What are the 4 Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Anytime an individual loses their life as a result of the negligent actions of another individual or entity in Tennessee, family members of the deceased may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation and closure for their losses. However, wrongful death lawsuits hinge on four separate elements that must be present in order for a claim to be successful. Here, we want to discuss these four elements more in-depth. We strongly suggest that you work with a skilled wrongful death attorney if you think that you have a viable claim.

What are the four elements of a wrongful death claim in tennessee?The Elements of a Tennessee Wrongful Death Claim

Tennessee law says that wrongful death claims arise anytime a person loses their life due to “injuries received from another” or due to the “wrongful act, omission, or killing by another” that would have entitled the individual to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived (Tenn. Code § 20-5-106 (2021).

For a wrongful death lawsuit to be successful, the following four elements must be present:

  1. Duty. It must be shown that there was a duty of care owed to the deceased by the defendant. The duty of care will look different depending on the situation at hand. For example, all drivers on the roadway have a duty to operate safely. Property owners have a duty to ensure that there are no unsafe conditions on their premises. Medical professionals have a duty to treat patients at an acceptable level of care.
  2. Breach. After a duty of care has been established between the deceased and the defendant, it has to be shown that the defendant breached their duty of care somehow. This breach of duty of care is another way of saying that the defendant was negligent. Again, the breach of duty will look different depending on the particular situation. For example, a driver impaired by drugs will likely have breached their duty of care to others on the roadway. A surgeon who removes the wrong limb during an amputation surgery will likely have breached the duty they owed their patient.
  3. Causation. After establishing that a breach of duty occurred in the particular wrongful death situation, it has to be shown that the negligent action is what actually caused the injuries that led to the death. Just because a person breaches their duty of care does not necessarily mean that their negligence was responsible for the death.
  4. Damages. Finally, in order to prove a successful wrongful death case, the death of the individual must generate quantifiable damages that can be shown to insurance carriers or a jury. These costs can include medical expenses incurred before the death, funeral and burial expenses, loss of income of the deceased, loss of guidance, protection, and inheritance, and the survivors’ pain and suffering and mental anguish.

Working With an Attorney

If you have lost somebody that you love as a result of the careless or negligent actions of another individual, it is crucial that you work with a skilled wrongful death attorney in Nashville, TN as soon as possible. A lawyer can get involved and conduct a complete investigation into the incident, gather all evidence needed to prove liability, and handle all negotiations with insurance carriers or at-fault parties.