When you have suffered the sudden, tragic loss of a loved one, the last thing on your mind may be taking legal action. However, seeking justice for the wrongful death of a loved one can ultimately play an important role in helping you to move on with your life.
At the Law Office of David E. Gordon, we understand the challenges that surviving family members face. This is why we strive to provide the sincere, professional and compassionate service that we believe families deserve.
Attorney David E. Gordon is among the less than two percent of Tennessee lawyers who are Board Certified. He can bring his experience with handling wrongful death claims to your case, protect your family’s legal rights and help you to pursue the compensation that you deserve.
When you are ready to take action, contact us for a free consultation. We serve clients in Memphis and throughout Tennessee. We can review your case and help you to understand the process that lies ahead.
What is a ‘Wrongful Death’ in Tennessee?
If your loved one could have brought a personal injury claim if he or she had survived, then you should have the right to bring a wrongful death claim. The claim is based on the harm caused by another’s negligent, reckless or intentional acts or omissions, which is similar to a personal injury claim.
A wrongful death lawsuit may arise in many different scenarios, including:
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Construction and other workplace accidents
- Dangerous property conditions
- Medical negligence
- Nursing home abuse or neglect.
A wrongful death claim may be based on the loss of an adult or a child, including a fetus “that was viable at the time of injury.” The party who could be held responsible for your loss could be an individual, company or a government entity.
Who Can Bring a Tennessee Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Tennessee law, the right to bring a claim for the loss of a loved one is controlled by the state’s wrongful death statute. So, you must look closely at this statute to determine if you are eligible to pursue a claim. Attorney David E. Gordon can help you to determine your eligibility.
According to the law, if the victim of a wrongful death was an adult, then the right to bring a claim belongs to, in order, the victim’s surviving:
- Children (if there is no surviving spouse)
- Parents (if there is no surviving spouse or children)
- Brother or sister (if there is no surviving spouse, children or parents).
If the children are minors at the time of the parent’s death, then a guardian ad litem would need to be appointed by the court to protect the children’s interests.
A wrongful death claim could also be brought by the executor of the victim’s estate (as named in a will) or the administrator of the estate (if the victim left no will). The claim would be brought on behalf of the estate.
If the victim was a minor child, the right to bring an action belongs to the child’s parents. However, if the parents were divorced, then the right would belong to the primary custodial parent.
What Can You Recover in a Tennessee Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The damages that can be recovered in a Tennessee wrongful death claim generally fall into two categories: Economic, or “pecuniary,” and non-economic.
Economic harms include:
- Medical expenses (between time of injury and time of death)
- Conscious pain and suffering (between time of injury and time of death)
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the “pecuniary value” of the victim’s life.
The pecuniary value of the victim’s life is, in general terms, the value of the victim’s projected lifetime earnings minus expenses the victim would have likely incurred. It can include lost insurance benefits and even lost retirement benefits. It requires consideration of the victim’s age, physical condition, work history and general character .The general circumstances of the surviving family members must also be taken into account.
Non-economic harms include:
- Pain and suffering experienced by the victim before death
- Lost guidance, love and affection suffered by immediate family members who remain.
Putting a monetary value on these things is difficult. So, photographs, birthday cards and home videos often become vital to demonstrate the loving relationship that has been lost.
Additionally, punitive (or “exemplary”) damages may be sought if a victim’s death was caused by a willful act or gross negligence. A car accident caused by a driver who was drunk (and has a history of drunk driving) would be an example of gross negligence.
It is important to know how the proceeds from a wrongful death claim are distributed under Tennessee law. Generally, they are distributed, in order, to those who would have inherited if the victim died without a will.
If the victim left a surviving spouse, she would have the right to the entire recovery. If the victim left a spouse and children, they would share equally in the recovery. However, the spouse would be entitled to at least a one-third share.
If the victim left no spouse or children, the surviving parents would have an equal share of the recovery. If the victim left no spouse, children or parents, then his or her brothers and sisters would share equally in the recovery.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Tennessee?
You have one year from the date of the injury causing a loved one’s death in which to bring a wrongful death claim in Tennessee. This is called the statute of limitations.
In many wrongful death cases, this means that you have one year from the date of an accident. For example, if your loved one suffered injuries in a car crash on December 1, 2015 and passed away from those injuries on December 15, 2015, you would need to bring a claim by December 1, 2016.
Although we recognize that it can be difficult to file a wrongful death claim so soon after your tragic loss, it is often advised that you initiate the action as early as possible. This allows us to obtain and preserve evidence and support your claim while moving forward.
How Can a Lawyer Help with Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
As the surviving family member of a wrongful death victim, you may face the weight of your lingering sadness and new responsibilities. Attorney David E. Gordon can help to remove some of that weight from your shoulders by protecting your legal rights.
We can collect all of the evidence that is needed in your case, deal with the insurance companies and seek a settlement that fully and fairly compensates you for your all of your economic and non-economic losses.
We will pay close attention to your needs throughout your case, answer your questions and keep you informed at every stage. We will be only a phone call away if you need help.
Get in Touch with a Memphis Wrongful Death Attorney
For experienced, caring and compassionate legal assistance with your wrongful death claim, contact the Law Office of David E. Gordon. We will stand by your side throughout your case and make sure to protect the rights of you and your family.
Please contact us when you are ready to begin the process. We work with clients in Memphis and throughout Tennessee. You can reach us by phone or online. We will provide a free consultation about your case and answer any questions you have.