My child was killed by a drunk driver. He was 10 years old. I want to file a lawsuit. His no-good father, who never paid child support as ordered by the court and did not visit my son for the for the five year period after our divorce, says he is going to file a lawsuit, too. Can he do that? Does Tennessee law permit him to get money from the death of our son when he had nothing to do with our son when he was alive?
Unless you have some physical or mental health issue that you have not mentioned, you will have the right to bring the lawsuit.
Tennessee law provides that a parent who has a parent who has intentionally refused or neglected to pay any support for a child for a two-year period, or for the life of the child, whichever is less, when subject to a court order requiring the payment of child support and who has intentionally refused or neglected to contact the child or exercise visitation during such period is not permitted to recover damages for the death of the child. Thus, to cut off the father’s right to money out of any recovery you make, you will have to demonstrate that (a) there was a child support order; (b) the father intentionally did not pay for at least 2 years; and (c) he intentionally did not visit the child.
At an absolute minimum you will be able to recover your unpaid child support. Tennessee law provides that parent cannot recover damages from a wrongful death suit until all child support arrearages have been paid in full to the parent ordered to receive the support (plus interest). Thus, if your child’s father had visited your child within the last two years or but had not been paying child support he would have to re-pay you out of the any portion of the money he was entitled to receive.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you navigate through these issues.