What is the Deadline for Bringing a Wrongful Death Suit in Tennessee?

Tennessee (and every state) has a deadline (referred to as a "statute of limitations") for bringing a lawsuit for death caused by the negligence or other error of another person or company ("a wrongful death case" ). Unfortunately, many people (including some lawyers, if you look at their websites) do not know the deadline for filing wrongful death claims in a Tennessee court.

This is the deadline under Tennessee's statute of limitations: a person who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit ordinarily must do within one year of the date of the injury which results in death. Many people, including all-too-many lawyers, think the deadline is one year from the date of death. That is true only if the injury and the death occur on the same day. If the injury occurs one day or more before death from that injury, the one-year period for filing a wrongful death lawsuit begins on the day of the injury (which also happens to be the date of death).

Here is an example. If Bill is injured in a car wreck on January 4, 2023, and dies the same day because of the injuries received in the wreck, his spouse Sally has until January 4, 2024, to either settle the wrongful death case with those responsible for the death or to have a lawsuit filed against those responsible.

But, if Bill is injured in a car wreck on January 4, 2023, and dies on January 11, 2023, because of the injuries received in the wreck, his spouse Sally has until only January 4, 2024, to either settle the wrongful death case with those responsible for the death or to have a lawsuit filed against those responsible. If Sally waits until the one-year anniversary of Bill's death to take legal action, she would have waited too long and whatever rights she had will be lost.

The "date of injury" date can be harder to figure out than one might initially think. The date of injury is usually easy to determine in a car, truck, or motorcycle wreck case - the injury almost always occurs and is readily known at the time of the wreck. But it can be more complicated to determine the date of (and the knowledge of the injury) in other types of cases, such as cases involving medical errors (called "health care liability" cases).

There are a couple of exceptions to this one-year-from-the-date-of-injury rule, one is which is the so-called "discovery rule," but it is fact-dependent and very complicated to apply, especially for non-lawyers. The discovery rule applies to wrongful death cases of every type, but we see it applied more often in wrongful death cases involving medical errors because of the nature of how injuries arise in those cases. We urge you not to assume that you will be able to rely on the discovery rule without the advice of an experienced lawyer who has knowledge of all the relevant facts, and instead to assume the one-year-from-the-date-of-injury rule applies in all wrongful death cases in Tennessee.

While the law generally permits you one year to bring a wrongful death claim, you should not wait that long to contact a lawyer. With each day that passes after an accident, the memories of important witnesses can dim, and other valuable evidence can be irretrievably lost. The quicker you act to secure the services of an experienced wrongful death lawyer the quicker he or she will be able to take those steps necessary to gather the information and evidence necessary to help you win your case.

If you would like to speak with one of our experienced and reputable wrongful death attorneys about a potential claim or if you are concerned you have missed the deadline for taking legal action and would like to determine if one of the exceptions apply, please contact us online or at one of our office locations below. Our first consultation is always free and without obligation, and we do not get paid unless we recover money for you.

Nashville: 615-669-3993

Murfreesboro: 615-867-9900

Brentwood: 615-742-4880

Toll-Free: 866-812-8787

  1. How did the accident happen and who is to blame?
  2. Who has the right to file a wrongful death suit?
  3. What types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death suit?
  4. If money is recovered, who gets it?
  5. What is the deadline for bringing a wrongful death suit in Tennessee?
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