CHECK YOUR OWN UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED MOTORIST ("UM") COVERAGE
If you have UM coverage and have been injured due to another driver's fault (whether you were in a vehicle, on a bike, or simply crossing the street as a pedestrian), your UM coverage may apply to any damages or injuries you suffer in excess of the amount of liability insurance coverage carried by that driver.
Some fear that their insurance rates will go up if they make a UM claim on their own insurance policy. Tennessee law does not permit that sort of retaliation: "No insurer shall increase the automobile insurance rate or premium of an insured with uninsured motorist coverage nor cancel the coverage due solely to the payment of any claim under uninsured motorist coverage.
FIND OUT WHO OWNED THE VEHICLE THAT CAUSED THE COLLISION
Often, a vehicle is owned by one or more people or entities other than the driver. The liability insurance of these other owners may be available to pay your damages, even if the driver was uninsured. Don't just rely on the police report for determining who owned the vehicle. Police officers often do not have the time or resources to conduct a full investigation into who owned the vehicle. In many cases, they simply may take the driver's word for it. Personal injury lawyers usually are able to identify all of the owners of a vehicle.
CONSIDER WHETHER THE DRIVER WAS "WORKING" AT THE TIME OF THE COLLISION
If the person who caused the collision was driving in the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the wreck, or was on an errand for the employer's benefit, the employer may be liable for your injuries and damages. Also, the employer may be liable as an owner of the vehicle (see Step 2 above).
DID A DANGEROUS CONDITION OF THE ROADWAY CONTRIBUTE TO THE COLLISION?
A state or local government in certain situations may be held responsible for creating or allowing to exist a dangerous condition on a public roadway. An attorney can help you navigate through the immunities and other special privileges that states and local governments enjoy when called upon to answer for their negligence. Be sure to take numerous photographs of the area of the collision as soon as possible after the wreck.
IF THE DRIVER WAS DRUNK, WHO SUPPLIED THE ALCOHOL?
Tennessee law holds sellers of alcohol responsible for their careless sales of alcohol in certain situations. If a nightclub, restaurant, or retail store sells alcohol to a person under the age of 21 or to a visibly intoxicated person, and if that sale of alcohol is the proximate cause of the injuries for which compensation is sought, then the seller of alcohol is liable for the injuries and damages caused by its carelessness in the sale of alcohol.
This type of case, often referred to as a "dram shop" case, often is won or lost on the plaintiff's ability to extract from the defendant (the nightclub or other seller of alcohol) evidence of how much alcohol it served to a drunk driver. So, the plaintiff in a dram shop case must obtain and carefully review sales receipts, computer records, other documentary evidence, and surveillance videos to determine how much alcohol the nightclub served to the minor or visibly intoxicated patron.
IF YOU NEED HELP, CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY
This Guide is not intended to replace legal advice from a qualified attorney. If you have been injured in a car accident and want advice as to your rights, contact an attorney of your choice. Most do not charge for an initial consultation.
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