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How Traffic Cameras May Affect Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

Traffic cameras are commonplace throughout Tennessee. And while we tend to think of cameras in terms of ticketing drivers for speeding, they can also provide valuable information in the event of a car accident. This can prove especially helpful (or not so helpful, depending on your perspective) in the event an accident victim brings a personal injury lawsuit.

Footage Shows Plaintiff Mostly At Fault for Serious Crash

In a recent case, the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a personal injury lawsuit arising from a 2009 car accident. The plaintiff was driving his car on the Highway 45 Bypass in Jackson, Tennessee, when he entered a turn lane intending to execute a left-hand turn. As the plaintiff did so, his car collided with a tractor trailer. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries and subsequently sued the driver and owner of the tractor trailer for negligence.

Before the trial court, the defendants presented evidence from the traffic camera at the intersection. The video showed the plaintiff had a red light when he began his left turn into the intersection. Two defense experts further testified based on the footage, the tractor trailer was traveling at a speed of no more than 52 miles per hour, which was under the applicable speed limit. This evidence contradicted the plaintiff’s expert, who suggested the tractor trailer was going between 60 and 65 miles per hour at the time of the crash. The plaintiff’s theory was that the defendant driver’s speeding left him insufficient time to brake when he saw the plaintiff’s vehicle in the intersection.

The trial judge did not see it that way. The court granted the defense’s motion for summary judgment. Under Tennessee’s modified comparative negligence system, a plaintiff cannot recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit if his or her liability for the accident is 49 percent or less. In this case, the trial court determined “no reasonable minds could find anything other than the fact that [the plaintiff’s] actions in driving that morning of the accident constituted negligence, and negligence per se, and that his actions were the proximate cause of the accident, at least to the extent of 50% fault.” The judge also found the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony “fundamentally flawed” and inadmissible.

In an unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment. The appeals court noted the plaintiff conceded he made “an illegal left turn across the path of oncoming traffic,” And even if, as the plaintiff claimed, the defendant was speeding through the intersection (when he had a green light), no “reasonable juror could find [the plaintiff] to be less than 50% at fault for the accident.” Indeed, the Court of Appeals said given the “video footage of the accident,” there was no need for a jury to determine whether the plaintiff was at least 50 percent at fault. It was essentially an undisputed fact.

Need Legal Help After a Car Accident?

Not all car accidents are so easily reconstructed from traffic camera footage. In many cases, expert reconstruction and circumstantial evidence is crucial in determining fault. That is why it is important to work with an experienced Tennessee personal injury lawyer. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, in Clinton or Knoxville if you need help today.

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