Damages in Wrongful Death Cases in Tennessee

Our Nashville wrongful death attorneys have been called upon to represent the families of many people who have died as a result of the mistakes of another.   One question we are frequently asked in these cases is what type of damages may be recovered.

Tennessee law permits the following damages to be recovered in wrongful death cases arising from automobile accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, or any other type of event where negligence causes death:

  • medical expenses
  • lost wages from the date of injury to death
  • funeral expenses
  • pain, suffering, disfigurement, disability and loss of enjoyment of life from the date of injury to the date of death

Damages can also be recovered for what is called the "pecuniary value of life."  This includes damages for the present value of future earnings (reduced by the amount of expenses that would have been incurred by decedent to keep the decedent alive so that he or she would have been able to work) plus damages for loss of love, society and affection between the decedent and certain family members.  

The family members to be considered depends on who survives the decedent.  If the decedent dies unmarried and without children, the jury will be told to look at the loss between the decedent and his or her parents.  If the decedent died leaving behind a spouse and children, the jury will look to the loss between the decedent and his or her spouse and children.  Other rules apply depending on the family situation.

if the wrongful act giving rise to the later death arose before October 1, 2011, there is no artificial cap on damages in Tennessee wrongful death cases.  If the injury resulting in death occurred on or after October 1, 2011, Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly have limited damages (other than medical expenses and loss of earnings) to $750,000.  

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule.  If the decedent left minor children, the artificial damage cap is increased to $1,000,000,  If the death was caused by a drunk or drug-impaired driver, or if the death was intentionally caused, the arbitrary cap is not applicable.  There are  a couple under very limited circumstances when the damage cap will not be applied.