What Type of Damages are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Tennessee, the following categories of damages are generally available : (a) medical bills for treatment of the injuries that resulted in death; (b) funeral expenses; (c) conscious pain and suffering from the date of the injury until the date of death; (d) loss of earning capacity between the date of injury and death (this can include the services of a homemaker); (e) loss of enjoyment of life between the date of injury and death; and (f) the pecuniary value of life.
The "pecuniary value of life" includes the present value of the decedent’s lost future earning capacity less those living expenses necessary to maintain the decedent’s person so that they can work. In simpler terms, the amount the decedent would have earned over the remaining course of his or her life minus the amount of money it would have taken for things like food, clothing, etc. Pecuniary value of life also includes loss of consortium damages. Loss of consortium is the loss of the love, society and affection. If the decedent was married at the time of death, the surviving spouse can recover damages for the loss of consortium of the decedent. Similarly, in cases involving the death of a parent, the children can also recover loss of consortium damages.
In the event the death was caused by reckless or intentional misconduct, the family of the deceased may also seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and hopefully deter similar conduct in the future.
While there is no minimum amount of damages that can be recovered, there are limits on the amount of money that may be recovered. The Tennessee Legislature enacted a law which took effect on October 1, 2011. Commonly referred to as "tort reform", the law limits the ability of a jury to decide what is fair for injuries or death. For all injuries and death that occur on or after October 1, 2011, loss of consortium damages are limited to $750,000 unless the decedent had a minor child. In such cases, the damages are capped at $1,000,000. Prior to the enactment of this "tort reform" law, there was no limit on wrongful death cases.
Under Tennessee's "tort reform" laws, punitive damages are limited to $500,000 or two times the compensatory damages whichever is greater. Under some circumstances, there is no limit on punitive damages and, in others, punitive damages are not available at all.
The amount of damages that may be recovered is dependent on the facts of each case. One of award-winning lawyers can help you evaluate your case and the damages in a free, no-obligation consultation, We handle all wrongful death cases on a contingency basis so we only get paid if we recover money for you and your family. And because we advance all case expenses, you are never out of pocket to pursue your rights. To get started, contact us online or call us at one of our three office locations: