If you’ve been injured in a car accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company may not negotiate in good faith to arrive at a fair settlement to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In fact, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to obtain the compensation you deserve.
In Tennessee, civil matters such as car accident lawsuits are heard in either a General Sessions Court or Circuit Court.
General Sessions Court
General Sessions Courts serve every county in the state of Tennessee. These courts are also known as courts of limited jurisdiction because they can only try certain types of criminal and civil matters. Following are some important things to understand about filing your car accident lawsuit in a General Sessions Court:
- Monetary damage awards cannot exceed $25,000.
- A judge—not a jury—decides your case.
- Decisions from the General Sessions Court may be appealed to the Circuit Court. These appeals are heard de novo, meaning the trial starts over as though the original one never occurred.
Circuit Courts have authority to hear all kinds of legal matters, including serious criminal offenses and felony traffic violations, contract disputes, domestic matters, and civil matters (including car accident injury cases). Following are some key things to know about filing your car accident lawsuit in Circuit Court:
- Jury trials are available.
- There is no limit on monetary damage awards.
- Decisions from the Circuit Court may be appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The court reviews the records from the earlier trial to determine if there was an error that should be reversed—it does not take testimony or admit new evidence.
Determining the Best Court for Your Car Accident Injury Case
There are pros and cons to filing a lawsuit in either of the two courts. For example, the ability to appeal an unfavorable General Sessions Court decision and have a new trial in Circuit Court may be an advantage in some situations. The ability to request a trial by jury in Circuit Court may be an advantage in other situations. But the best court for your lawsuit is the one that your attorney recommends after reviewing your specific situation and deciding how best to handle your case. After all, your attorney has the knowledge and experience to know what will work best.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, it’s important that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal options. If you are ready to get started, call our office or start a live chat with us now. We look forward to speaking with you.