Survivors’ Safety a Top Concern After Recent Nashville Tornado Strikes


Locals in the Nashville area woke to an unexpected development in the early hours of Tuesday morning. On Tuesday, March 3rd, tornado alerts and sirens sent area residents fleeing to their basements and bathrooms just before 2 am. Quick action saved the lives of many, but not everyone was spared in the wake of the sudden storm.

Storm Casualties and Damage

At least 24 people have died as a result of the storms, according to the most recently available information from the Associated Press. Many more were seriously wounded, and countless homes and businesses have been severely damaged.

The downtown neighborhoods of East Nashville and Five Points were hit the hardest by the devastation. Neighborhoods north of downtown also sustained major damage, including Germantown, Salemtown, and Historic Buena Vista. Several beloved Nashville venues and businesses were among the casualties, including the popular Basement East venue, the Burger Up restaurant, and the Molly Green clothing store.

Anyone who lives, works, or attends school in the Nashville area should be extremely cautious as they return to damaged properties. Hazards like exposed nails, sharp debris, or exposed wires could lead to further injury or death.

Environmental hazards such as mold growth can also arise in the days and weeks after a natural disaster. Property owners should be especially conscious of their responsibility to maintain a safe environment for tenants, visitors, and patrons.

If you have been hurt or have had a close family member killed during or after the tornado in Nashville, you may have financial recourse through a premises liability claim. Work with a premises liability attorney in Nashville to seek damages from negligent property owners whose failure to maintain a safe property led to serious injury or death.

Storms Snuck Up on Nashville Early Tuesday Morning

As Nashville residents went to bed on the night of Monday, March 2, 2020, they had little indication that tornadoes might stir them from their sleep. Severe storm warnings were issued Monday evening, which cautioned individuals in East Tennessee that damaging winds and hail may arrive between 9 pm and 3 am. Tornadoes were listed as a possible consequence of the severe weather, but the threat level was perceived as “low.”

Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse around 1 am Tuesday. Emergency weather alert systems notified people in the areas affected, giving some time to take shelter before the storm hit.

One couple from Cookeville, Tenn. recounted being woken up at 1:50 am and hearing a “deep roar.” Seth Wells and his partner, Danielle Theophile, took shelter in their bathtub, which was sent flying into the air as a tornado hit their home and obliterated its structure.

“I have no clue how we survived,” Wells told CBS News, saying the experience was, “like ‘Wizard of Oz’.”

Both survived, but they sustained injuries. Theophile reported that her forehead was “split open” by flying debris, necessitating 15 stitches.

Tornadoes Cause Destruction Across Multiple Counties

Multiple counties were affected by the tornadoes that developed in the major storm system.

NewsChannel5 Nashville lists the following casualties for each county affected:

  • Davidson County
    • Two deaths in East Nashville
    • 156 injury treatments
    • 50,000 people without power
  • Putnam County
    • 18 deaths
    • 88 reported injuries
    • Some individuals still unaccounted for
  • Benton County
    • 1 death reported
    • 25 homes severely damaged, including four destroyed
  • Wilson County
    • Three deaths
    • Extensive damage in Mt. Juliet
  • Donelson
    • Extensive damage to homes and businesses

In total, 42,000 people remain without power in the Nashville area, with thousands more reporting outages in Putnam County.

Survivors are urged to exercise caution when re-entering structures and to remain sheltered during the night to reduce a possible spike in crimes. Several local cities have instituted temporary curfews in order to protect citizens.

Dangers Can Linger in Damaged Structures

After a tornado passes and the storm subsides, dangers can remain.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 50% of injuries in a tornado-affected city arose after the tornado had already passed. Many injuries were suffered as a result of rescue attempts, cleanup, returning to damaged structures, and other post-tornado activities.

Dangerous debris is a primary concern, with over a third of injuries arising from stepping on nails. Falling objects and heavy, rolling objects are also a risk to be aware of.

Damaged utility infrastructures can create a host of hazards. Power lines, gas lines, electrical systems, and other building or community infrastructures can give way to gas leaks, explosions, and electrocutions.

These dangers may be unavoidable in some situations, but in other situations hazards can result from negligent property owners. All property owners are expected to exercise “reasonable care” while following all applicable building codes, relevant regulations, and tenant-protection laws.

When a property owner lapses in their duty of care and this lapse causes an injury or death, victims may have legal grounds to file an injury claim or lawsuit. This lawsuit holds the property owner responsible for the damages their negligence has caused. Common damages awarded after a successful claim include: medical bills, lost wages, out of pocket costs, pain and suffering, and more.

Always be cautious when re-entering structures damaged by severe weather. Avoid exposure to possible downed power lines or structures with exposed utility lines. Report all suspected hazards to the respective utility company.

Take extreme care when approaching areas with debris or severe structural damage. Exposed nails, broken glass, and jagged metal can all cause serious injuries.

In the days following the weather event, work with your property owner to enact necessary abatement protocols, including measures to get rid of lingering water damage and prevent the growth of mold. These can cause respiratory issues and chronic conditions through repeated exposure.

Seek Damages with a Nashville Premises Liability Lawyer

Natural disasters are usually unpredictable, and they’re always unavoidable. Damages caused can usually be claimed through the policy of the person affected, including their homeowners’ insurance, business disruption insurance, and other appropriate remedies.

However, damages caused specifically by the negligence of a property owner may have to be filed through that property owner’s liability insurance policy. To do so, victims have to be prepared to prove that the property owner’s negligence was the primary cause of the incident and resulting injuries.

For instance, most structures are not built to withstand the full force of a tornado. But some structures have dangerous flaws that should have been addressed before severe weather events. These neglected buildings may collapse or become extreme hazards as a result of the property owner not exercising the appropriate level of care.

Similarly, property owners who fail to warn or address hazards promptly in the aftermath of a tornado could be directly responsible for resulting injuries.

Anyone hurt during or after a tornado or who has had a loved one killed because of a property owner’s possible negligence can seek legal representation to build their personal injury case. They can talk to a Nashville premises liability lawyer during a free consultation.

These appointments are important for families who have no financial means to pay for effects that linger long after a tornado has disappeared. By taking action, they can hold property owners responsible for the consequences of unacceptable negligence.

As survivors’ stories emerge in the wake of the recent Nashville tornadoes, hopefully some of them recount how justice was served after a property owner made a bad situation so much worse through negligence, neglect, and failure to exercise due diligence.


About The Author

Michael Steinger

Michael Steinger

The Florida BarFlorida Bar Young Lawyers DivisionMillion Dollar Advocates ForumMillion Dollar Advocates ForumBest Workers Compensation Attorneys in MiamiBest Car Accident Lawyers in MiamiLawyers of distinction

MICHAEL S. STEINGER, founding partner of Steinger, Greene & Feiner, believes in representing real people, not big businesses. Since the firm’s creation in 1997, Steinger, Greene & Feiner has never represented an insurance company or large corporation, and he vows to keep this promise. Over the course of his career, Michael has handled thousands of Florida accident cases, recovering millions of dollars for his clients and earning him membership into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Staying up-to-date on the ever-evolving laws protecting injury victims and their families, Michael is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Palm Beach, and St. Lucie Bar Associations, and sits on the Auto Insurance Committee of the Florida Justice Association.