- Don’t Leave the Scene: stay at the scene of the car wreck with your vehicle. Make sure you are in a safe place and out of danger. Turn your hazards on to notify other oncoming vehicles.
- Protect Your Health: call and wait for emergency responders, even if you think you are okay. Wait for the ambulance to get medical attention. After a car wreck you may be in shock and not notice the severity of your injuries.
- Talk to the Right People: you should make sure all of your passengers are okay and call the police. The police will come to the scene to do a traffic incident report so you have a record of the accident. You must notify your insurance company about the accident but you are not required to talk to the other driver or the other driver’s insurance company. If you hire us, we can communicate with your insurance company so you don’t have to.
Here is a quick reminder from Nashville car wreck and injury attorney Jonathan Williams of what to do if you are involved in an automobile accident.
1. Call the Police-Get an accident report from the police even if it seems minor. This can be critical to scene recreation if necessary. It also helps identify witnesses and is helpful for the car insurance companies and attorneys to get your claim started quickly. The Metro Nashville Police Department non-emergency line is 615-862-8600.
2. Medical Attention- If you are able, ask if the other parties are okay. If you are injured, seek immediate medical attention for yourself or call 911. Don’t wait. Untreated injuries may get worse over time. Make sure you tell the Doctor about all possible injuries.
The Tennessean reported today that Nashville is one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. You can read the article here. It includes the following report:
A report released this week identified the Nashville metro area as one of the most dangerous for pedestrians. The study by Smart Growth America, an advocacy group on pedestrian and urban design issues, looked at the number of pedestrian deaths and how often people are walking in those cities.
The Nashville metro area — with 210 pedestrian deaths between 2003 and 2012 — ranked 15th most dangerous out of the 51 areas studied. Memphis was fifth worst, behind four metro areas in Florida.
If you have been injured in a car wreck, you have probably received forms from an insurance adjustor giving that at-fault driver’s insurance company access to your medical records. It happens in nearly every claim. Should you sign them? Probably not; at least not until you talk to an experienced injury attorney who handles car wreck claims.
Your medical records are private and protected from disclosure by federal HIPAA laws. But, when you get hurt and seek money from an insurance company, you put your entire medical history up for review. That is okay, as long as it is controlled. Many insurance companies will send medical releases that allow them to talk to your doctor. That is called ex-parte communication and it is not allowed, unless you agree to it.
There is no testimonial privilege for doctor-patient communications in Tennessee. Givens v. Mullikin ex rel. McElwaney, 75 S.W.3d 383, 407-08 (Tenn. 2002). There is, however, an implied covenant of confidentiality between a physician and a patient arising out of the original contract of treatment for payment. Id. This implied covenant specifically precludes informal discussions with a law firm employed to defend the patient’s claim: “[A] physician breaches his or her implied covenant of confidentiality by divulging medical information, without the patient’s consent, through informal conversations with others.” Id. However, this covenant of confidentiality can be waived by the patient by signing the form. So don’t do it until you talk to an attorney.
It’s the same for work injuries, you get hurt and the forms arrive. But the workers’ compensation laws in Tennessee have a provision that requires the injured worker to sign a form called a C-31 medical waiver and consent form. You can find a copy of that form here, click to download the form C-31. I have seen some insurance companies sneak terms into a C-31 that allows the insurance company to talk to the doctor. This type of form should not be signed.
In almost every car wreck or motorcycle accident claim, or really any type of claim for serious injuries, I control the flow of information about medical records. We provide the insurance company with all of the records. We sometimes give them an agreed protective order allowing them access to the records, at their expense, but the order does not give the insurance company permission to speak privately with your doctor.
The Tennessean reported today that the more than 300 people have died since January 1 this year on Tennessee roadways. Car wreck fatalities are up more than 13 percent for the same period last year. Prior to this year, the number of deaths from automobile collisions was declining.
The article states that TDOT has identified several trouble spots, dangerous roads, perhaps poorly designed, where collisions happen most often. Moreover, many of these tragic accidents occurred as a result of motorcyclists not wearing helmets and drivers not wearing seatbelts. Helmets and seatbelts are important. Alcohol related collisions are still a problem. However, it is clear that the number of car wrecks and motorcycle injuries would decline if distracted driving decreased and drivers paid more attention to the cars and motorcycles around them.
A driver has a duty to keep his eyes on the road and be aware of what is around him. The law requires a car and motorcycle driver to use due care by taking reasonable steps to avoid a collision. Keeping distractions at a minimum and driving sober are the easiest ways to use due care.
