By: Brandon M. Allen
Let’s face it: Winter is tough.
Once the holidays are over, we are staring down months of cold weather and a general lack of sunshine. This is also a good combination for dangerous roads and slippery walkways.
Law firms are impacted by seasonal changes and current events like many other industries. So what’s the next step if you find yourself injured after being hit by another motorist or slipping down on that patch of ice that should’ve been salted? Like many issues in the practice of law, it depends.
In a perfect world, cars would apply brakes automatically if a distracted driver failed to notice a stop sign. Property owners would salt their walkways before someone fell and got hurt.
Unfortunately, injuries happen daily and come in all shapes and forms. So if you do find yourself on the side of the road looking at a crumpled car and wondering what’s next, allow me to break a few things down for you. It goes without saying that your first step is to get help. Many people feel that a lawyer should be the first call after an injury. I am here to move that call a few items down on your list. If you’re hurt, call an ambulance. Call the police. Call your loved ones to let them know what is happening.
Tennessee has a statute of limitations that generally allows you one year to file a claim based on a personal injury.
There are some exceptions to the rule and you should always consult with an attorney in order to determine the best steps for you personally, but those are details reserved for a personalized review of your case. In the meantime, try to keep a log of your daily activities after you are hurt. What can you not do that you were able to accomplish before you got hurt? What did that insurance agent tell you on the phone a week ago? How much time did you lose at work before you could go back and resume your daily activities? These are all important questions that are more easily answered if you have kept track as they are occurring.
So you aren’t getting anywhere on your own and decide you need to enlist the help of an attorney; now what?
The first step an attorney will take is to review your case and determine whether the law firm could be of assistance to you. If so, the next steps could go in one of several directions. In some instances, your case may be resolved by corresponding with the opposing party and working out details to reach an amicable agreement. In other situations, your attorney may need to file suit in order to begin the process of taking your case to trial. This process also involves a timeframe that we call discovery. Discovery allows the parties adequate time to request information and documents that may be helpful in determining an outcome in the case. For instance, if you were injured by falling inside a store, then your attorney may request information from the store related to security camera footage or procedural manuals to determine if the store had an action plan for cleaning up spills. Sometimes a party may be injured and share some fault in the injury. This does not inhibit your ability to recover restitution. In Tennessee, your recovery may be reduced by the percentage you were at fault. However, if the other party played a role in your injury you may still be eligible to recover.
The only time I’ve seen a courtroom is on a re-run of Law& Order; what if I am nervous about this part of the process?
I will preface this paragraph by telling you that many cases are now settled before they see a courtroom. Lawyers have tools at their disposal that offer opportunities to settle your case prior to trial. Mediation is a perfect example of such a tool. Mediation is an opportunity to sit down with your attorney in an office or conference room with a third-party who has access to representatives on both sides of the case. The third-party is called the Mediator, and this person travels back and forth from one side to the other acting as a neutral. Mediation is not as formal as a courtroom and allows the parties to speak openly and frankly on the resolutions they seek. If a resolution is agreed upon, your case can settle there and will not have its moment in a courtroom. But have no fear, if an agreement is not reached in mediation, your attorney will know how to navigate you through a trial. Each Court has its own set of rules and formalities which your attorney will understand and explain to you.
If you need assistance with any legal matter, including personal injury, feel free to give our office a call at (865)966-4343 and set up a personal consultation with one of our attorneys. We would be happy to look over your case and establish the best path forward to fit your needs.