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Tennessee Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

The Tennessee statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is one year after the date of the injury that caused the death. The date of injury is not always the same date as the death, and this is an important distinction in the law. If you do not file your case on time, you could miss your opportunity to recover money for your losses.

Tennessee, like other states, imposes strict deadlines on filing personal injury claims or wrongful death lawsuits. 

A wrongful death claim, which includes a survival claim, is filed by the family or personal representative of the deceased person when death is the result of someone else’s wrongful act or omission. 

The compassionate and skilled Tennessee personal injury attorneys at NST Law provide advocacy, support, and legal advice to surviving spouses, children, and other family members following the tragic loss of their loved ones.

Are there any exceptions to the Tennessee statute of limitations for wrongful death?

In certain circumstances, Tennessee law allows the statute of limitations to be paused, or tolled.

The Discovery Rule

The discovery rule allows the statute of limitations to be tolled until the date a cause of action is discovered. For example, if the true cause of death is fraudulently concealed, the statute of limitations is tolled until the true cause of death becomes known or reasonably should have become known.  

This may also occur in cases of product liability when the public becomes aware that a product causes a death.

The Reasonableness Standard

The reasonableness standard means the statute of limitations could begin accruing before the date the family knows about the true cause of death if a court determines that, with reasonable diligence, the family should have known by a prior date. This highlights the importance of consulting with an attorney as soon as you suspect a loved one may have suffered injuries due to someone else’s fault.

Lack of Legal Capacity

A wrongful death action in Tennessee may be filed by the decedent’s personal representative, surviving spouse, or in the absence of a surviving spouse, the surviving children or next of kin. If the only eligible claimant lacks legal competence, the statute of limitations may be tolled. 

Tennessee Code § 28-1-106 defines legal incompetence as being under 18 or of unsound mind until such a time as legal capacity is restored. When capacity is restored, the person has one year to file a legal action. During the period of incapacity, a personal representative may file a claim on behalf of the victim.

Medical Malpractice

If death ensued because of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations may be extendable by following the requirements described in the medical malpractice statute

When suing for medical malpractice, you must provide a notice to the health care providers named in the lawsuit at least 60 days prior to filing the case. This notice must include the following: 

  • Complete patient and claimant information 
  • Attorney information 
  • A list of the names and addresses of all providers receiving the notice 
  • A HIPAA-compliant medical authorization for the release of medical records 

Providing this notice in compliance with the law extends the statute of limitations by 120 days. The above requirements are highly technical and complex.

Criminal Charges Against the Defendant

In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim may be increased to two years in cases where criminal charges are brought against the person who caused the injury if the prosecution is commenced within one year by law enforcement, a district attorney general, or a grand jury.

Photo of the Tennessee capitol building

How soon should I contact a Tennessee wrongful death attorney?

When you have lost a loved one, the legal case against the responsible party may be low on your priority list, but the Tennessee statute of limitations is short. An experienced wrongful death attorney requires significant time to investigate and build a strong case. These tasks should be completed prior to filing the claim.  

Early involvement will ensure your attorney has sufficient time to prepare the strongest case possible. It will provide your attorney with the opportunity to access important eyewitnesses and evidence in your case while it is still fresh and available. 

While no amount of money can restore the loss of a loved one, it may alleviate the financial stress brought on by the loss and provide surviving family members with a sense of justice. Filing a timely lawsuit may provide the family with the following: 

  • Reimbursement for the medical expenses of the deceased 
  • Payment for funeral expenses 
  • Non-economic damages such as loss of companionship 
  • Punitive damages to punish and deter a defendant who caused the death intentionally or through gross negligence, including drunk driving or other egregious conduct

Insurance Filing Deadlines

Most wrongful death cases start with a claim against an insurance company. In addition to the statute of limitations, the insurance company may also impose filing deadlines. It is important to file on time for these deadlines. 

Insurance companies are notorious for underpaying claims or evading them altogether. An experienced attorney can help you with your insurance claim even at this early stage.  

In many cases, the skillful attorneys at NST Law have successfully negotiated generous settlements at this stage without filing a lawsuit.

Don’t Rely on the Exceptions

The law provides exceptions in rare cases. You may be able to successfully fight for an exception, but if you file outside the prescribed statute of limitations, you risk losing your right to pursue your claim further. A court may rule that the exception does not apply in your case. 

Counting on exceptions is risky. Doing so just gives insurance companies more ammunition to fight against paying you the compensation to which you are entitled. The earlier you involve a qualified wrongful death lawyer, the sooner you can file your case.

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How can a Tennessee wrongful death lawyer help me file my case on time?

When your loved one’s death has been caused by someone else’s negligence, you need a strong advocate with experience, resources, and passion who will immediately spring into action to champion your cause.  

You can count on the champions for the injured at NST Law to represent your interests from day one. Our law firm operates on a policy of compassion, accessibility, trust, and a commitment to excellence.  

We serve all of Tennessee with law offices in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Jackson. As the largest Tennessee-based personal injury law firm, we have the resources and experience to pursue and win the maximum compensation available in your wrongful death case. 

We demonstrate how much we care by giving back to the communities in which we live and work. Charitable organizations we have supported include: 

  • Memphis Union Mission 
  • The Salvation Army 
  • HER Faith Ministries 
  • Facing History and Ourselves 
  • Memphis/Shelby County Firefighters Association  
  • Ronald McDonald House 

We are proud to support organizations that provide services to low-income individuals, stand up to bigotry, and promote diversity and inclusion. 

When you have the legal team at NST Law on your side, you can rest assured that your case will be filed in a timely manner and that you will be represented by champions for the injured.  

The initial case review is free, and we never charge legal fees unless and until we win. Don’t let the clock run out. Contact the champs today for your free consultation.