Tennessee Court Upholds Conclusion That Police Officer Was Not Responsible for Accident

Typically, negligence and personal injury claims are evaluated by considering the testimony presented by each party as to what happened at the time of the accident and who was at fault. The credibility of witnesses is evaluated, experts and evidence may be provided to support each party’s version of the facts, and ultimately a judge or jury must determine whose story they believe. But what happens when one party can’t remember what happened at the time of the accident? A recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals addresses this issue.

In this vehicular accident case, T.E. sued the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Tennessee Officer B.B. after his truck was struck by the officer on a rural two-lane road. At the time of the accident, T.E.’s vehicle was partially stuck in a ditch, with the back part of his truck stretched across the road. B.B. did not see the truck as he approached, and once he realized it was obstructing the road, it was too late to stop the accident. T.E. had no recollection of the accident due to the extreme injuries he suffered, and, as a result, it was unclear whether he was in the vehicle at the time he was hit. He was found lying next to the vehicle unconscious and accrued over $300,000 in medical bills.

At trial, Officer B.B. testified that he was driving under the speed limit at the time of the accident and simply could not see the vehicle until he was too close. Both the officer and T.E. were tested for alcohol and intoxicants at the scene of the accident. T.E. was found to have a significant amount of alcohol in his system, while Officer B.B.’s blood work showed no intoxicants. T.E. testified at trial that he had no memory of the accident, but both parties provided expert testimony about whether the officer should have been able to stop in time to prevent the accident. After hearing the evidence presented to the court, the Claims Commissioner found that the trooper was no more than 25% responsible for the accident, if at all, and therefore could not be held liable for negligence. T.E. appealed.

On appeal, T.E. argued that the court erred in finding him 75% or more at fault because he had amnesia regarding the accident. Under Tennessee law, T.E. asserted, he was entitled to a presumption that he acted with due care because he could not remember his actions due to his injuries. T.E. contended that the Claims Commissioner did not give him this presumption. The appeals court acknowledged that individuals like T.E. are entitled to a presumption of due care when they cannot remember the circumstances of the accident. However, the Claims Commissioner also explained that this is a rebuttable presumption and does not mean that a defendant is automatically at fault for an accident. Here, although the Claims Commissioner initially presumed that T.E. acted with care, they found that the circumstantial evidence made clear that T.E. was the one driving his vehicle at the time of the accident and had left it in a ditch, partially blocking the road. Additionally, evidence was also provided to show that T.E. was intoxicated at the time of the accident. In total, the appeals court found that this evidence substantiated the Claims Commissioner’s conclusion that it was T.E.’s negligence with his vehicle that contributed to the accident.

If you are in a situation in which you do not fully remember your accident, or you are dealing with an opposing party who does not, an experienced personal injury attorney like Tennessee truck accident attorney Eric Beasley can assist you in handling the complicated presumptions that arise in such circumstances. For more information on seeking redress and compensation for your injuries, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court Upholds Exclusion of Evidence for Lack of Relevance, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, May 2, 2017.

Immunity from Personal Injury for Tennessee Ski Resorts, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, April 27, 2016.

The Complexities of Bringing Personal Injury Claims Against Large Corporations in Tennessee, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, March 10, 2016