By Jedidiah McKeehan

When I meet with individuals who are considering hiring an attorney to represent them in regard to claims they may have for injuries related to their car wreck, I always explain to them that there are two primary components that need to be present in order to win their case: liability and damages.

When I say “damages,” what I usually mean is your injuries.  If you have received medical treatment for the injuries you sustained from your car wreck, then you have sustained damages.  If you were not injured in the car wreck that you were in, then you typically do not have damages, and you may not have a case that is worth pursuing.  Along with the injuries to your body, you may have some lost wages, but typically, the primary component of your “damages,” is the medical treatment for injuries you sustained to your person.

However, that is not what I want to focus on in this article.  What I instead want to focus on is the, “liability,” portion of your claim.  If you cannot show that the wreck was someone else’s fault, then you do not have a case that you can pursue.

So, let’s break down how we prove that another driver is liable for the wreck that you were in.

The first thing that you will have to show is that the other driver had a duty to act in a certain way.  Well, this is pretty easy.  If a driver is operating a motor vehicle on a public road, or even a private road, then they have taken on the duty of operating their vehicle in a safe manner and with enough care to avoid striking other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

The second thing that you will have to show is that the other driver breached their duty by failing to exercise reasonable care in the operation of their vehicle.  Often times, when police arrive on scene after a wreck has occurred, they will cite a driver for, “failing to exercise due care,” which is usually a very good indicator that they are the one who caused the wreck.

Tennessee is what is called a, “modified comparative fault,” state when it comes to liability in car wreck cases.  That means that someone injured in a car wreck can only recover from the other driver if they are deemed to be less than 50% at fault for the wreck.  However, if the judge or jury determines you had any percentage of fault in the wreck, they will reduce the amount you are awarded.  For example, say you have $10,000.00 in damages, but you are found to be 20% at fault.  Well, you will only be awarded $8,000.00.

This sounds crazy, but in a few states that follow “pure comparative fault,” even if the other driver is only 5% at fault, you can sue them and recover 5% of the value of your damages.  So, using our above example, you could still recover $500.00 from the other driver for your $10,000.00 in damages.

So, if you have been involved in a car wreck, know that one of the main components you have to prove to win your case is proving the liability of the other driver involved in the wreck.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.