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How does a wrongful death case work in Tennessee?


On behalf of The Myers Law Firm PLLC posted in Wrongful Death on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.

Your loved one is gone. The person who always has been your rock and your emotional support, your biggest fan, isn't there when you wake up in the morning anymore.

But once the tears stop and your friends and family go back to their regular routine after being at your side, you are alone with your thoughts.

How will you do this? How are you going to make it financially?

If your loved one has died because of the negligence or misconduct of someone else, such as a drunk driver, you could have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. In wrongful death cases, the plaintiffs typically can pursue compensation for what they've lost: wages from the deceased, companionship, the cost of the funeral and more.

In general, a wrongful death suit is brought on behalf of the decedent's estate, usually by a surviving spouse, children or other immediate family members.

Tennessee, like all states, has a statute that establishes how wrongful death lawsuits can be filed.

To win a wrongful death case, the plaintiff's side must show:

  1. That a person has died
  2. That the death occurred because of someone else's negligence or someone else's intention to cause harm
  3. That family members have suffered financially because of the death

Unlike in a criminal trial, where the standard of proof must be "beyond a reasonable doubt," in a civil case it is by the "preponderance of evidence." That is a lesser standard.

It would be wonderful if a wrongful death suit could bring back our loved ones; it can't. All the courts can impose is a financial judgment to the defendant. While it is small consolation, a financial award can help a family get back on their feet.

If you have lost a family member and are considering a wrongful death action, we can help you, answer any questions you might have and eventually advocate for you.