Knoxville Federal Court Dismisses Time Barred Car Accident Case: Hudson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
In Hudson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., a woman was rear-ended by an unidentified driver in October 2010. Following the car accident, the woman reported the collision to her automobile insurance company. She also made arrangements to have her vehicle inspected for damage. About seven months later, the woman sought payment for medical expenses that were apparently related to the car wreck as part of her uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
About three months later, the insurer sent the woman a letter stating the statute of limitations would expire on the one-year anniversary of her traffic accident if she failed to settle her claim or file a lawsuit against the company prior to that date. A statute of limitations is a maximum time limit during which a lawsuit may be filed. If a plaintiff does not file his or her case before the prescribed statute of limitations expires, the plaintiff is normally permanently barred from recovering any damages, regardless of his or her harm. Soon after receiving the letter, the woman finally sought medical treatment for the injuries she allegedly sustained in the rear-end automobile crash. After an initial consultation, the woman's doctor diagnosed her with a "lumbar torsion" that may have been caused by the motor vehicle collision, and she began receiving physical therapy. Her auto insurer then denied the woman's personal injury claim because it determined that her physical harm was not related to the traffic crash.
A few days before the statute of limitations expired, the injured woman filed a case against her insurer in Blount County, Tennessee. Several months later, she filed a second case, adding her husband as a loss of consortium plaintiff and the unknown driver as a defendant. She later amended her lawsuit to include a claim for negligence against the unknown motorist who struck her vehicle as well as Tennessee Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), bad faith, and breach of contract claims against her car insurance company. The insurer then successfully removed the lawsuit from state court to the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division.