiff is entitled to recover.  Specifically, the damages recoverable by the plaintiff are based on the percentage of fault assigned to the defendant.

  • Example: If the jury finds that there were total damages of $100, and the defendant is assigned 75% of the fault compared to only 25% fault for the plaintiff, then the plaintiff would recover $75 (75% x $100).  The plaintiff wouldn’t be entitled to recover the percentage of damage that he himself caused.

Modified Comparative Fault

Note also that Tennessee follows the doctrine of modified comparative fault.  This means that if the plaintiff is found to be  50% at fault for an accident, then he or she is prohibited from recovering any damages at all. So, even if you are partially at fault for an accident, as long as you’re not 50% at fault, you can still recover.

  • Example:  Using the scenario above involving damages of $100, if the jury were to find the plaintiff and defendant equally at fault (50/50), then the plaintiff would recover $0.

Pure Comparative Fault in Other States

By comparison, some states like Mississippi utilize the doctrine of pure comparative fault, which means that the plaintiff can recover for any fault of the defendant, even a mere 1%.

  • Example:  Using the scenario above, if the car wreck  occurred in Mississippi and the defendant was 1% at fault, then the plaintiff would be able to recover $1, even though the plaintiff was 99% at fault.

Partially at Fault But Think the Other Driver was Responsible?

Each case is unique. It sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. At Wiseman Bray PLLC, we will look at your case and advise you on the best way to proceed. If you have a question involving a  car or trucking accident or a wreck involving serious personal injury, please feel free to call our office at (901) 372-5003 for a FREE consultation.

We Represent Victims of Car Wrecks.

Visit our website to learn more about our work for car accident victims. You can meet our team by clicking here.

Car Wreck Case- What is negligence by the other driver?

Car Wreck Case- What is negligence by the other driver?

car wreck case lawyer in memphisIn a car wreck case, or any other case, “negligence” is the legal term for failing to exercise reasonable care and caution under a given set of circumstances.  It is commonly referred to as “the ordinary, reasonable person” standard.  Legal liability is assessed when a person fails to follow society’s most basic “rules of the road” so to speak.

Examples of negligence

Some examples of negligence might include:

  • Running a red light and causing a car wreck.
  • A hurried doctor who fails to follow correct protocol and thus fails to diagnose a curable disease.
  • A nurse who fails to check the medical chart and who then dispenses the wrong medication.
  • A store owner who fails to mop up a known puddle on the floor.
  • A pharmacist who dispenses the wrong dosage of medication.
  • A contractor who fails to adhere to building plans or skirts building codes.
  • A child care center that fails to conduct background checks before hiring employees to care for children unsupervised.
  • A lawyer who fails to file his client’s lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.

Elements of Negligence in a Car Wreck Case

In a negligence case, a plaintiff is required to prove five elements:

  1. that a duty of care was owed by the defendant;
  2. that the defendant failed to live up to that duty (i.e. referred to as a “breach of duty”);
  3. that an injury or loss occurred;
  4. that the breach of duty actually caused the injury or loss; and,
  5. proximate or legal cause.

Would you like to talk with a Car Wreck Case Lawyer?

Please call our office at 901-372-5003 to speak with one of our experienced car wreck case lawyers. We would be honored to represent you.

Visit our website to learn more about the work we do representing victims of car accidents.  We even have a “Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents” page you can visit to get answers to your basic questions.

 

WISEMAN BRAY PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

(901) 383-6599 Fax

 

What is a Deposition? Law FAQ

Deposition victim attorney in memphis

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is similar to a witness testifying in court, except that it occurs in an out-of-court setting.  A witness at a deposition is referred to as the “deponent.”  A deposition usually takes place in a lawyer’s conference room, although I’ve personally been involved in depositions that took place in homes, hospitals, and even over the telephone.

It’s a chance for lawyers to ask questions and get answers from a witness under oath.  A court reporter is present to make a record of the questions and answers, which is then usually reduced to writing in what’s called a “transcript” of the proceedings. Sometimes a videographer will also be there to film the testimony.

