Do I Have the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

My brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.  He was not married and has no children.   Our father is alive, but my mother is not.  Our father simply doesn’t have the emotional strength to file a lawsuit over the death of his son, but we cannot let my brother’s death go without holding the truck driver who killed him responsible.  Do I have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of my brother?

Only if you are named the executor in your brother’s will or are appointed the administrator of his estate by the court.

Generally speaking, these are the rules for who may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Tennessee:

  • A lawsuit for the death of a husband can be filed by his wife, his executor or the administrator of his estate.
  • A lawsuit for the death of a wife can be filed by her husband, her executor, or the administrator of her estate.
  • If a person is single at the time of his or her death, the lawsuit can be maintained by his or her adult children or, if there are no adult children, by his or her parents. The lawsuit can also be filed by an executor or administrator.
  • If a person is a single minor at the time of death, the lawsuit can be maintained by his or her parents. If the parents are divorced, special rules apply. The lawsuit can also be filed by an administrator.
  • If the decedent did not leave a spouse or child and was predeceased by his or her parents, the law permits a sibling to file suit. The lawsuit can also be filed by an executor or administrator.

Thus, under these rules, your father would have the primary right to file the lawsuit, but you could bring it if your father elected not to do so and you were appointed either executor or administrator of  your brother’s estate.

There are exceptions to these general rules listed above.  An experienced wrongful death lawyer can explain whether an exception is applicable if he or she is advised of the nature of the family situation.