Wrongful Death in Car Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 29,989 fatal crashes nationwide in 2014. In Tennessee alone, there were 727 traffic fatalities in 2015 and an even greater number in 2016. While nothing can bring back a loved one lost to a negligently caused death, there are practical considerations that attend a death, such as who will pay for the funeral, medical bills, future wage loss, and household services. A criminal case probably will not address these issues, but a civil case may. If you are faced with the death of a loved one in a fatal car accident, you may have grounds to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. At the Hartsoe Law Firm, Maryville car accident attorney Mark C. Hartsoe can evaluate your case and represent you if appropriate.Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Fatal Car Accident
Under Tennessee Code section 20-5-106, a wrongful death is one that is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another person or entity. Family members are able to bring this special type of personal injury lawsuit because the decedent cannot bring their own case. The civil case is separate from any criminal charges that may be filed in response to their loved one's death. However, what happens in criminal court may have a bearing on the civil case, and a strict statute of limitations applies, so it is wise to retain an attorney as soon as possible after your loved one's death.
Only certain people may file a wrongful death claim. Either the personal representative of the decedent's estate or family members in a certain order may file a wrongful death claim. The first in line with a right to file is the decedent's surviving spouse. Next in order are surviving children, the personal representative, surviving parents, and the administrator of the estate if the decedent was a dependent.
Once the right to sue is established, the next issue is proving the defendant's liability. In most cases, a wrongful death in a car accident is a result of negligence. This means that you will need to establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent (to drive safely and follow the rules of the road), the defendant violated that duty (by behaving carelessly), there was causation (the decedent died in the wreck), and actual damages resulted (such as burial and funeral costs, medical bills, lost enjoyment of life). A breach of duty that causes a wrongful death may consist of any number of actions or omissions, including a failure to abide by traffic laws, distracted driving, drunk driving, or fatigued driving.
Compensatory damages that may be available after a fatal car accident include both economic and noneconomic losses triggered by the death. They may cover necessary expenses paid by the family in connection with the death, reasonable funeral and burial expenses, medical bills for the injuries that caused the death, lost earning capacity, lost wages, lost enjoyment of life if there was a delay between the time of the accident and the death, and mental anguish suffered by the decedent. Family members may also recover compensation for their loss of the companionship, society, and love of the decedent.Protect Your Rights by Contacting a Car Accident Attorney in Maryville
As much as we might wish it to be otherwise, nothing can reverse the wrongful death of a loved one. However, as a family member, you may be able to take care of practical and other considerations by calling Mark Hartsoe to handle this traumatic legal problem for you. Maryville car accident lawyer Mark C. Hartsoe is ready to help if your loved one suffered a wrongful death in a car accident. Call the Hartsoe Law Firm at (865) 524-5657 or complete our online form to set up a free appointment with a motor vehicle collision attorney. We represent families throughout East Tennessee, including in Knox, Blount, Monroe, Loudon, Jefferson, Grainger, Cocke, Campbell, Hamblen, Greene, Anderson, Cumberland, and Fentress Counties.