Depositions are part of the “discovery” process of a lawsuit.  Each side has the right to discover information about the other side’s allegations. This is accomplished by things like written questions, production of documents, inspection of property, independent medical exams, and depositions.  Rule 30 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure governs depositions in Tennessee.

Do we really need a deposition? Isn’t it expensive?

A deposition can be expensive, but it’s perhaps the most useful tool in a lawyer’s discovery toolbox because it allows for real-time follow-up and feedback.   One of the most useful benefits is that, with some exceptions, it can be used to preserve and/or “lock in” crucial testimony.  A transcript can be admitted as evidence in court if the witness later becomes unavailable for trial (e.g. death, incapacity, outside the reach of court’s jurisdiction, immune from subpoena, etc.).  A transcript can also be used to impeach and cross-examine a witness who shows up for trial with a different version of events.

Depositions are Serious Business.

A deposition is a very serious matter with serious potential consequences.  Remember, the transcript may be used in court. If you are the deponent, you should treat your deposition as if your testimony is occurring right in the courtroom in front of the judge and jury.

Need a lawyer in Memphis?

We’d be honored to represent you. Call us at 901-372-5003 or email us here.

Blog Post by: Lang Wiseman

Deposition Victim Attorney in Memphis

Lang Wiseman

What is uninsured motorist coverage, and how much do I need?

What is uninsured motorist coverage, and how much do I need?

uninsured motorist coverage lawyer auto accidentUnder Tennessee law, a driver is required to maintain liability insurance to cover any damages that the driver might cause in a car wreck or related accident.  That way, innocent victims are protected. Unfortunately, though, the minimum legal limit required under Tennessee law for liability coverage is only $25,000 — which is extremely low.  A car wreck can easily exhaust $25,000 in coverage.  And, of course, many drivers choose to violate the law by not carrying any auto insurance at all.  We see it all the time here in Memphis. This is why you need uninsured motorist coverage or “UM” coverage.

What happens if I get hit by a driver with little or no liability insurance?

This is where your own uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage would kick in to protect you.

In insurance lingo, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is typically referred to as “UM coverage.”  UM coverage is included as part of your own liability policy, and it is usually the same amount as your liability coverage.  So, if you have $50,000 in liability coverage, then you also have $50,000 in UM coverage.  The UM component of your policy essentially makes up the difference for any deficiency in the liability coverage of the negligent driver.

But there’s a catch:  UM coverage is only available to the extent your own policy limit is greater than the policy limit of the negligent driver in the auto accident.

Examples of How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works

Example 1:  Our client suffered spinal injuries and a broken pelvis in a car crash requiring significant surgeries and medical treatment.  The negligent driver only had $50,000 in insurance coverage, but fortunately, our client carried $250,000 coverage of her own.  We were therefore able to negotiate a total settlement of $250,000 (the first $50,000 from negligent party’s insurance company and the remaining $200,000 from our client’s own insurance company).  

Example 2:  Our client was partially paralyzed in a car crash. Unfortunately, the negligent driver only had $25,000 in liability insurance coverage, and the client only had $50,000 herself.  As a result, the client was only able to recover a total of $50,000 ($25,000 from negligent party’s insurance company plus an additional $25,000 from her own insurance company).  The negligent driver had no assets to pursue.

Review your insurance policy today and check your coverage.

The examples above highlight a very important LESSON.   While it may be tempting when buying your own insurance to choose the cheaper option of low liability limits, you must remember that you are not just choosing liability protection for others, or making a risk calculation about whether you think you are a safe driver who may never  cause an accident or need liability coverage.  Indeed, when choosing your coverage limits, you are — in effect — also choosing the insurance limits that will cover your own family if a potential UM coverage situation occurs where an uninsured driver negligently crashes into you or another member of your family.  In other words, low liability limits may seem like a bargain until someone with little or no insurance causes a catastrophic injury to you or someone in your family.  Often, the marginal price for an increase in coverage is quite minimal.  And well worth it!

If you need a car accident lawyer

If you’ve been in a car crash, even relatively minor injuries can be overwhelming. Medical treatment can be  expensive, and injuries often result in lost wages. We would be honored to review your case free of charge.  Please either submit an online request for a Free Case Review, or call to speak with one of our car accident lawyers at 901-372-5003.