Tennessee wrongful death claims: the basics

Wrongful death actions allow survivors to collect damages for their losses.

When you have lost a loved one because of the reckless, negligent, illegal or otherwise wrongful actions of another person, you can feel helpless. You miss your loved one, and you must come to terms with their passing in a way that allows you the opportunity to grieve while still moving forward with your own life. One way that you can do that - and to find justice - is by filing a wrongful death action.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death action is one that you bring as a survivor (most often the widow/widower, child, or parent of the deceased) that allows you to hold the at-fault party accountable for the actions that took your loved one's life. They are sometimes filed after criminal charges have been resolved in cases involving murder, drunk driving that results in a fatality or another negligent homicide. In other instances, wrongful death claims arise following medical malpractice, on-the-job injuries or auto accidents where the negligence that caused the death doesn't rise to the level of criminal responsibility or can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In order to bring a wrongful death action, there must be a fatality caused by the negligent or purposeful actions of the person or entity against whom the case is being brought, and there must be financial losses resulting from the death.

Possible damages

In Tennessee, wrongful death claims are governed by precedential case law as well as provisions in Chapter 5 of the Tennessee Code of Civil Procedure. Tennessee Code Section 20-5-113 states that the following damages are recoverable in a wrongful death suit:

  • Mental and physical suffering of the deceased prior to death
  • Expenses related directly to the injuries the deceased suffered (medical bills, funeral costs, etc.)
  • Loss of companionship, guidance, income and consortium to the survivors

Another section of Tennessee law, Section 29-39-104, allows for punitive damages to also be considered in the state's civil lawsuits, including those for wrongful death. Like their name implies, punitive damages are those intended to both punish the at-fault party and to discourage future similar misconduct from occurring in the future. Punitive damages are capped at the greater of either two times the amount of traditional compensatory damages awarded or $500,000.

If you have lost a loved one in Tennessee due to the wrongful acts of another person, company, entity or organization, you may be able to bring a civil lawsuit to seek justice on behalf of the deceased. To learn more about wrongful death claims, contact the Chattanooga law offices of Dale Buchanan and Associates.