Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Chattanooga, TN?
Having someone in your family die unexpectedly is a devastating experience. These incidents are even more tragic if someone else is responsible for your loss.
If someone you love died due to someone else’s negligent actions, one way you can hold the liable party accountable is to file a wrongful death claim. However, Tennessee law only gives certain people the legal right to file a claim. If you’re unsure of whether you are entitled to wrongful death compensation, it can be helpful to seek advice from a compassionate lawyer.
At Davis Firm, LLC, we can answer any questions you may have about Tennessee wrongful death claims. Our dedicated and empathetic Chattanooga wrongful death attorneys have decades of experience with these kinds of claims, having tried more than 200 personal injury cases in court.
To make sure everyone gets the high-quality legal representation they deserve in a wrongful death case, Davis Firm, LLC doesn’t charge any fees unless we win compensation for you. Although we know money cannot possibly make up for your loss, we do aim to provide financial security as you move forward in life.
Get your free initial consultation today by calling our Chattanooga office or visiting our contact page.
What Is Wrongful Death in Tennessee?
Like personal injury claims, wrongful death cases are based on the legal doctrine of negligence. This means that you can take legal action if someone’s reckless or intentional actions caused you harm.
In a personal injury claim, the accident victim would file a claim against the negligent party. However, wrongful death cases are filed by surviving family members on behalf of the deceased.
Tennessee law defines a wrongful death as one caused by the wrongful actions (or failure to act) of another person or entity. The law also says that if someone is purposely killed by another party, their passing is considered a wrongful death. You can also file a wrongful death claim if the deceased initially survived the accident, but later died from their injuries.
Accidents That Can Result in Wrongful Death
Sadly, there are many different ways in which an accident can result in someone’s wrongful death. The most common types include:
- Car accidents: The latest figures from the Tennessee Department of Safety indicate that 1,230 people died in traffic accidents in a recent year. Many of these accidents are the result of negligent driver behaviors, such as drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, and more. If someone dies in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, that would likely be considered a wrongful death.
- Truck accidents: Commercial semi-trucks are significantly longer, bigger, and heavier than passenger vehicles, even SUVs. When these trucks collide with passenger cars, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are much more likely to suffer serious injury or death. Many common causes of truck accidents, including fatigued driving, driver inexperience, and speeding would likely qualify for a wrongful death claim.
- Motorcycle accidents: Motorcyclists are more likely to suffer fatal injuries in an accident because they have less protection than those in other types of vehicles. Motorcyclists are also at greater risk because they are less visible on the roads. If a biker is struck and killed by another driver, the motorcyclist’s surviving family could have a viable wrongful death case.
- Premises liability incidents: Property owners and managers have a duty to protect those living on or visiting their premises from harm. When owners fail in this duty, such as by not making timely repairs, the careless party(s) can be held liable if someone is killed.
- Defective products: Defective product cases run the gamut from dangerous medications to exploding appliances. The companies who design, manufacture, and market these products can be held liable for wrongful death if you can prove they did not exercise due diligence when developing their goods for sale.
- Nursing home abuse: We count on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to take care of our elderly family members, but they sometimes fail to uphold their responsibilities. From handling residents too roughly to failing to make sure they’re getting enough to eat and drink, there are many ways that nursing homes or their staff can cause someone’s wrongful death.
- Medical malpractice: Despite their rigorous training and experience, medical professionals are only human, which means they make mistakes. Sometimes those errors are so egregious that a family member has a valid legal claim against the practitioner, hospital, or clinic where the malpractice occurred. From surgical errors to prescribing the wrong medications and more, medical errors can easily lead to someone’s wrongful death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Tennessee?
Tennessee law outlines who can file a claim after someone’s wrongful death. There is also an order of priority when it comes to filing a claim:
- Surviving spouses: Spouses have first priority for filing a wrongful death claim. The courts may deny a surviving spouse’s right to a wrongful death claim if they are deemed mentally incompetent or in certain other cases, such as if the spouses had been separated or were in the middle of divorce proceedings.
- Surviving children: If the deceased has no surviving spouse or the surviving spouse waives their right to file a claim, any surviving children have the right to file a wrongful death claim. If the surviving children are minors, the courts will appoint someone to represent them in the case.
- Surviving parents and other next of kin: If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, or if those individuals waive their rights to a claim, the deceased’s surviving parents and other family members can file a claim. Next of kin includes relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other dependents.
- Executor of the deceased’s estate: If the deceased left a will, their appointed representative can file a wrongful death claim once any surviving family members have made or given up their claims.
- Court-appointed administrator of the estate: If the deceased did not leave a will or designate a personal representative before they died, any other surviving family members or dependents can petition the courts to be named administrator of the deceased’s estate. Once an administrator has been named, he or she can file a wrongful death claim.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered?
Tennessee law allows surviving family members to recover compensation for many different kinds of losses following someone’s wrongful death. These include:
- The deceased’s funeral and burial expenses
- The cost of the deceased’s medical bills prior to death
- The loss of economic support from the deceased, including any potential retirement benefits and other money they could have earned
- The loss of emotional support from the deceased
- Any mental or emotional anguish you’ve suffered as a result of the deceased’s death
In addition to a standard wrongful death claim, Tennessee also allows surviving family members to file a separate but related claim known as a survival claim. A survival claim allows surviving family members to recover compensation for injuries suffered by the deceased before they died. This includes compensation for damages like:
- The deceased’s pain and suffering
- The deceased’s mental or emotional anguish
- Any of the deceased’s property that was damaged in the accident
Fighting for Wrongful Death Compensation in Chattanooga
Proving a wrongful death claim isn’t easy. You’ll need substantial evidence to show that the liable party or parties are responsible for your family member’s death. You’ll also need to fully document all of your injuries and losses, as well as those sustained by your family member prior to their death.
What’s more, Tennessee law states that you only have a year from the date of your family member’s death to make your claim. If you wait too long to get started, you’ll risk losing out on your chance to receive any compensation for the loss of your family member. This is why it’s so important to talk to a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.
How Can Davis Firm, LLC Help Me?
You deserve compensation for the pain you’ve suffered from a family member’s wrongful death. But fighting that battle while you’re grieving isn’t something you shouldn’t have to worry about. As you work through your grief, let Davis Firm, LLC work on building your case.
We can handle all aspects of your wrongful death claim. We’ll collect the necessary evidence, identify all liable parties, negotiate aggressively for a full and fair settlement, and bring your case to trial if that’s what it takes to give you the best possible chance for maximum compensation. All the while, you’ll get personalized care and attention from a committed and experienced wrongful death lawyer in Chattanooga, TN.
When you’re ready to get started, we’re here. Call or contact us today for your free and private consultation.