What is Wrongful Death?

wrongful death

Wrongful death is defined as a civil action where damages are sought against a party that caused death. This falls under civil claims and is considered a personal injury claim. We want to go more in depth about what is wrongful death, when do you have grounds to file a lawsuit, and the stipulations in Tennessee. Keep reading to find out more about wrongful death.

What is Wrongful Death?

cars in an accidentTypically a wrongful death lawsuit is filed when someone has died due to another person’s negligence or misconduct. Sometimes a criminal case is filed also, but a civil case is filed separately. A criminal case results in imprisonment, probation, or other punishment, while a civil case results in the liable party paying out damages.

You may be wondering what constitutes a wrongful death. There are several situations that could be considered wrongful death. They include medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, toxic torts, manufacturing defects, and criminal activity.

In Tennessee specifically, a wrongful death case is treated as a personal injury case where the injured party can’t bring their own claim to court. The responsibility of filing this type of lawsuit falls to the next of kin.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

lawyer talking with clientIn many states, the person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit is a surviving family member or a personal representative of the living relative. The living relatives can be referred to as “real parties of interest.” Most states allow spouses, children, and the parents of unmarried children to act as representatives of the deceased to sue the liable party.

Tennessee law states that the responsibility falls to a surviving spouse. If there isn’t a surviving spouse, the claim falls to these individuals in this order:

•The surviving children of the deceased person or next of kin
•The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate
•The surviving parents or parent, if the deceased person was dependent on a parent at the time of death
•The administrator of the deceased person’s state, if the deceased person was a dependent at the time of death

Proving Wrongful Death

Basically, the same proof for any other personal injury case applies to wrongful death. The representative of the deceased must be able to prove the death was caused by negligence or a breach of duty. If death was caused by negligence, you must prove the actions of the liable party were reckless, careless, or negligent. If death was caused by a breach of duty, you must prove the liable party owed a duty of good faith to the deceased. Some examples of this include motorists having a duty to drive safely and follow laws or a medical professional having a duty to maintain a person’s health.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

person handling papers

There are two kinds of damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death case. They are economic and noneconomic. The economic damages include medical and funeral expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, lost household or other services, loss of support and income, and lost prospect of inheritance. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering of the deceased person before they died, which is also known as a “survival” claim. Other noneconomic damages include care, guidance, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided, as well as loss of love and companionship.

Statute of Limitations in Tennessee

Each state has its own statute of limitations. In Tennessee, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit up to 1 year after the date of death of the deceased person. If the family members do not file a case within this year, their case will be forever barred as untimely by the statute of limitations.

Now you know what wrongful death is and who can file a claim. Do you think you have a wrongful death case? Contact one of our personal injury lawyers to set up a meeting for more information.

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