Understanding Personal Injury Law in Tennessee

A personal injury claim is one in which an injured person alleges that another person's conduct or that of a business or other entity fell below a certain standard of care, and the breach of that standard led to a physical or mental injury resulting in economic and noneconomic damages. A personal injury can be caused by someone's negligence or intentional act.

Injury claims are brought in various causes of action including medical malpractice, product liability, motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, and wrongful death. Each has its own set of elements, laws, standards of care, proof of liability, and compensable damages that are generally governed by the state where the injury or wrongful act occurred.

Where Should I File My Claim?

The Tennessee General Sessions Court is one of limited jurisdiction. It hears cases only if your injury claim is no more than $25,000. The Circuit Courts have unlimited jurisdiction to hear personal injury cases with a value of more than $25,000.

The Statute of Limitations for Tennessee

The statute of limitations restricts the time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit to one year including wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. But for some medical malpractice actions, you may have up to three years from discovery of the negligent act. This can apply in cases where it was not known that a foreign object like a medical sponge was left in a body cavity and caused the alleged injury.

For minors under 18, the statute begins to run on the minor's 18th birthday, with some exceptions.

How Are Damages Awarded?

Tennessee law places a limit in personal injury cases for non-economic damages at $750,000 and $1 million for catastrophic injuries. Non-economic damages refer to the subjective element of damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium or intimate relations.

A catastrophic injury is defined under state law as:

  • Paraplegia or quadriplegia
  • Amputation of both hands or feet, or one of each
  • Third-degree burns over 40 percent of your body
  • Similar burns up to 40 percent of your face
  • Wrongful death of a minor child over which you had custody

Economic damages, however, are unlimited and include loss of past and future earnings, past medical expenses, and future medical bills if reasonably certain.

The law does not impose a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

Is Tennessee a Comparative Fault State?

Most states have rules that only allow you to recover a percentage of your proved damages based upon your degree of comparative fault, if any. Tennessee is a 49-percent state, meaning that you may only recover damages if your responsibility for the accident is less than 50 percent.


Personal injury cases are tried in civil courts and begin with jury selection where questions are posed to potential jurors by the court and attorneys attempting to seat a fair and impartial jury.

The plaintiff and defense attorneys each present an opening statement to the jury. Then the plaintiff attempts to prove his or her case through testimony and the introduction of medical, employment, and other records. The defense attorney cross-examines each witness and may object to certain testimony and evidence.

The defense may then choose to present its own witnesses in opposition to the evidence presented, generally by offering its own physicians, other experts, and lay witnesses.

After each side rests their case, closing arguments are made followed by jury instructions. Then the jury retires to deliberate and reach a verdict.

Speak to a Personal Injury Lawyer

A personal injury lawyer from Tennessee can handle each aspect of your claim from filing an insurance claim to investigating and accumulating supporting evidence to negotiating a settlement or trial. Talk to one today to ensure you get full value for your claim.

Have a legal question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer

Get Professional Help

Find a Personal Injury lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys

Talk to an attorney

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you