How Can We Help?

Wrongful Death Claims – What You Need to Know

September 21 2018 | Blog
  • In this week’s blog, we present a guide to wrongful death claims in Kentucky and Tennessee.

    Personal injury laws are designed to protect victims of another party’s negligence or recklessness. A person who suffered such injuries, for example, following a car crash, a slip and fall accident, or due to a medical malpractice incident, can seek financial compensation to recover the money spent on medical bills or lost wages due to inability to work. However, what happens if the harm is so extensive that the victim dies as a result of their injuries? Does the law protect the interests of a person and their estate even after they’ve passed away?

    The answer to this question is yes, and the legal framework that allows for such protection is called a wrongful death claim. In this article, we will explore the basics of such claims and certain key elements of wrongful death law in Kentucky and Tennessee.

     

    What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

    The Kentucky Statutes define a wrongful death as one resulting “from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another”. The Tennessee Code provides a similar definition, describing wrongful death as follows; “death is caused by the wrongful act, fault or omission of another”. In other words, wrongful death can be seen as a special instance of personal injury in which the negligent or reckless acts of another person, group of people or organization result in the death of an innocent party. Wrongful death can be claimed in a variety of accidents and circumstances such as:

    • Fatal motor vehicle accidents
    • Medical malpractice
    • Workplace injuries leading to death
    • Fatal slip and fall accidents
    • Deaths resulting from defective products

     

    Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim to Court?

    Since the deceased person is no longer able to seek compensation for their injuries, a wrongful death claim must be filed by another on behalf of the deceased and their estate. In Kentucky, a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, appointed by the probate court, has the right to file such claim. In Tennessee, the action must be initiated by the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, or next of kin. Only if it is not possible for the close relatives of the victim to file the claim can a personal representative of the victim’s estate do so.

     

    Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

    As in other types of personal injury claims, a wrongful death claim seeks to obtain monetary compensation for injuries and resulting financial losses. In Kentucky, damages awarded in a wrongful death claim are distributed to the beneficiaries of the deceased pursuant to applicable statutes.  The following kinds of damages may be paid to the victim’s estate:

    • Costs of pursuing the claim such as attorney fees
    • Pain and suffering related to the injuries prior to death
    • Medical expenses related to the treatment of the injuries
    • Funeral and burial expenses

    On the other hand, the kinds of damages listed below will be distributed directly to the victim’s surviving family members

    • Loss of future income
    • Loss of the care, companionship, guidance, and support

    In addition, the state of Kentucky allows for punitive damages to be awarded in wrongful death claims if the death was a result of gross negligence or an intentional act. Such damages are not designed to directly compensate the victim’s family or estate but rather to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from acting in a similar manner.

    In Tennessee, wrongful death compensation may include:

    • Medical bills for the treatment of the injuries later resulting in death
    • Funeral and burial expenses
    • Loss of earning capacity (only for the period from the time the injury occurred until death)
    • Loss of enjoyment of life (for the same time period as mentioned above)
    • Lost wages (including wages the deceased likely would have earned had the incident resulting in their death not occurred, that is, their lost future earning capacity)
    • Mental and physical suffering experienced by the family members as a result of the death
    • Loss of consortium, love, society, affection, and guidance

     

    Statutes of Limitations

    A statute of limitations limits the amount of time that you have to bring a claim to court. Both in Kentucky and in Tennessee, the time limit for filing a wrongful death claim is one year, starting from the date of the decedent’s death.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year in the U.S. accidental injuries claim lives of 146,571 people. Many of these deaths are caused by unintentional yet negligent or reckless actions of others. Wrongful death claims offer the family members of the victims a chance to obtain compensation for the monetary losses as well as the psychological damage they have experienced. In addition, the process can help the family achieve the emotional closure so needed to heal the emotional wounds caused by a sudden loss of a loved one.

Request My Free Consultation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.