Nashville is among the most-visited cities in the U.S. Each year, more than 14 million people make the trip to Tennessee’s largest city, its vibrant downtown lit up by neon and energized by never-ending crowds. Home to some of the best-known record labels and entertainment artists in the country, Nashville has more than earned its reputation as America’s “Music City.”
However, traveling down Nashville’s famous Honky Tonk Highway isn’t without its risks. In the city’s busiest bars, accidents happen, and with alarming regularity. While most of these mishaps are little more than painless misadventures, some accidents—often borne of proprietor negligence—have life-altering repercussions.
If this happens to you or a loved one, here’s what our Tennessee premises liability attorneys want you to know about your rights.
Honky Tonk Bars and the Risks of Injury
Honky Tonk Highway is one of Nashville’s best-known attractions. While this strip of bars and restaurants on Lower Broadway downtown is but four blocks long, it hosts hundreds of world-class establishments. Many of the Highway’s best bars feature live music every day of the year, attracting large crowds and enthusiastic country music fans.
Honky tonks, though, are known for more than their music. In many of Nashville’s most famous honky tonks, patrons often throng back-to-back and chest-to-chest, outnumbering staff and security by a massive margin. Even for the most experienced property owners, ensuring safe premises can pose an unprecedented challenge. Any accident—a broken glass, an unexpected puddle, or even an out-of-control fistfight—could have catastrophic consequences.
Nashville Bars and the Duty of Care
Honky tonks, like every other establishment that serves alcohol, often struggle to ensure every visitor’s safety. However, bars have responsibilities that go far beyond ensuring visitors receive high-quality drinks and entertainment. Under Tennessee state law, every business open to the public—from honky tonks to supermarkets—has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to protect customers from unreasonable risks of harm.
Defining “reasonable care” isn’t always easy, but legal precedent suggests that property owners have a duty to mitigate so-called dangerous conditions. A dangerous condition could include, but isn’t limited to:
- An accumulation of water or alcohol in a high-traffic location
- An over-crowded dance floor
- A physical altercation that is not promptly addressed or contained
- Inappropriately loud music that results in hearing loss or impairment
- Inherently unsafe property elements, such as broken stages or unmaintained guardrails
For most honky tonk operators, reasonable care takes the form of both routine and proactive maintenance. Businesses actively anticipate and correct safety risks by employing security guards and janitors, while addressing others—like physical altercations—if and when they arise.
Bars that fail to exercise reasonable care can, under most circumstances, be held liable for the costs of any resulting accident.
Filing a Nashville Honky Tonk Accident Premises Liability Claim
Tennessee state law provides accident victims the legal right to file a claim for compensation against the person, or party, who caused their injuries. But this right is conditional—victims must be able to establish the following elements present in most successful premises liability claims.
Duty of Care
The Tennessee Code, and Tennessee legal precedent, both state that property owners must take reasonable care to protect patrons from unreasonable risk. This duty is sometimes referred to as a “duty of care.” When filing a premises liability lawsuit, accident victims must be able to demonstrate that the property owner owed them a duty of care. This is sometimes straightforward, but could prove challenging if the victim was injured directly outside the premises or in a restricted-access area.
Breach of Duty of Care
A honky tonk or other bar breaches its duty of care by acting recklessly. An act of negligence could include any of the following:
- Failing to mop a floor after being informed of a spilled drink
- Failing to remove an aggressive, violent, or otherwise problematic customer
- Failing to respond to visitor complaints about inadequate lighting on a dance floor, in a smoking area, or in any other area maintained by the bar
However, businesses only breach their duty of care if they were actually aware, or had reason to be aware, of a dangerous condition.
A premises liability claim is only actionable if the property owner’s negligence was the direct or proximal cause of the victim’s injuries. A claimant must be able to prove this.
A Tennessee court can only award compensation if the accident resulted in actual damages. Damages could include both physical injuries and related financial losses, as well as some comparably abstract harms, such as emotional pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment.
Your Potential Damages After a Nashville Bar Premises Liability Accident
Tennessee recognizes three broad categories of damages:
- Economic. This is compensation for verifiable financial losses. Examples include paid medical expenses, anticipated care needs, and lost income from work.
- Non-economic. These are comparably subjective losses resulting from the incident. They may include emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment.
- Punitive. These are non-compensatory damages enforced by the court intended to punish an egregious act of negligence.
Tennessee, like most other states, doesn’t cap the economic damages available in most honky tonk premises claims. However, there’s often a limitation on both non-economic and punitive damages, although exceptions may be made for victims who sustained unusually severe injuries.
Modified Comparative Fault in Tennessee
Tennessee is a “modified comparative fault” state, which means that a personal injury claimant’s damages can be reduced in accordance with their fault. Your potential compensation could also be contingent on the court’s finding of shared or comparative fault. So if you’re found to be more than 50 percent at fault for your injuries, it’s unlikely you’ll recover compensation.
How Honky Tonks Try to Minimize Their Liability in Premises Liability Claims
While victims have the right to file a claim for compensation, Tennessee state law also proactively protects the interest of businesses. If a honky tonk or other type of bar contests your allegations, it could raise any of the following defenses:
- Assumption of risk. If a visitor understands, or should understand, that conditions within a property could be dangerous, then the property owner may not be held liable for any resulting damages. A honky tonk could raise this defense if a patron is injured by dangerous conditions clearly inherent to the property, or to most bars, such as crowding or loud music.
- Open and obvious condition. Visitors, just like honky tonks, also have a legal duty of care. If a dangerous condition is “open and obvious,” people are expected to make reasonable efforts to reduce foreseeable harm.
- Modified comparative fault. If a visitor is found partially at fault for their accident, their damages could be reduced proportionately to the court’s determination of shared fault. This might result in a significant reduction in damages, sometimes amounting to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, you don’t have to accept a negligent business’s excuses.
The Advantages of Working with an Experienced Nashville Premises Liability Lawyer
Weir & Kestner Injury Lawyers have spent years litigating premises liability claims in Nashville and throughout the region. We can help you secure a fair settlement by:
- Investigating the causes and circumstances of your Nashville honky tonk accident.
- Sending a spoliation letter to prevent the bar from destroying critical evidence.
- Collecting, preserving, and analyzing evidence of the dangerous condition that caused your accident.
- Assessing your damages and consulting with medical experts to determine your long-term care needs.
- Negotiating with the bar and its insurance company until we reach a fair settlement, whether you live in Nashville or were visiting from out-of-state.
It’s imperative to act quickly in a honky tonk accident. Tennessee has a strict statute of limitations, which is the time period you have to file a premises liability claim. If you wait too long to contact an attorney, you could lose your rights to fair compensation.