Who may file a wrongful death claim in Tennessee?

Only certain parties may be eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Tennessee.

The loss of a loved one leaves the person's survivors, understandably, in shock and mourning. Initially, mulling over the circumstances under which someone in Tennessee passes away may take a back seat to the family's grief. However, when the death is a result of negligence, it is essential to review what the law says about taking legal recourse.

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is just one way survivors may begin to put the pieces of their lives back together. True, it will not bring back the decedent, but it may be able to restore some of the other losses the family has experienced.

Filing the suit

Wrongful death is defined as a fatality that occurs due to injuries that someone else causes, either through omission or some type of act. Therefore, any number of incidents could lead to a claim, such as the following:

  • Distracted or drunk driving that causes a car accident
  • A hazardous condition in a public building that leads to a fatal fall
  • Being struck by a motorist while in a crosswalk

When these and other acts of negligence result in death, survivors may file a lawsuit. However, only certain people have right to the claim. Under the law, the first person who may bring the suit is a surviving spouse, unless that spouse had abandoned the deceased. If there is none, then surviving children or the decedent's next of kin may sue. From there, the order proceeds to a personal representative of the estate, then the surviving parent or parents who were dependent on the deceased, then the administrator of the estate in the event that the decedent was dependent at the time of death.

Damages available

For some, it may seem a little disconcerting to think about filing a lawsuit during such a difficult time. However, these claims provide compensation for the crippling costs many families experience. For example, damages could include money for funeral and burial expenses. Further, these suits take into account the lost earning capacity and the lost wages of the decedent. Survivors may also claim damages for the suffering they have endured due to losing a loved one, such as physical and emotional pain.

Statute of limitations

In order to seek recovery, families must initiate a wrongful death lawsuit within one year of the person's death. According to Tennessee law, failing to meet that deadline likely means forfeiting the right to the claim, though there could be some exceptions based on events unique to each case.

People who have questions regarding this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in Tennessee.