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Does Tennessee Have a Wrongful Death Damages Cap?

November 18, 2022

The Tennessee wrongful death damages cap limits the compensation surviving loved ones may be awarded for the loss of a family member. Although the damages cap applies to all civil cases in Tennessee, it often applies most harshly in cases involving the wrongful death of a loved one.

In the event of recovery in a wrongful death claim, more than one family member may be entitled to compensation. However, if the case goes to trial and a judgment is made in your favor, the amount of compensation you are awarded will be subject to the cap on certain types of damages.

An experienced attorney can review your case and advise you what your wrongful death claim may be worth. Call The Haynes Firm at 423-928-0165 today for a FREE consultation. The Haynes Firm serves Johnson City and nearby areas of Tennessee.

What Is Considered a ‘Wrongful Death’?

In effect, a wrongful death lawsuit is a personal injury case where the injured individual (i.e., the plaintiff) does not survive. The right to legal action passes from the deceased to one of the following individuals:

  • The surviving spouse
  • The children or other next of kin of the deceased, if there is no surviving spouse
  • The personal representative of the deceased
  • The natural or adoptive parents, if the child was in the custody of the parents at the time of his or her death

Wrongful death claims must be brought for the benefit of the decedent’s surviving loved ones. Proceeds from a settlement or trial award may be distributed to the surviving spouse, a child or children, the parent or parents of a minor child, and other next of kin. Generally, the surviving spouse has the priority right to file and control the litigation.

What Are Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim?

“Damages” is the legal term for the losses a plaintiff suffers as a result of personal injury or the wrongful death of a loved one. Damages are characterized as either economic or non-economic.

The damages that may be recovered for wrongful death include:

  • Economic damages:
    • Loss of financial support
    • Funeral and burial expenses
    • Medical expenses for care provided prior to death
    • Loss of household services and support
  • Non-economic damages:
    • Loss of companionship and consortium
    • Loss of love, comfort, affection, and guidance of the deceased
    • Emotional anguish
    • The decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death

All of the damages sought in a wrongful death action must be supported by compelling evidence. In addition, the right to recovery for wrongful death is contingent on the plaintiff’s ability to prove that the negligence of one or more defendants caused the victim’s death.

What Is the Tennessee Wrongful Death Damages Cap?

In Tennessee, there is no limit on the compensation that may be recovered for economic damages in a personal injury claim. However, recovery of non-economic damages is capped at $750,000.

The same damages cap applies to wrongful death claims. If your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, you and your family will likely be entitled to no more than $750,000 total for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship and support, etc.

However, there are a few exceptions to the compensatory damages cap that may allow for recovery of up to $1 million for non-economic losses. The cap is increased to $1 million in the event of “catastrophic loss or injury” as defined in T.C.A. Section 29-39-102(d). In wrongful death cases, Tennessee law identifies the following as a form of catastrophic loss:

“Wrongful death of a parent leaving a surviving minor child or children for whom the deceased parent had lawful rights of custody or visitation.”

In other words, minor children may be entitled to additional compensation for non-economic damages for the wrongful death of a custodial parent. The court may order that some or all of the proceeds from a wrongful death claim be added to a trust for the benefit of the minor child or children.

Do You Have a Claim for Wrongful Death Damages?

Speaking to an attorney is the first step you should take after an accident that resulted in the death of someone you love. A knowledgeable lawyer can determine who may be liable for your loved one’s death and the value of your wrongful death claim.

You and your family may be entitled to significant compensation. Although the Tennessee wrongful death damages cap limits what plaintiffs can recover, The Haynes Firm will fight for the maximum compensation available.

Some wrongful death claims can be resolved through negotiations without going to court. Our firm doesn’t leave money on the table, and we will seek a favorable settlement on your behalf.

View Our Verdicts & Settlements

If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit and go to trial, The Haynes Firm will prepare thoroughly and represent you effectively in the courtroom. Going to trial isn’t easy, but it may be the right thing to do if it means recovering the compensation you deserve.

Contact The Haynes Firm today to discuss your case for FREE. Our wrongful death lawyers serve clients in Johnson City and other areas of Tennessee.

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