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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

What Is Wrongful Death? | Complete Guide on the Legal Term

Going through the legal aspects of an accident is already overwhelming. When the accident involves the death of a person, everything gets much more complicated for everyone.

Cases involving someone's death are referred to as "Wrongful Death." In many circumstances, the family of the deceased can take legal action and get compensation for medical and funeral expenses, among other things.

There are a few factors to consider surrounding wrongful death, and this page will explain them all.

What's "Wrongful Death"?

What's "Wrongful Death"?

Victims take a wrongful death action when they believe another person caused their loved one's death. Even though wrongful death is a civil cause of action, it can also be brought against someone facing criminal charges.

Wrongful death has a lower burden of proof than a criminal charge, so even if the person isn't found guilty of the latter, they can still be liable for causing someone else's death.

There are three main situations that need to be proven to reach a wrongful death settlement:

  • The defendant caused the death because of misconduct/negligence or intentional actions.

  • These actions were the direct cause of death.

  • The death resulted in different damages for the surviving family members.

Proving those in a wrongful death case can result in the family getting compensation for their pain and suffering.

What's the Difference Between Wrongful Death and a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Wrongful death suits are a special type of personal injury, so they fall under a similar category.

The main difference between the two is that a personal injury case doesn't result in death. Victims of a personal injury can file a claim on their own to get compensation from the at-fault party.

In wrongful death, however, the person responsible for making the claim is a direct family member or a personal representative of the victim. Moreover, a wrongful death case can award damages to cover funeral or burial expenses.

What Counts as Wrongful Death in a Claim?

In a nutshell, people can file a wrongful death lawsuit if someone's death was caused by someone else's negligence or intentional act. There are three "common" cases that apply in a wrongful death claim:

Negligent Act

As the name implies, this wrongful death lawsuit involves people who caused someone else's death "by accident."

Here, the attorney must prove that the at-fault party acted with a lower level of care than the reasonable standard. They must also prove that this lower level of care was what caused the death. Common cases of negligence or misconduct include:

  • Defective products

  • Car accidents

  • Slip and fall claims

  • Construction accidents

  • Workplace accidents

  • Animal attacks

Intentional Act

This applies when the defendant intentionally tried to harm or kill another person. Common cases that fall under this category include murder, battery, and assault.

Malpractice Act

Families can file wrongful death claims if the deceased's healthcare provider didn't meet the standard professional of care. If the attorney can prove that this lower level of care resulted in the person's death, the surviving family members could get compensated.

Medical malpractice cases tend to be more complicated than the other two. Families won't have too many problems with them with the help of a professional lawyer, though.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The surviving spouse is the first person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the deceased didn't have one, there are other people who can move on with the legal action:

  • Children

  • Next of kin

  • Parents

  • Representative or administrator of the decedent's estate.

Other immediate family members could be able to file wrongful death cases. The best way to know for sure is to consult with a lawyer. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has more information on common causes of wrongful death in Tennessee.

Who Can Get Sued in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death actions can be taken against most people or entities. These include:

  • Vehicle drivers

  • Dog owners

  • Companies that are misleading with their advertisements or warnings

  • Companies that design/manufacture defective products

  • Roadway designers or builders

  • Employers

  • Medical professionals

  • Government agencies

Families who believe that the death of their relative was caused by another person likely have a solid wrongful death lawsuit. If they want to have a definitive answer about that, they can contact a professional lawyer for more information.

What Type of Lawsuit is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is a civil lawsuit. It can be filed against a person, business, or entity.

Depending on the case, the family could also press criminal charges like manslaughter, murder, or homicide, which involve much more severe penalties.

Victims must prove the case by a "preponderance of evidence" in a wrongful death case. In a criminal case, on the other hand, the crime's factors or elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by a prosecutor.

What Damages Can Someone Recover from Wrongful Death Claims?

Wrongful death attorneys who can prove wrongful death in a lawsuit can get a court to award the following damages:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Medical bills

  • Funeral and burial expenses

  • Loss of income, support, love, and companionship

Depending on the case, the victims could also get punitive damages awarded. Punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault party even further to prevent them from doing a similar act again.

What's the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Nashville, Tennessee?

The wrongful death statute in Tennessee is one year. This means that surviving family members have one year from the date of discovering the cause of death to file their lawsuit.

Special circumstances surrounding the decedent's death could give families more or less time to file their claims. However, this only happens on rare occasions, so families must file their cases as soon as possible if they want to ensure proper financial compensation.

Is It Better to Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer to File a Lawsuit?

Is It Better to Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer to File a Lawsuit?

Filing a wrongful death suit without legal help can be devastating for the case. At-fault parties and their insurance companies will always try to offer lower settlements or argue that the victim was partially at fault for the accident.

In these cases, an experienced attorney can gather the right evidence and build a solid argument to defend the deceased's family and their rights. Regardless of the circumstances, hiring a lawyer is the best thing to do. They can help with questions like Is there a cap on damages for wrongful death in Tennessee?

Bottom Line

Wrongful death lawsuits are hard to navigate, but with the help of an expert, families will have a better chance of fighting and earning proper compensation.

The lawyers at Schuerger Shunnarah will go to war for their clients and use all the experience they've gathered to ensure maximum compensation in every case. Interested people can book a free case evaluation today.


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