How much is compensation for death from a car accident in Tennessee? As you might suspect, it depends on a number of factors. Do not listen to the insurance adjuster. After all, insurance adjusters exist for one main purposeーto protect the insurance company by reducing the value of your claim or denying it altogether, regardless of its true value.
On the other hand, once you retain us, the auto vehicle accident lawyers at Batson Nolan have an interest in maximizing the value of your claim. We work on a contingency basis, meaning that our legal fees amount to a certain percentage of your recovery. If you recover nothing, we make nothing. And the more money you make, the more money we make as well.
Wrongful Death in Tennessee
A wrongful death claim is similar to, but distinct from, a personal injury claim. When the victim of an accident dies, a personal injury claim becomes a wrongful death claim. Tennessee wrongful death law specifies a priority list for people who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The surviving spouse enjoys first priority, but close relatives and the estate administrator may file the lawsuit under certain circumstances. The court will distribute damages among relatives and the estate.
Wrongful Death Damages
Tennessee allows wrongful death beneficiaries (close relatives and the victim’s probate estate) to collect two types of damages: (i) damages that the victim could recover if the accident had not been fatal and (ii) damages that the survivors suffered as a result of the death of the victim.
Damages that the victim could recover if the accident had not been fatal
Damages that the victim would have recovered if the accident had not been fatal amount to personal injury damages. These damages include:
- Medical expenses: These medical expenses include only medical expenses actually incurred by the victim from the time of the accident until the time the victim died.
- Potential earnings: These damages include the victim’s potential remaining lifetime income that they would have earned from the time of the accident until the time they lived out their statistical life expectancy.
- The victim’s pain and suffering during the time between their injury and their death.
Damages that the survivors suffered as a result of the death of the victim
These damages include:
- Funeral and burial expenses. If the estate paid these amounts, it will be reimbursed for the amount expended (and eventually pass to the heirs of the victim).
- Emotional and psychological injuries suffered by family members as a result of the death.
- Loss of companionship, love, and society suffered by family members.
You can add items to the foregoing list if you suffered other losses. The basic principle is reimbursement for all losses, both tangible and intangible.
Courts award punitive damages in a small minority of cases. Even if you win your claim, courts are reluctant to award punitive damages. Nevertheless, punitive damages remain a possibility when the defendant’s conduct was outrageous. If a court awards them, it will award them in addition to the types of damages listed above.
An intentional “road rage” incident is a perfect example of the type of car accident that will lead to a strong claim for punitive damages. A DUI accident is another example, although you might need more than just the simple fact that the driver was intoxicated to establish a claim for punitive damages.
Tennessee, however, limits punitive damages to twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. The judge does not instruct the jury on this cap. If the jury’s decision exceeds the cap, the judge will reduce the amount of the award.
Car accidents are often the fault of both drivers. So who should recover what when both parties bear part of the blame? In cases like these, Tennessee applies a “modified comparative fault” rule. The court will determine the fault of each driver on a percentage basis. A driver who was at 50 percent or more at fault will recover nothing.
An at-fault driver who was 49 percent or less at fault will recover reduced damages. If the driver was 35 percent at fault, for example, the court will reduce their damages by 35 percent (from $1,000,000 to $650,000, for example). You can be sure that the other side is going to seek to blame the deceased as much as possible.
Insurance Coverage Limitations
Wrongful death recoveries are typically high, considering the high value of human life. The problem is that most drivers do not carry nearly enough insurance to pay the average wrongful death claim. This stark reality serves as a practical limitation in recovering wrongful death damages in car accidents. Some types of car accident cases usually have greater insurance coverage:
- Commercial truckers carry a lot of insurance.
- On-duty Uber drivers carry a lot of insurance.
- If the driver was an on-duty employee acting within the scope of their duties at the time of the accident, you might be able to sue their employer.
A good wrongful death claim attorney will always be on the lookout for defendants who can pay their fair share of wrongful death judgment or settlement.
The Skill of Your Lawyer
The amount you receive in compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit arising from a car accident depends to a great extent on your attorney’s skill at negotiating and, if necessary, litigating in court. It also depends on your law firm’s reputation for winning in court. Insurance companies do not like to go to trial, especially against successful trial lawyers like the ones at Batson Nolan PLC. We settle the vast majority of our clients’ claims out of court.
We’re Ready to Fight for You
At Batson Nolan PLC, we have been fighting for our clients since 1860, before the Civil War had broken out. We pride ourselves on our availability and on the individually tailored strategies we use to serve our clients. Call us at 931-647-1501 (Clarksville) or 615-382-4420 (Springfield), or contact us online.