There is a one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee. This means that you have one year from the date of the accident to either settle your claim or have a lawsuit filed in court. Otherwise you will lose your claim.

What should I do after an incident has just occurred?

  • If anyone is injured, call 911. It is most important to take care of injured parties first.
  • Never discuss fault or responsibility for the accident at the scene.
  • Take pictures or video of both cars and the scene of the accident.
  • Obtain insurance information from the other party involved in the accident. Provide only the name and phone number of your insurance agent.
  • If you have any other questions about procedures that must be followed after an accident, you can contact an attorney for help. If injuries are involved, before you talk to an insurance agent, we recommend you talk to an attorney. We will talk to you for free.

How much is my claim worth?

It is hard for an attorney to evaluate your claim without doing a complete history or evaluation. The value of your claim is what a jury would give you for your medical expenses, lost wages, loss of ability to earn a living, pain and suffering and other damages. We cannot tell you what that would be without doing a full history and investigation into your case, and then, only the lawyers can give you a value. If you have any problems, I'm sure one of our lawyers will discuss it with you.

Medical care: What should I do about getting medical treatment?

You should go to your family doctor or to any specialist you need and get medical treatment as soon as possible. If you have health insurance or hospitalization, turn it over to the company until you get your claim processed. It will help keep the collection agencies off your back in case it takes a couple of months to settle your claim. If you do not have insurance, you should try to make whatever arrangements you can to get treatment. Most emergency rooms will see patients regardless of insurance. Check to see if you have medical payments coverage on your insurance policy and contact the company for payment.

The Insurance company keeps pressuring me to settle. What should I do?

You should settle your claim only after you have been told by a doctor that you are as well as you are going to get and have discussed with him or her your future condition and any future medical bills. Always remember that you have only one year in which to either settle your claim or file suit. After that, your claim is lost. If you have been released by the doctor, then you can place a value on your claim and contact the insurance company about a settlement.

The other party was at fault, but was not charged. Will this hurt my claim?

A police officer does not decide who was at fault in an accident. He or she only decides whether someone violated a traffic law. The violation of a traffic law is only admissible in court if someone pleads guilty. Do not worry about the officer's decision to cite the other party.

What can I do about collection letters for medical bills?

Until you have reached a settlement with the insurance company, you will get medical bills and collection letters. This is normal. You should write all the agencies and explain that you are awaiting a settlement and that you will pay promptly upon receipt. If you continue to get harassed, then you can make small payments on the bill until you get your settlement. Even if you get sued for these medical bills prior to your settlement, you will have to pay the bill for your treatment.

What damages can I recover?

You can recover current and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of your ability to earn a living (if permanently injured), pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life (inability to do prior hobbies), property damage, permanent disabilities, disfigurement (for scarring), and any serious mental injury. Your spouse can recover for the value of lost companionship and expenses paid on your behalf.

What should I do first?

The first thing to do is get medical treatment if you need it. Then, obtain a copy of the accident report from the agency that investigated. Call the other driver and explain who you are and find out if he or she has insurance. Never discuss fault with the other driver. Get the insurance company's name and call to find out who the adjuster is. Call the adjuster to find out how he or she will be handling your claim. Always remember that you only have one year in which to either settle your claim or file suit. After that, your claim is lost.

When am I allowed to get a rental car?

A rental car is possible if the accident is the other person's fault and your car has been damaged, but not totaled. The purpose of the rental is to give you transportation while your car is being fixed. (Therefore, don't wait six weeks to take your car to a repair shop and expect a rental car in the meantime.) You cannot get a rental car if your car is totaled. Call the insurance company and have it arrange a rental car for you. If it will not cooperate, write a letter outlining your request and then go out and get an inexpensive rental car, realizing that you will ultimately be responsible if your claim is not successful. Again, you can have a rental car only while your car is being fixed. If you have comprehensive insurance coverage under your own insurance policy, then your own company may allow you a rental car and it will try to collect it from the other driver.

Property Damages

If you are involved in an accident and someone else's insurance company is responsible for paying the damages to your automobile or your insurance company is responsible for paying the damages to your automobile under collision coverage, then there are two options.

First, the insurance company has the right to either repair or replace your vehicle. If it repairs your vehicle, it can do so at a place it chooses with parts it chooses. Even if your car is 95 percent totaled, the insurance company has the right to elect to repair it. However, if the insurance company does not restore your car back to the same function, value, and appearance, (after the car is fixed), then you may have a claim for additional damages. You must, however, wait until your car is fixed before you can determine whether it has been restored to the same function, value and appearance.

If the insurance company undertakes to repair your car, then you should never sign a release until you are fully satisfied that your car is restored to its same function, value and appearance. The other option is for the insurance company to replace your vehicle. (Let me remind you that it is the insurance company's decision whether to repair or replace your car). If the insurance company decides to replace your vehicle, it must pay you the market value of your car. This does not mean the sentimental value of the car simply because you've had it a long time and you are attached to it. The market value of the car can be determined in one of several ways. One way is by shopping in the area on used car lots and getting a written quote of the value of the same type of vehicle on a local car lot. Often, I encourage people to get several quotes before approaching their insurance adjuster. Another way, of course, is to go by the booklets provided to the automobile dealers associations for determining values. Usually you will have to contact a used car dealer to determine this. Once you have agreed upon a value of the vehicle with your adjuster, then he or she will decide whether to keep the wreckage or allow you to keep it. If it keeps the wreckage, then you will have to sign your title over to the insurance company.

One of the most troublesome problems is when an automobile is fairly new and is financed. You likely will have paid a tremendous amount in finance charges on the front end to finance your car and the vehicle will be worth less than what the outstanding balance is. For instance, your car may only be worth $9,000, but the payoff is $10,500. There is nothing you can do about this situation other than to pay the remaining balance yourself over and above the market value. Although this seems unfair, the insurance company is not required to pay off your car once you have a wreck.

You are not entitled to reimbursement or money damages for the inconvenience of taking your car to different shops, taking your car to the insurance company, visiting the doctor or assisting someone else in the same process. You may, however, be entitled to a rental car at a fair market rate if someone else is at fault and he or she has insurance to cover the accident. If you are claiming the accident on your collision coverage, then you should check your policy or check with your insurance agent to see whether your policy allows for a rental car.

This outline is intended to give you guidelines to go by if you have had a wreck and you need to negotiate this matter with your insurance company. If you have any further questions or if serious injuries were involved, you need to contact our office for further advice.