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What Happens If the Jury Thinks I’m Equally to Blame in My Personal Injury Lawsuit?


In personal injury lawsuits, the defendant will often try and shift the blame to the plaintiff. For example, if there is an accident involving two cars, the defendant driver may attempt to argue it was the plaintiff who was actually driving recklessly. Or even if the defendant admits doing something wrong, he may still try and claim the plaintiff was equally responsible for causing the accident.

Such a strategy is often effective because of Tennessee’s modified comparative negligence rule in personal injury cases. Comparative negligence refers to the practice of having the trier of fact–a jury or judge–apportion fault among all responsible parties. In some states, such as Kentucky, the law follows a “pure” comparative negligence standard, which means the plaintiff can still recover some damages regardless of their own fault. But Tennessee follows a modified standard, which bars any recovery if the plaintiff is at least 50 percent liable.

Judge Refuses to Reconsider Jury’s 50/50 Verdict

Apportioning fault is not an exact science. It is largely within a jury’s discretion to determine the percentages without regard to a particular formula. And judges are reluctant to second-guess juries, as illustrated by this recent decision by a federal judge in Chattanooga.

The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant’s store in Chattanooga. She was injured when she collided with a large merchandise cart operated by one of the store’s employers. The plaintiff subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit, alleging the store was negligent in allowing the employees to overstock the cart, making it impossible for the employee to see if anyone was in the way.

The store raised a comparative negligence defense. While admitting there was an accident involving the plaintiff and one of its carts, the defense argued the plaintiff “failed to exercise reasonable care for her own safety” by not paying attention to where she was going. After a two-day trial, the jury determined that each party was 50 percent responsible for the accident. Under Tennessee’s modified comparative negligence rule, that means the plaintiff recovered nothing.

The plaintiff then asked the judge for a new trial, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s allocation of fault. Federal judges in Tennessee will only throw out a jury’s verdict if it is “seriously erroneous.” Here, the judge determined that was not the case and noted, “The Court lacks license to reweigh this evidence or to draw a conclusion that differs from the jury’s conclusion, even if it believes another outcome would have been more reasonable.”

Get Help From a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer

Tennessee’s comparative negligence standard means it is critical to present your strongest possible case to a jury. An experienced Knoxville personal injury attorney can investigate the underlying cause of your accident, gather any necessary expert testimony, and ensure that no detail is overlooked before you step foot inside a courtroom. So if you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence and need advice on how to proceed, contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, to schedule an initial consultation today.



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