Is It Legal to Settle Car Accidents Privately in Tennessee, and Is It a Good Idea to Try?
Hundreds of millions of dollars are paid out every year in motor vehicle accident claims in the US, with most cases settling before they go to court.
The usual process involves car accident victims filing a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance company for the cost of property damage, medical bills, and more.
However, some people choose to settle privately to save money on car insurance and avoid a lawsuit- but is this advisable (or even legal) in Tennessee? Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also explain how much most motorcycle accident settlements are.
The Short Answer
The short answer is yes, it is legal, but it is not usually a valid option.
Although there is no law against settling a car accident privately in Tennessee, there are very few circumstances when it is likely to succeed.
Tennessee car accident laws also state that any car accidents where one or more driver involved sustains even minor injuries or there is more than $50 worth of damage must be reported to the police.
If drivers fail to report an accident that meets the above criteria, they could be in trouble.
What Is a Car Accident Settlement?
A car settlement in a car accident claim is when both parties involved agree on the amount of compensation to be paid by the at-fault party and their insurance company to the victim without going to trial.
How Do They Work?
Car accident settlements work by first determining liability and proving fault, then the opposing parties negotiate terms for payment of damages. The idea of the settlement process is to get quicker results and avoid laborious court trials.
It works for both sides, with the defendant avoiding the hassle of appearing in court and the victim getting the compensation they deserve without unnecessary additional stress.
The victim's vehicle accident lawyer has the job of pushing for the highest possible settlement offer, while the lawyers from the defense team (usually the insurance company) attempt to drive it down.
Settling a car accident is much faster than going to trial, but it can still take a long time to agree, so some people decide to do it themselves.
What is a Private Settlement?
A private settlement skips the lawyers, police, and insurance company. Instead, the involved parties agree privately to an exchange of money in return for moving on and forgetting about it. If it sounds risky, that's because it is.
When Can a Car Accident be Settled Privately, and When Should the Insurance Company Be Involved?
The type of car accident case when a private settlement is appropriate or even possible is very uncommon. They should only be considered in extremely minor motor vehicle accidents where nobody is hurt and the property damage is minimal.
Example of When Private Settlements May Work
Say, for example, a car is moving around a one-way parking lot in the wrong direction.
A car pulls out slowly to leave, and the two cars bump into each other They are both moving at just a few KM per hour, the bump is light, and both cars have nothing more than a few scratches to the paintwork.
The person who caused the accident (in this case, the car driving the wrong way) offers to pay for the damage privately without using their insurance. The drivers know each other and have a mutual friend.
In this case, a private settlement process is a possibility.
Example of When Private Settlements Don't Work
However, if the second driver claims the other was going too fast, so they didn't have time to stop, or the damages turn out to be greater than expected, an auto accident insurance claim should be filed.
There cannot be any doubt or debate, and the two parties rely on trusting one another to follow through on the deal.
What Are the Risks of Settling Privately?
Like any 'easy route,' there are risks involved with attempting to settle privately.
Drivers may be breaking the law if they fail to report injuries and property damages. Always get a police report even if there is no desire to submit a personal injury claim.
Damage after a car crash can be more expensive than first expected and leave nasty surprises for Tennessee drivers who offer to pay out of pocket.
If there is no relationship between the parties, it is difficult to establish trust that the other will follow through with the deal.
It is not always possible to prove fault at the scene, so coming to an agreement over who should pay is not as simple as one may think.
Some injuries do not present immediately. A private settlement does not cover future medical treatment and the lasting impact an injury could have.
Accepting a private settlement offer takes an auto insurance claim off the table. If things don't work out and the deal falls through, the only other option is a lawsuit.
The Tennessee car accident statute of limitations is one year from the date of the accident, so time is limited to start a personal injury lawsuit after the fact if a private resolution doesn't work out.
All things considered, private settlements are far from the easiest option- there are more risks than rewards unless the case is clean-cut, very minor, and there are no resulting injuries.
Who Should File a Claim for a Car Accident Lawsuit or Settlement?
Always file a claim after an auto accident in Tennessee if:
Anyone was injured (no matter how minor)
The property damage is any more than a scratch (worth $50)
There is disagreement over who is the at-fault driver
Why Hire an Expert Tennessee Car Accident Lawyer from Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys?
Car accident claims are complicated, even in simple accidents. There are various levels to any case, and having the help of an experienced and dedicated attorney can make all the difference.
From helping to establish and prove the other driver's negligence and fault to leading negotiations for a fair settlement from the insurance company, it feels good to have someone fighting for the victims and their rights.
At Schuerger Shunnarah, the team goes to war for Nash car crash victims and leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice and compensation. They can help with other questions like Are u turns illegal in Tennessee?
Drivers may not always be legally obligated to pursue settlements through an insurance adjuster, but it is generally the best way forward. Doing so with the best legal minds in Nashville on the team is the best way to reach a successful and satisfactory settlement.
Contact the Team Today
Arrange a free consultation with Schuerger Shunnarah Trial attorneys today, and settle your Tennessee car accident claim the right way.