A wrongful death claim arises when a person dies as the result of the legal fault of another person. Wrongful death claims can involve many types of fatal accidents such as car accidents, product liability cases, intentional acts of other persons, negligence of persons, companies, and/or governmental entities. A wrongful death claim in Tennessee can be filed by an individual who is deemed by the court to be “next friend,” who is often a representative on the behalf of the survivors who suffered damage from the decedent’s death. This representative is usually the executor of the decedent’s estate. The wrongful death of an individual due to the fault of another person or entity can give a cause of action to the survivors in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit that seeks compensation and recovery for the survivors that includes lost wages from deceased, lost companionship, funeral expenses, and loss of consortium. In general, in Tennessee survivors can recover on adequate proof the following categories of damages.
Economic damages refers to the financial contribution of the victim to the survivors and no longer available as the result of the untimely death, such as:
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Loss of earning from the victim
- Loss of benefits i.e. health insurance, retirement from the victim
- The value of goods and services the victim would have provided the survivors
Non-economic damages include damages such as loss of care, protection, guidance, advice, training and nurturing from the deceased, loss of society and companionship from the deceased, loss of consortium from a deceased spouse.
Punitive damages are a special category of damages that are not available in all wrongful death actions and are sometimes not recoverable against all defendants. Punitive damages are normally reserved for situations involving especially bad conduct or intentional actions by the individual or entity causing the wrongful death.
Please be advised that there is a statute of limitations that governs the amount of time that the survivors of the deceased have from which to file a wrongful death claim. It is good advice to consult with an attorney to determine the survivor’s rights and remedies in wrongful death actions. My office has handled wrongful death actions for surviving family members both with compassion and competence and are ready, willing and able to serve you in your time of need.