With fatal crash claims, best outcome depends on knowing the law

In the wake of a Tennessee vehicle crash that claims the life of a loved one, the last thing someone may be thinking about is the future. The grief of the moment is so encompassing, affecting immediate and extended family alike. Only sometime later might the reality of the financial impact of the loss come to be appreciated, initiating thoughts about whether it's possible to recover stability and raising questions about how to go about making that happen.

If another's recklessness caused the loss, a wrongful death claim might be the best option. Consulting experienced legal counsel is necessary, and the nature of Tennessee law is such that such appointments should be scheduled sooner, rather than later.

Reasons why

A number of elements in the law that make swift action imperative. Two of the most important are the statute of limitations and provisions establishing who among the surviving family is eligible to file such a claim.

Tennessee's statute of limitations

A statute of limitations sets the window within which a plaintiff can file a claim for damages. Every state's laws are somewhat different. While claims for property loss after vehicle collisions carry a three-year statute of limitations in Tennessee, the limit for personal injury claims, including wrongful death is just one year.

In most situations, the clock on the statute of limitations starts on the date of the collision. But under the "discovery rule" doctrine applied in Tennessee, a the one-year time would begin upon the victim's death – presuming it followed the collision by some period of time.

Rules of eligibility

The right to file a claim is also limited to certain individuals under Tennessee law. In specific order, these include:

  • The surviving spouse of the victim
  • The surviving children, if the spouse is for some reason ineligible
  • Other next of kin of the victim
  • The personal representative of the victim's estate, on behalf of survivor relatives
  • The victim's natural parents or parent, if the victim was a minor or otherwise still a dependent

Yet another reason to seek legal advice about your rights and options is that it costs nothing for the initial consultation.

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