Information You Should Ask Witnesses
April 6, 2023
When you’re injured and your vehicle is damaged in a vehicular collision because of someone else’s negligence, it's possible you may assume your insurance policy will cover everything and extract what they can out from the at-fault driver. While this sounds great in theory, matters can get a bit complicated. Both insurers—yours and the other driver’s—are in the business to make money, which means they’re going to watch the bottom line as carefully as possible, even if it means stretching the rules a bit.
This is why it’s essential to get an attorney’s support as soon as you’ve been in an accident. If you or a loved one has been involved or injured in a car accident in or around Knoxville or Farragut, Tennessee, protect your rights and interests by contacting the accident/personal injury legal team at the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed. We will handle the claims adjuster’s questions and negotiate for the best possible settlement, and if necessary, file a lawsuit to seek the just compensation due you.
We also proudly serve clients in surrounding counties, including but not limited to Anderson, Blount, Union, Maryville, Oak Ridge, Loudon, and Clinton.
When you call in a claim, the insurance company is going to assign you a claims adjuster to question what happened. This is, mostly, done to determine fault.
For example: You were driving down the road obeying all speed limits and other laws when someone slammed into your rear and you ended up with head, neck, and spine injuries. However, your brake lights weren’t functioning, and the driver behind you was caught off guard when you slowed down or went into a stop.
Under Tennessee’s principle of modified comparative negligence, you can be assigned a percentage of the fault for your brakes’ malfunctioning. Say your total claim for property damage and personal injuries comes to $25,000, but the claims adjuster for the at-fault driver determines that you’re 20 percent (or more or less) at fault for your brake situation. In this case, you may be able to recover only 80 percent of your losses, or $20,000.
Worse yet, if the claims adjuster for the at-fault driver’s policy gets you to answer some question that adds more fault to your part in the collision—say you admit you were paying too much attention to text messages or eating a sandwich and thus being distracted—the settlement could be even less. That’s the role of a claims adjuster.
When you are injured in a vehicular collision, you need to gather as much evidence as possible to bolster your side of the story, and that includes questioning any witnesses and getting their statements and contact information. You also need to seek professional legal advice and representation, so you don’t open the floodgates to the claims adjuster’s tactics without even realizing it.
Car Accident Claims in Tennessee
Tennessee is an at-fault auto insurance state. What this means is that you have three options when you are injured and/or your property damaged in an auto accident:
First, you can file a claim with your own insurance company, which will seek a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance.
Second, you can file the claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurer.
Third, you can file a lawsuit to recover for property damage and/or personal injury.
However, remember that when going through an insurance claim or a court case, your part in the accident will be assessed under Tennessee’s modified comparative negligence rule—also known as the 52 percent rule. What this means is, if a claims adjuster or jury finds your fault in the accident to be above 50 percent, you cannot recover from the other driver.
Gathering Information After an Accident
When the accident occurs, provided you don’t have to seek immediate medical care, you must take several steps to document what happened. This includes, of course, gathering the other driver’s contact and insurance information. It also can include taking photos or videos of the scene. If there are witnesses, you should approach them for their statements and contact information as well
Questions you should ask of witnesses include but are not limited to:
“What time did you arrive at the accident scene?”
“Where were you coming from and where were you heading when the accident happened?”
“From your perspective, what were the weather and road conditions like?”
“In your own words, can you describe in detail what you saw?”
“Did you have a clear view of the accident? How far away were you?”
“Do you know of any other witnesses who may have more information?”
It can be beneficial if you also record the answers on your smartphone, but you should obtain their permission to do this. Tennessee requires one-party consent, which means that you can record as long as you’re a part of the conversation.
Additional Information to Gather from Witnesses
The witnesses may also possess specialized knowledge of the accident. Perhaps they have a background in medicine or they may have known someone involved in the accident. These characteristics/circumstances can help you get more valuable insight into what happened. Keep probing until you have full insight into what they witnessed and what they can bring to bolster your evidence against the at-fault driver
Let Us Guide Your Through the Claims Process
Though you have one year to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver, an insurance company won’t honor a claim that’s submitted that late. Your policy will have a prompt-reporting clause in it, which means you have days or maybe a week or two to file a claim. Then, once you do file, the next voice you hear on your phone will be a claims adjuster, whose role is to limit any settlement from the parent company.
If you or a loved one has been involved or injured in a car accident in or around Knoxville or Farragut, Tennessee, contact our legal team at the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed. We’ll handle the claims adjuster and if warranted, file a lawsuit.
For cases with significant injuries, we have traveled throughout the state to Jefferson County, Union County, Hamilton County, Cocke County, Cumberland County, Monroe County, and more. Reach out immediately after your accident wherever you are.