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In most personal injury claims many of the terms listed below will appear. 

Accident Report – The report that is generated by the investigating governmental agency after a complete investigation. The report should identify:  the drivers of the vehicles, the owner, time, date and place of the collision. The report is a public record that will be produced upon written request. Accident reports are not admissible as evidence in a civil trial in Tennessee.

Insurance – There are several different types of insurance and related terms that may appear in a personal injury claim. Below is a brief description of the insurance types that are most common:

  • Liability Insurance – Insurance that is required for ownership and operation of a motor vehicle for use on the roadways in Tennessee. It is a contract that provides coverage under certain conditions for the use of a motor vehicle with a limit on the amount to be paid if the insured driver is at fault.
  • Collision Insurance – Insurance coverage to pay for the damage to a motor vehicle involved in a collision. This coverage usually requires payment of a deductible in a set amount (usually $500.00) and it pays regardless of fault. *This coverage is mandatory to protect the lienholder (often a bank) if the vehicle is financed. 
  • Comprehensive Insurance – Insurance coverage for damage to a motor vehicle due to natural events including flood, wind, hail and other weather events. It also provides coverage for vandalism and theft. This coverage usually requires payment of a deductible in a set amount.
  • Medical Payments – Insurance coverage for a set amount that pays for medical expenses or funeral expenses up to a set amount.
  • Uninsured Motorist – Insurance coverage that provides protection against injury from another driver’s fault when that other driver has no liability insurance. 
  • Umbrella/Excess Coverage – Insurance that is a separate layer of coverage up to a set amount, usually $1 Million or more.

Negligence – The legal test that determines whether a person’s conduct fell below a certain standard. It is usually an act or omission. An example of a negligent act would be a driver running a stop sign. An example of a negligent omission would be the failure to do an act that would prevent injury to another person, such as failure to keep a dog on a leash and the dog runs at large and bites a person.

Damages – In a civil claim it is the award of money to compensate for the harm that was caused by the person at fault. Below is a brief description of the various types of damages that may be awarded:

  • Compensatory Damages – The total amount of money damages to be paid to the injured person due to a third party’s negligence. There are two sub-categories:
  1. Economic Damages are the objectively verifiable pecuniary damages arising from medical expenses and medical care, rehabilitation services, mental health treatment, custodial care, loss of earnings and earning capacity, loss of income, burial costs, loss of use of property, repair or replacement of property, obtaining substitute domestic services, loss of employment, loss of business or employment opportunities.
  2. Non-economic Damages are physical and emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of society, companionship and consortium, injury to reputation, humiliation, noneconomic effects of disability, including loss of enjoyment of normal activities, benefits and pleasures of life and loss of mental or physical health, well-being or bodily functions; and all other nonpecuniary losses of any kind or nature.

*In Tennessee there is a maximum cap of $750,000.00 for non-economic damages.

  • Punitive Damages – Money damages that may be awarded if the injured person proves the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently or recklessly. An example of someone acting recklessly is when a negligent driver causes injury while driving a car while intoxicated.
  • Nominal Damages – Minimal damages for minimal harm; for example, a person who trespasses but causes no physical damage to property.

Plaintiff – The person who has been harmed due to the fault of someone else due to negligence.

Defendant – The person or business that caused the harm due to negligence.  

Hospital Lien – In Tennessee there is a statute that permits a hospital to file a lien for all reasonable and necessary charges for hospital care, treatment and maintenance of ill or injured persons on account of illness or injuries giving rise to such causes of action or claims and which necessitated such hospital care due to an injury caused by another person’s fault or negligence. The hospital must file the lien in the county where the medical service was provided and in the county where the injured person resides. It must be filed within 120 days of the hospitalization or date of treatment.

Subrogation – Often referred to as “right of reimbursement,” it is the legal right established in an insurance contract that permits repayment to an insurer when there is an at fault event that requires their obligation to pay. For example, many health insurance policies require the injured person (or their attorney) to repay any amount that has been advanced or paid on behalf of someone who is injured and who then seeks a claim against the at fault person’s liability insurance. A letter notifying the injured person of a lien claim is usually sent within thirty days of payment. The following insurance policies or instances may result in the claim a subrogation lien:

  • Health insurance;
  • Collision Insurance;
  • Workers’ Compensation;
  • TennCare/MEDICAID;
  • Child Support Arrearage;
  • Tax lien;
  • Short Term Disability;
  • Medical Payments Insurance

Made Whole Doctrine – The legal principle that an injured person must be compensated fully for all harm she has suffered due to the fault or negligence of someone else.

Statute of Limitations – The outer limit in which an injured person in Tennessee may legally present a claim for their damages. The statute of limitations in Tennessee for:

Injury to Person is One (1) Year. 

Injury to Personal Property is Three (3) years

Most injured individuals have no prior experience with the law. Even for those who do, the process of filing a personal injury claim can be complicated and confusing. Here at Jeff Roberts & Associates, PLLC, we want to help you remain informed and confident throughout the process. Our team is here to answer all of your questions and address your concerns from start to finish. Wondering if you can even file a personal injury claim? Not sure if you should accept the settlement offered by the liable insurance company? Browse our glossary of terms to find the answers you need! We can help you understand what to expect from the process, as well as the steps involved in filing a claim and how to secure the full, fair settlement or verdict you are owed.

Don’t see a term your looking for here? Have specific questions about your case? Contact us online or by phone at to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Because each case is different, it is always a good idea to meet with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

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