In many car accident cases, a plaintiff may still recover damages even if he or she is partially at fault for causing the collision. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee recently addressed the issue of comparative negligence in an appeal of a negligence claim arising out of a motor vehicle collision. In Bachar v. Partin (Tenn. Ct. App. May 27, 2016), the plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to stop at a stop sign and drove his truck into the intersection, causing the plaintiff, who had the right-of-way, to swerve and collide with another automobile. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, who was driving a truck, as well as his employer, who owned the truck. The defendant denied the allegations of negligence and raised the defense of comparative fault on the part of the plaintiff.
After a two-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding the plaintiff to be 40 percent at fault and the defendant to be 60 percent at fault. The damages were assessed at $333,000. Accordingly, the trial court awarded damages to the plaintiff in the amount of $199,800. The defendant subsequently appealed, arguing that the evidence did not support the jury verdict on liability, apportionment of fault, or the plaintiff’s loss of earning capacity.
In Tennessee, a plaintiff may collect damages as long as a judge or jury determines that the plaintiff’s fault for the injury is 49 percent or less. If a judge or jury finds that the plaintiff’s percentage of liability is 50 percent or more, the plaintiff will be barred from recovering any damages. However, if the plaintiff is 49 percent or less at fault, the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced proportionately by the percentage of his or her fault.
On appeal in Bachar, the defendant contended that the testimony of the police officer who investigated the accident approximated the plaintiff’s speed to be 43 mph when the posted speed limit for the street was 30 mph. The appeals court noted that the plaintiff had the right-of-way, the defendant proceeded into the street even as the plaintiff approached the intersection in excess of the speed limit, and the defendant did not stop or attempt to stop. Taking the strongest view of the evidence in support of the verdict, the court found that it supported the jury’s finding that the defendant was 60 percent at fault for the accident, and the plaintiff was 40 percent at fault. The court also upheld the jury’s award of damages, concluding that the expert testimony provided by the plaintiff supported the amount for past and future lost earnings. As a result, the plaintiff’s verdict was affirmed.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car or motorcycle accident caused by another person, you may be able to seek compensation from the negligent driver. The Nashville trial attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard aggressively pursue personal injury claims on behalf of their clients. We handle premises liability cases, motor vehicle collision lawsuits, medical malpractice cases, and other negligence actions. To make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard at (615) 800-7096 or contact us online.