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I was in a car wreck and the insurance company wants me to sign a medical release, what do I do?

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.

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Deadly car wreck and motorcycle accidents are on the rise in Tennessee

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.

Unfortunately, as a Nashville injury attorney who handles car wreck cases, too often I find negligent drivers avoid their responsibility and deny accountability. I recently had a case where the driver refused to accept responsibility even though his lawyer agreed his client was at fault. When careless drivers refuse to accept accountability, you need an experienced automobile accident attorney. Call me at 615-256-8880. I can help.

Here is my email: jonathan@lrwlawfirm.com or you can contact me through my website at www.lrwlawfirm.com.

Why did I receive mail from doctors and personal injury lawyers after my car accident?

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.

If you have been injured in an automobile or motorcycle accident and need a Tennessee injury lawyer, call me at 615-256-8880.

Distracted driving is dangerous

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.

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Top Ten Driver Safety Laws in Tennessee

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.

Other highlights from the list include:

Texting While Driving Law (TCA 55-8-199) Texting while driving a vehicle in Tennessee is illegal.

Move Over Law (TCA 55-8-132) When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with visual emergency lights activated, drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to the vehicle by moving into the closest available lane from the emergency vehicle, whenever possible. When the roadway does not provide an additional lane, drivers are required to slow down and provide as much space as possible to protect emergency vehicle operators in action.

Speeding in Construction Zones Law (TCA 55-8-153) Drivers are required to obey speed limits at all times, especially when workers are in a construction zone. Violators are subject to a minimum $250.00 fine

Tennessee's DUI Law and Penalties (TCA 55-10-401 and 55-10-403) Individuals are presumed to be under the influence of alcohol with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08%. First time offenders are subject to a $350.00 minimum fine and 48 hours in jail. Vehicle towing and storage will also be charged to offenders. Enhanced penalties and sanctions will result if BAC is greater than the legal limit or if children are present at the time of arrest.

Child Restraint Devices Law (TCA 55-9-602) All child passengers through the age of eight (8) must be secured in a Child Restraint Device. Infants are required in a rear facing child restraint device in the rear seat, if available, until the age of one (1) or weighing twenty pounds (20 lbs.) or less. Children ages one (1) through three (3) weighing greater than twenty pounds (20 lbs.) must be in a child restraint device in a forward facing position in the rear seat, if available. Children ages four (4) through eight (8) and less than four-feet, nine inches (4' 9") in height must be in a booster seat in the rear seat, if available. Children above the age of nine (9) must be secured by a safety belt restraint system.

Motorcycle Helmet Law (TCA 55-9-302) All motorcycle operators and passengers are required to wear a helmet. Helmets must meet federal motor vehicle safety standards and be certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT).


Stay safe.

Is texting while driving a problem in Nashville?

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:

a) A complete description of the activity;

b) The duration of the activity; and

c) How long in seconds before the occurrence such activity ended.


In a recent study by Pew Research, two-thirds of teen texters reported being more likely to use their cell phones for texting than to dial them up and talk over a cell phone.

Other findings from the report:

-Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month. One in three send more than 100 texts a day (or more than 3,000 texts a month).

-15% of teen texters send more than 200 texts a day, or more than 6,000 texts a month.

-22% of teen texters send and receive just one to 10 texts a day, or 30 to 300 texts a month.

-Half (52%) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. That translates into 43% of all American teens ages 16-17.

-48% of all teens ages 12-17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.

-40% say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.

Texting while driving is illegal in Tennessee. It is also irresponsible.

Nashville car accidents may cause serious knee injuries

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.

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Why do I need a Nashville injury attorney?

"I was seriously injured in a Nashville motorcycle wreck. Why should I hire an injury attorney?"

If you are asking yourself this question, you are not alone. Many people think, I am not the "suing type" or "I will wait to see what the offer is first." However, if you or your family member has been injured as a result of someone's carelessness, there are several reasons why you should hire an aggressive injury attorney.Thumbnail image for autoaccident_m_02.jpg

1. Preservation of evidence. The biggest problem I run into in cases is procrastination in hiring an attorney who knows how to preserve and then aggressively pursue a claim. That is what I do. I get pictures of the car or motorcycle before the insurance company destroys it (and they do....quickly). I go meet the witnesses, myself. I get their statements, myself. I personally visit the scene to get a feel for what happened. I meet your doctors so I know what you are dealing with. It's too late to do these things at the end.

2. I work for you with the insurance companies. You can heal without worrying about forms, statements and insurance companies. That is my job. They have lawyers working to minimize your claim. You need a lawyer to work for you.

3. Medical bills. They pile up, even if you have insurance. I work with clinics, hospitals and health insurance companies all over Nashville, Franklin and Middle Tennessee to make sure you can get the treatment you need and not worry about medical bills.

4. I send a message for you of accountability. In a deposition, I always ask "Do you accept responsibility for the harm you caused my client." If the answer is "no" the jury will know they refuse to be held accountable for causing the harm and react as appropriate.

5. I don't always have to sue. Most cases are settled for a fair amount without the time and expense of a lawsuit. That only happens because the insurance companies know I am always ready to take your case to court.

6. You only pay me if you collect. I advance the expenses necessary to pursue the claim. I don't charge for my time so we can meet and talk about your case as much as you like. I can work on your case as long as it takes. I only get paid if I recover money for you.

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