While no amount of money could ever replace your loved one, with the assistance of a Knoxville personal injury, you can file a wrongful death claim to hold those responsible accountable and to recover your financial losses.
Hotz & Associates, P.C. has extensive experience in wrongful death cases, and we’ll work hard to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Schedule a free consultation by calling (865) 582-0042 today.
What Tennessee state law defines as wrongful death
In Tennessee, if someone’s death was caused by injuries they sustained as a result of negligence or criminal wrongdoing, then it’s considered a wrongful death. However, only certain people can file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover the financial losses associated with the death (called damages).
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Tennessee?
Only certain persons have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit, beginning with the surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, the right to file passes through the following parties:
- The deceased’s children
- Their next of kin
Or the administrator of the deceased’s estate (known as the personal representative) can file the suit. If the representative files a suit, any money awarded will be divided among the estate’s beneficiaries.
The personal representative can also file a survivor’s action or survival claim which is similar to a personal injury case that the deceased could have filed if they didn’t die from their injuries.
The surviving parents are next in line if they provided financial support to the victim at the time of their death.
What are some common accidents that result in wrongful death?
Just about any kind of accident caused by negligence could lead to a wrongful death such as:
- Vehicle accidents (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.)
- Medical malpractice
- Intentional acts, such as murder
Wrongful death claims have special deadlines. Make sure you file in time
In Tennessee, you have one year from the death to file a wrongful death lawsuit called the statute of limitations. This means that you only have one year from the date of your loved one’s death to take legal action. If you let this deadline expire, then you won’t be able to file a claim.
Potential damages you could claim
The damages you recover in a lawsuit are compensation for the financial losses stemming from the wrongful death. The goal is to compensate the surviving family members for the financial and emotional support they’ve lost. Damages can be sought through a wrongful death claim brought by an eligible family member or the deceased’s estate or through a survival action.
Damages in a standard wrongful death claim
Surviving family members, either in an action brought by one of the family members or the estate, can be awarded damages for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills that remain outstanding after the death
- The deceased’s lost wages and the income or other benefits they would have accrued if they survived
- The care and emotional support that the family members lost as a result of the wrongful death which may include the deceased’s pecuniary or “full” value of life.
Full value of life
These damages are for the future losses associated with the wrongful death, including loss of companionship, love, and affection. They also include the net financial difference between what the deceased would have earned and their basic necessary living expenses.
Under Tennessee law, in most circumstances these losses of consortium damages, which are considered non-economic, cannot exceed $750,000 for all non-economic damages awarded in the lawsuit, regardless of the number of plaintiffs.
Damages in a survival action or estate claim
Because a survival action is intended to take the place of a personal injury claim that could have been filed by the deceased had they survived their injuries, there are additional damages that can be recovered including:
- All of the medical bills related to the injury that caused the wrongful death
- The deceased’s pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life between when the injury was sustained and their death
- The deceased’s wages and other financial benefits that were lost
Who may be liable in your wrongful death case?
Determining who is at fault or liable for your loved one’s wrongful death can be difficult and complex because it depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident and their subsequent death. The following are just a few examples of parties that can be held liable in a wrongful death claim.
If your loved one died in a vehicle accident that wasn’t their fault, the driver who caused the accident will likely be liable. That person might have been speeding, texting and driving, or even impaired behind the wheel.
There are other instances where there could be multiple liable parties such as a truck accident. You might assume that only the driver of the truck would be to blame, but there could be other parties who contributed to the wreck.
For example, the load the truck was carrying may have suddenly come loose and caused a shift in balance that caused the driver to lose control. In this instance, the company that loaded the cargo could be liable. If a defective truck blew out or a faulty brake system failed, the manufacturer could be responsible.
This is one of the reasons why it will be so important to turn to a Knoxville wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. They’ll need to investigate the accident before critical evidence disappears. Once your lawyer has that evidence, they can determine exactly who to take action against.
The deceased may have died due to medical malpractice. The surgeon may have worked on the wrong part of the body, or a nurse provided the wrong medication. There are many different ways medical malpractice can take place.
If this is the reason your loved one passed away, you could possibly file a lawsuit against the doctor, another medical professional, or even the hospital.
When someone dies due to a criminal act (such as aggravated robbery or murder), the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the perpetrator. This will be in addition to any criminal penalties the perpetrator may face.
How wrongful death settlements are paid out
Another complexity involving wrongful death lawsuits involves the way settlements are paid out.
There are many instances where the division of funds is fairly straightforward. For example, if the deceased had a spouse and one adult child, the court may rule that each of them will receive 50% of the proceeds. If the survivors agree, then that’s the end of the case.
But what if a young adult with no children dies? What if both parents are alive, but they’re divorced, and one of the parents hasn’t even seen the child in several years? There are some cases where both parents will be equally compensated, especially if the absent parent paid child support as required by law.
Understanding the settlement payouts can be difficult. This is another reason why you’ll want a skilled Knoxville wrongful death attorney representing you. They can work to make sure any settlements are paid in the most equitable manner possible.
What is the cost of hiring a Knoxville wrongful death attorney?
When you work with Hotz & Associates, P.C. for your wrongful death attorney, you won’t have to worry about any out-of-pocket expenses. We work on a contingency fee basis which means we won’t be paid unless you win your case. If that happens, we’ll receive a percentage of what you’re awarded. This allows you to focus on your healing.
Our Knoxville wrongful death lawyers are here to help you and your family
A personal injury lawyer in Knoxville with Hotz & Associates, P.C. can be a substantial benefit to you if you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim.
If you would like to schedule a free review of your case, call us at (865) 582-0042 or contact us online.