Even though death is inevitable for everyone, more often than not we do not describe death as “expected.” Unless our loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we are mentally unprepared to say goodbye when someone we care about has passed unexpectedly.

This is especially the case when it comes to sudden, accidental deaths. What’s worse, accidental death is often traumatic because of the nature of deadly injuries.

In 2020, the Tennessee Department of Health recorded 6,101 Tennessee resident deaths due to accidental causes. Accidents and adverse effects ranked fourth among the leading causes of death in 2020:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Malignant neoplasms
  3. COVID-19
  4. Accidental causes

But, an accident does not necessarily mean no one was at fault. In many cases, the victim was not responsible for his or her death. This is where the term wrongful death comes into play.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a civil lawsuit by a party (usually loved ones) seeking damages from someone who was responsible for the deadly injuries of another. Ultimately, a wrongful death is the loss of a loved one that could have been prevented.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed by the deceased person’s family (spouse, child, natural or adoptive parent, or next of kin) against people, companies, employees, and government agencies. 

Every state in the U.S. has its own wrongful death policy, including Tennessee, which considers wrongful death claims as a type of personal injury. Loved ones must file within one year of the deceased’s death.

According to Tenn. Code § 20-5-106, a wrongful death is the “right of action that a person who dies from injuries received from another, or whose death is caused by the wrongful act, omission, or killing by another, would have had against in the wrongdoer, in case death had not ensued.”

In other words, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed like a personal injury case would have been by the deceased, had they survived their injuries.

Common Types of Wrongful Death

While probably one of the most common examples of wrongful death is a car or pedestrian accident due to a drunk or negligent driver, there are actually several broad categories a wrongful death may fall into:

  1. Workplace Accident
  2. Automobile Accident
  3. Intentional Acts
  4. Medical Malpractice

Have questions about wrongful death and your loved one? Schedule a consultation with Meyers Injury Law today.

Workplace Accident Causing Death

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a workplace fatality as an “employee death resulting from a work-related incident or exposure; in general, from an accident or an illness caused by or related to a workplace hazard.”

While workplace accidents involve thorough investigations to determine whether the employee violated company safety standards, examples of workplace accidents that can lead to death include: explosions, burns, falls, chemical or substance exposure, and improper maintenance.

Automobile Accident Causing Death

Also known as vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide, automobile accidents that unintentionally cause the death of another driver, passengers, or pedestrians are subject to wrongful death claims.

Vehicular manslaughter factors whether or not the driver was negligent, whether under the influence (of drugs or alcohol), driving recklessly, or driving in a way that was illegal (under-age driving, driving on the wrong side of the road, etc.).

Intentional Acts Causing Death

An intentional or negligent act that leads to death falls under tort law, meaning it can be called an intentional tort, manslaughter, or both. (There are differences between the two.) For example, a negligent act can be prosecuted in a civil trial as wrongful death while an assault can be classified and tried criminally as manslaughter.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, specifically, if the party wants to be compensated for the loss of the deceased, and the evidence points to the fact that the defendant’s actions caused his or her death, then they can be held accountable – and possibly prosecuted, as well.

Medical Malpractice

A bitter pill to swallow when it comes to the death of a loved one is if a medical professional is at fault for his or her death. This is known as medical malpractice.

A few specific examples are surgical or anesthesia errors, improper treatment, improper medication prescription, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, and failure to warn patients of known risks. Nursing home neglect is another devastating example.

If you are struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one and juggling expenses because of another’s negligence, let Meyers Injury Law help shoulder your burden.