I was in a car accident in Dickson, Dickson County, Tennessee. A witness said the accident is partially my fault and partially the fault of the other driver. What happens if I am determined to be partially at fault?
Under Tennessee law, if a person who is injured negligently contributed to his or her own injuries the damages that can be recovered are reduced proportionately. This principle is part of our "comparative fault" law. The law "compares" the negligent conduct of each person or entity that contributes to cause an accident.
This is best explained by an example. Assume that Sally was hurt in an automobile accident that occurred at an intersection when Bill ran a red light and his vehicle hit the side of her car. Assume that the the case is not settled and a jury later determines that Bill is mostly at fault, but that Sally is also at fault because she was speeding. The judge will tell the jury to assign a percentage of fault to Bill and Sally, and the jury determines that the accident was 90% Bill’s fault and 10% Sally’s fault. (The fault percentages must always total 100%). Also assume that the jury determines that Sally’s total damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, etc.) entitle her to compensation in the amount of $100,000.
Under these facts, Sally would be able recover only $90,000 from Bill, because her 10% fault would reduce the damages she could recover from Bill by 10% ($10,000).
If Sally had been found 20% at fault, her damages would have been reduced by $20,000. Sally’s recoverable damages would continue to be reduced as her percentage of fault increases. If Sally’s fault is determined to be 50%, under Tennessee law she would lose her right to any recovery from Bill.
So, Tennessee’s comparative fault system allocates financial responsibility for accidents. A person who is free from fault recovers 100% of his or her losses (assuming that the person who caused the accident has the ability to pay for the harm caused) and recovers a lower percentage of his or her damages if he or she negligently contributed to cause the injuries.