Each state has the authority to establish insurance laws within its jurisdiction. While some states use the “no-fault” doctrine, many typically opt to employ the general tort standard of “fault” when settling auto accidents. State legislators in Tennessee have chosen the latter for auto accident injury claims and have established modified comparative negligence as the type of system.
The problem with modified comparative negligence
In Tennessee, cases are settled based on the 50% bar rule as opposed to the 51% bar rule. This means that neither driver in a two-car, 50-50 fault accident will be financially reimbursed for any accident injuries. This is much different than the pure comparative negligence rule that pays all drivers who are not completely at fault for an accident, and it is even harsher than the 51% bar in other modified comparative negligence states.
Determining who is responsible for an auto accident
Insurance companies try to impact official accident reports as much as possible when cases are being investigated. The official report does not finalize fault, but it gives insurance providers a baseline to offer reduced injury claim settlements to those who are not driving. In addition, many times, insurance companies use the 50% bar rule to deny drivers any insurance benefits for motor vehicle accidents that cause injuries. Who was ultimately at fault is actually determined by the jury when a denied accident claim goes to court for a full evaluation.
How cases are settled for drivers
Accident injury claims for passengers often do not make it to the trial phase. Many insurance companies settle with passengers outside of court. However, drivers who are assigned over 49% fault in Tennessee will find themselves going to court to defend their fault assignment and seek whole damages for auto accident injuries for as much as the law allows. Any assigned comparative negligence percentage of 49% or less will be utilized to discount the total value of injury claims.
No-fault insurance law requires drivers to maintain personal injury protection up to a certain amount, which then means they would turn to their personal policies for initial financial recovery. Tennessee vehicle owners can carry this coverage, which means that it could apply, but, typically, all cases are settled based on the 50% rule.