The short answer is because the Tennessee accident report is a public record and they need work. Although there are ethical rules regarding attorney solicitation of this type of case, the rules do not out-right prohibit direct mail solicitation from a Tennessee personal injury attorney. If you have been injured in an automobile accident or motorcyle wreck in Tennessee, you have probably received these types of letters. But, you have not received them from my firm. We don’t do it. We never will.
Some medical offices pay people to search for people injured in car crash. In Nashville, these records are available for less than a dollar. In Brentwood, car crash reports are available online. I am sure the same is true in for other areas in Tennessee as well. When someone needs work, they go find it. But should you hire a doctor (or any professional) who finds you or should you find them? Probably the latter.
The same goes for lawyers. I do not recommend hiring a Tennessee injury lawyer who contacts you by mail. When hiring a lawyer for an automobile accident, you should check their rating, ask someone you know who used that lawyer before, check on their successes, see if they have ever tried a case. One important factor to consider is case load. Will you be lost in a large cabinet of hundreds of cases and only have contact with a legal assistant? Or, will you be given personal service from a lawyer you know and trust? One who answers and returns his/her own phone calls. It seems you don’t get this type of service from a lawyer who does not have enough to do that he/she has time to find your report and solicit you directly.
Distracted driving in Tennessee is dangerous. The United States Department of Transportation has produced a nice website, The Faces of Distracted Driving, which highlights the problem. The site has interesting statistics and compelling stories.
- In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. Distracted driving comes in various forms, such as cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers, as well as using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
- Police-reported data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling show that:
- In 2009, there were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States, which involved 45,230 drivers. In those crashes 33,808 people died.
- In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
- The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
- The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
- The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group – 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
- Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
- Light-truck drivers and motorcyclists had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crash (12% each). Bus drivers had the lowest percentage (6%) of total drivers involved in fatal crashes that were reported as distraction-related.
- An estimated 20 percent of 1,517,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009.
The Tennessee Department of Safety has compiled a nice list of top ten driver safety laws in Tennessee. Violation of one of these laws is negligence per se. That means the legislature has determined that you are negligent if you violate these laws but the specific act of negligence must be the cause of the injury.
As a Nashville injury lawyer, I must also make sure my clients follow these laws. Tennessee is a “comparative fault” state. This means the jury compares the fault of the careless driver with the victim. If the victim was texting and could have avoided the collision but for texting while driving, a judge could reduce the damages by the percentage of fault of the victim.
Regarding seatbelts, the failure to “buckle up” is usually, in most cases, not admissible evidence in a Tennessee automobile accident case. There are a few exceptions, most notable product liability cases involving the safety of the automobile.
As a Nashville injury lawyer, I have met with a lot of Tennesseans injured in a car wreck. A car or motorcycle crash usually occurs when a driver doesn’t pay attention. It is careless to take your eyes of the road. In these cases, I develop a theme, the rule, that a driver has to keep his eyes on the road. If he does not, he is responsible for the harm.
A car wreck attorney should always ask the at-fault driver, “What were you doing when this collision occurred?” Why? Because he was probably texting or on the phone (accidents happen when you take your eyes off the road). I also send this written question:
If during the three minute period immediately before the impact with the Plaintiff’s vehicle you were engaged in any activity which required the use of one or both hands, such as smoking, using a cell-phone, adjusting equipment or touching some person or object, please identify and describe such conduct or activity in detail, including in your response:
Victims of careless drivers in Nashville sometimes have knee injuries from a car wreck or motorcycle wreck. The injuries can include broken bones, torn knee ligaments and may even lead to a total knee replacement. An experienced Nashville injury attorneys, we know how to show the real damage done.
In a recent Nashville motorcycle wreck case I handled, the knee injury was severe. There were several broken bones. My job was to show the claims adjustor and ultimately the jury the actual injury so that that they ccould see how severe the injury was. Obviously we can’t see the inside of his knee. Jurors are not radiologists so the Xrays were not too helpful by themselves. The doctor testifying that there was a “broken knee” doesn’t paint the picture too well either.
So I hired a medical illustrator that I have used in many cases to color in the Xrays so that everyone could see what actually happened. In the Nashville motorcycle crash case, we showed rthe illustration to the doctor who said it was accurate and testified that this is what the injury looked like. Remember, this is done from the actual Xray films.
We also had the illustrator draw the surgical procedure done to fix the broken knee bones and another drawing showing the actual plates and screws in the knee. This let everyone involved in the case see what the careless driver did to the client and what was done to fix the injury. This is an expensive endeavor and not appropriate for every case. But in my opinion, in this case, it added thousands of dollars to the claim.
I have uploaded the broken knee illustration below and I have removed the patient’s name.