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Tennessee Negligence Laws

When someone is negligent, it means they can be held legally responsible -- or liable -- for the injuries suffered by another person. A person is considered negligent by acting (or failing to act) in a certain way that results in someone else becoming injured or otherwise suffering losses.

For example, you may be sued for negligence if you fail to fix a dangerous walkway to your front door and a mail carrier becomes injured because of the hazard. In that example, the homeowner owes a duty to others to maintain a safe walkway.

Tennessee Negligence Laws: The Basics

Tennessee negligence law is generally the same as negligence laws in other states.

The basics of how the state handles negligence claims are listed in the following chart:


Tennessee Code: Section 29-11-101, et seq.

Comparative Negligence Modified Comparative Negligence: Under the legal theory of modified comparative negligence, if the person bringing the claim is found to be 50% or more at fault, they will not be able to recover damages at all.
Contributory Negligence: Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery Damages for negligence claims are reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff's fault. If the person that is bringing the claim is found to be 50% or more at fault, then they are barred from recovering damages.
Contribution Among Tortfeasors Where two or more people are jointly or severally liable in a tort for the same injury, there's a right of contribution among them. However, there is only such a contribution if the defendant paid more than their pro rata share of fault. There is also no contribution if the defendant intentionally caused the injury or wrongful death.
Statute of Limitations for Negligence Claims  Under the Tennessee Civil Statute of Limitations:
  • One year for personal injury, and
  • Three years for injury to personal property

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

The Elements of a Negligence Case

In order for a defendant to be held liable for negligence, the plaintiff must be able to prove certain elements. These are relatively uniform from one state to the next:

  1. The defendant owed a duty to another individual,
  2. The defendant breached this duty,
  3. The defendant's breach of duty caused an injury to the plaintiff,
  4. The defendant's action or inaction was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury, and
  5. The plaintiff suffered actual, quantifiable damages.

In the case of element (4) above, the injuries must be:

  • Substantially caused by the defendant's conduct, or
  • Must have been reasonably foreseeable results of the defendant's conduct.

Negligence may extend to additional parties in certain cases. For example, someone who is injured by a garbage truck whose driver was negligent may be able to sue the driver's employer in addition to (or instead of) the individual driver.

Research the Law

Consider reviewing the following resources to learn more about laws in Tennessee, including those related to negligence and negligence claims:

  • At Tennessee Law, you'll find summaries of select state laws covering a wide variety of legal practice areas, including those related to consumer, criminal, injury, and family law.
  • At Official State Codes, you'll find links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Negligence Laws: Related Resources

Consider reviewing the following to learn more about negligence laws, as well:

Need to File a Tennessee Negligence Claim? Contact an Attorney

You probably have some idea of what that accident injury will cost you, such as lost wages and medical bills. But what about the cost of special modifications to your home, the need for rides to doctor's appointments, or ongoing physical therapy? Also, you may not know all of the parties potentially liable for your injuries. That's why it's a good idea to work with a Tennessee personal injury attorney, who can guide you through the process.

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