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What is Comparative Fault in Tennessee?

If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may still eligible for damages, even if you were partly at fault. According to the law of “comparative fault,” you must be able to prove that you were no more than 49% to blame for the accident. Furthermore, your award in such cases will be based on the perceived level of your fault in the accident. That is why a knowledgeable, experienced attorney is so important.

Prior to the Tennessee Supreme Court decision in McIntyre v. Balentine, Tennessee Courts applied the law of contributory negligence that “if a party, . . . . , brings an injury upon himself, or contributes to such injury, he cannot recover . . . for, in such cases, the party must be regarded as the author of his own misfortune.”  In other words, the law at that time was that if you shared some fault in the accident, you could not win your lawsuit.  The McIntyre decision backed off from this position.

McIntyre involved two drivers that had both been drinking alcohol. Mr. McIntyre was entering Highway 69 when his vehicle was struck by the Defendant’s tractor-trailer. Evidence at trial showed that the Defendant was speeding in his truck. The truck driver’s defense was based on the contributory negligence of Mr. McIntyre for operating his vehicle while intoxicated (Mr. McIntyre’s blood alcohol level was .17%). Due to his intoxication, the jury found Mr. McIntyre equally at fault in the accident. Therefore, the jury ruled in Defendant’s favor. Mr. McIntyre appealed the decision.

On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that the “all-or-nothing rule of contributory negligence must be replaced. . . .” Accordingly, the law was changed to allow for “comparative fault.” This decision opened the door for accident victims to recover damages, even if they were partially at fault for the accident.

The “comparative fault” law also means that the amount of money you are awarded in your lawsuit will be reduced by the percentage of your fault in the accident. Assume, for example, that you are rear-ended by a semi-truck or tractor-trailer. You are awarded damages of $1,000,000, but it is determined that you are 10% at fault in the accident. In this scenario, the amount of money you can be awarded in your lawsuit is reduced by your own fault in the accident. In this example, you would be awarded $900,000.

In cases of comparative fault, the defendant’s argument will be based on your level of fault in the accident. For this reason, you should hire attorneys that are experienced with comparative fault cases – attorneys like The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto. Serious injuries require serious lawyers. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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