What is an Accident, Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case in Tennessee?

A personal injury or wrongful death case (sometimes called “Accident” cases) is any type of case involving an accident that caused some type of harm.  A “personal injury” case is one where a person has been injured physically, harmed emotionally or mentally, or disabled (although the main focus is usually on the harm to you as a person-and thus the term “personal injury”-these cases typically involve other harms resulting from the accident as well, such as property damage to a car).  Where the harm involved is a death, it is a “Wrongful Death” case.

Generally, in order for the wrongdoer to be liable to the injured party, he or she must have been negligent.  In essence, negligence is when a person acts or fails to act (for example, failing to stop at a stop sign or to manufacture a safe product) in a way that is determined to have been careless or unreasonable, and which causes an injury to someone.

For example, in a typical car wreck case, careful, reasonable drivers are, among other things, expected to be aware of their surroundings, to follow the laws, and to brake sufficiently in advance of a red light in order to avoid striking crossing vehicles or pedestrians and causing injury.  With that in mind, consider this situation:

A driver is in traffic on a two lane road with cars ahead of him.  As he is driving, he is not looking ahead of where he is driving but instead is staring out his side window to gawk at an attractive young woman walking on the sidewalk.  Because of this, he does not see the upcoming traffic light change to red, and he runs through the red light, striking another car in the side.  The other driver’s car is totaled, and she suffers severe injuries that are very painful and ultimately require surgery and substantial medical care.

In that example, the male driver was negligent because he did not drive as a careful, reasonable driver is expected to drive and, by not doing so, he ran into the other driver and caused her injuries.  In this situation, the male driver was negligent and therefore liable to the second driver, including for the damage he caused to her car, the costs of her medical bills, and for the pain and suffering she suffered as a result, along with any loss of income suffered.

If the driver’s negligence had resulted in a death, then the case would be called a “Wrongful Death” claim.  In a Wrongful Death situation, the laws of each state differ on what damages the surviving family can recover.  In a wrongful death situation, the types of recovery differ according to state law.

In Tennessee, the estate for the deceased person is entitled to seek compensation for the lost earning capacity and any pain and suffering that was suffered by the person before he or she died.  Also, the estate is able to recover for the  individual members of the family for their own damages that result from the loss of the loved one.
For example, Tennessee allows the estate to recover for the damages to the person who died, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, lost wages and lost earning capacity.  At the same time, recovery can be obtained as to the person’s next of kin for the incidental damages they suffered through the loss.  This recovery looks at the “monetary” value to them of the person they lost, which includes the value for lost support and the loss of “consortium” with the person-including amounts for lost attention, guidance, care, protection, training, companionship, cooperation, affection, love, and in the case of a spouse, sexual relations.


It is important to note that recovery in Tennessee against employers for workplace injuries falls under Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation system, which applies different rules and standards for recovery from typical “negligence” cases.  In addition to typical “negligence” type cases, the Williams Law Group also focuses its practice on cases under Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation system.  If you are injured at work by someone who is not an employee, you might have both a Workers’ Compensation claim against your employer and a typical negligence claim against the non-employer who caused your injury.