Here in Tennessee, we pride ourselves on our hospitality and kindness. Sometimes, that Southern charm and goodwill can be more harmful than helpful, especially when it comes to injury claims.
If you are injured in a car accident due to the negligence of a friend or family member, don't let your kindness keep you from receiving fair compensation for your injuries. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Make sure that a collision report was filed
Alert the police immediately following an accident. Anytime someone gets injured in a car accident, Tennessee law requires the police to file a report with the state's Department of Safety & Homeland Security.
Be sure to obtain a copy of this report, especially if you have been injured. Official documentation of both the accident and your injuries will be valuable later if you and a friend can't agree on who caused the accident. Don't simply trust that your friend will agree with your version of the events when bills for medical treatment and car repairs start coming in.
Determining "fault" and what it means for your claim
Tennessee uses the "fault" doctrine when determining liability in an accident. This means that the driver who is determined to be at fault (or the driver's insurance provider) must pay for any damages and injury-related costs of an accident. If that person is a friend of yours and you have been injured, it may be uncomfortable to file against him or her.
The good news is that you generally file a claim with your friend's insurance company, not against him or her personally. The amount of coverage available will be determined by the details of the accident and your friend's specific policy limits.
What if my friend is uninsured or underinsured?
If your friend is uninsured or underinsured, meaning their policy limits don't cover all of the damages of the accident, you may still be able to make a claim with your own insurance if you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Tennessee law doesn't require PIP coverage like some states do, but if you purchased it as part of your plan, it should cover the difference between your friend's policy and the total amount of your expenses.
If you don't have PIP coverage, your only other alternative is to sue your friend directly. Obviously, no one wants to get into this type of situation, and it's possible you and your friend can work out a settlement without getting the court involved. If you do decide to litigate, be sure to keep thorough records of anything related to the accident, including:
- Medical procedures
- Repair bills
- Conversations about the accident with your friend
- Possible solutions you've jointly agreed to
Deciding how to go about dealing with the aftermath of an accident, especially one that involves a friend, family member or acquaintance is always difficult. The guidance of an attorney with personal injury experience can help you navigate this tricky situation while keeping your rights protected.