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What is Wrongful Death in Tennessee?

Posted on October 10, 2022 in

When a person dies as a result of another’s negligence or reckless actions in Tennessee, the surviving family has the right to file a wrongful death claim.

What is Considered a Wrongful Death in Tennessee?

Any death caused by a wrongful act, omission, or injury inflicted by another party is, by Tennessee law, a wrongful death (Tennessee Code Sec. 20-5-106. When the loss of a loved one is defined as a wrongful death, the party responsible can be held liable for damages.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Tennessee?

Only certain members of a wrongful death victim’s family can file a claim. Tennessee law also stipulates which family members have priority, and they are as follows:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving children, if there is no surviving spouse
  • Surviving next-of-kin, if there is no surviving spouse or children
  • The personal representative or administrator of the deceased’s estate
  • Surviving parents of the deceased, if the deceased was financially dependent on their parents at the time of death

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Damages will be awarded in a successful wrongful death lawsuit, which is compensation for the surviving family members’ losses. The types of damages commonly awarded include:

  • Medical bills caused by the accident which led to the death;
  • Funeral, cremation, or burial expenses;
  • Loss of the victim’s expected income;
  • Loss of benefits;
  • Estate administration expenses
  • Reduction in the inheritance suffered by surviving children;
  • Loss of parental guidance;
  • Loss of support and services that the victim provided;
  • Loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice.
  • Compensation for the conscious pain and suffering the deceased endured due to their injuries before their death.
  • Interest on top of the damages awarded, which are calculated from the date of death.

In some cases, the court will award punitive damages but only if the at-fault party’s actions were egregious or extremely reckless. Unlike other forms of compensation, punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party.

Leading Causes of Wrongful Death Claims

Many different types of accidents can result in a wrongful death. Some of the most frequent incidents that give rise to wrongful death claims include:

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents are the leading cause of wrongful deaths. Most fatal collisions are a result of driver negligence, such as distracted driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, driving while fatigued, texting and driving, etc.

Medical Malpractice

Medical errors are considered the third leading cause of death in the U.S. When a medical provider makes a significant mistake, patients can be severely injured or lose their lives. Many wrongful death claims are filed due to a physician’s misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose an illness or condition, surgical errors, birth injuries, medication errors, and more.

Workplace Accidents

When a workplace death is caused by a third party other than the victim’s employer, the surviving family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the third party. An employer can only be held liable in a wrongful death claim if they intentionally caused the death or did not carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Defective Products

A defective product’s manufacturer or any other party involved in its distribution chain can be liable if the defective product causes a fatality.

Other common causes of wrongful deaths in Tennessee include bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, truck accidents, and criminal acts of violence.