The Lawsuit Explosion

It seems like everybody is suing everybody.   How many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are filed in circuit court every year in Tennessee?

Believe it or not, the number of lawsuits for personal injury cases and wrongful death cases in Tennessee is staying about the same, despite the increases in population.

There were 10,659 such cases filed in circuit and chancery court in Tennessee for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.   In the previous year there were 11,171, so filings were down about 5%.   The year before (ending June 30, 2007) the total number of filings were 10,165.

To put this in perspective, consider that during the year ended June 30, 2009 there were 30,000 divorce actions filed in our circuit and chancery courts.  Indeed, there were over 168,000 criminal charges brought in criminal court during the same period.

All of this is not to say that there are not lawsuits that are filed that should not be filed.  Some lawsuits are filed that are just plain stupid.  Some lawsuits are filed because the person sued or their insurance company refuses to accept responsibility for the harm they caused.  Many, many lawsuits are filed because the parties have a legitimate difference of opinion on the cause or value of the matter in dispute and thus must go through the court process to gain information to assist them in evaluating the case.

There is one other primary reason for the number of lawsuits we see, and that is because Tennessee has the shortest statute of limitations in the country for personal injury and wrongful death cases.  Subject to several exceptions, the general rule is that in personal  cases a lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date of the injury.  Wrongful death cases must usually be filed within one year of the date of the injury that later caused the death.   Most states have longer periods of time to take legal action, and thus there is a greater opportunity to settle a case before a lawsuit is filed.  The failure to file a lawsuit on time results in a loss of rights, so many lawsuits in Tennessee must be filed because the case is not in the right posture to be settled.

Do not assume that your deadline for taking legal action has expired unless a lawyer familiar with all of the facts has told you that it has in fact expired.  There are some exceptions to these general rules.  Likewise, do not assume that you have more than one year to act unless a lawyer tells you that you do.  In fact, under some circumstances you can actually lose your rights well before the one-year period expires, so it is wise to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as quickly as reasonably possible after you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another’s conduct.

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