The Importance of Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney Who Can Fight for Your Rights
The aftermath of a fatal accident can be catastrophic. Families—already struggling to come to terms with the unexpected loss of a loved one—are suddenly also fighting to stay financially solvent. The costs of unpaid medical bills and last-minute funeral fees accumulate quickly, inflicting crippling and seemingly insurmountable debt.
However, families don’t have to bear the burden of another person’s negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit could help secure vital compensation necessary to pay down their debt, replace a loved one’s lost income, and begin taking tentative steps toward rebuilding their lives.
Here are the top questions to ask a Tennessee wrongful death attorney to ensure you’ll have the right legal counsel.
8 Questions to Ask Your Wrongful Death Attorney
For many families, simply filing a wrongful death lawsuit could seem like an intimidating prospect. Since most wrongful death claims are high-stakes affairs, negotiating a fair settlement may be challenging—especially if the negligent party responsible for a loved one’s death refuses to admit wrongdoing.
While Tennessee state law protects the rights of wrongful death litigants, careful preparation is often critical to the success of an individual claim. Before scheduling your initial, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Tennessee wrongful death lawyer, do your due diligence and ensure potential legal partners have what it takes to secure the settlement and justice you deserve.
Here are the top questions to ask a Tennessee wrongful death attorney during your first meeting. Their replies will inform you as to whether they have the skills, background, and experience needed to litigate your claim.
1. What are the Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death Actions?
A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed whenever a person loses their life to an act of negligence. Some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims include, but are not limited to, the following:
2. Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Tennessee?
Every state, including the Volunteer State, has laws restricting how, when, and where a wrongful death claim can be filed. Under Tennessee state law, wrongful death is fined as a fatality caused by “injuries received from another” or by the “wrongful act, omission, or killing by another.”
Under most circumstances, a wrongful death lawsuit can only be filed by the deceased person’s closest living relatives, with priority given to surviving spouses, children, and parents. If there’s no qualifying family member available, then the claim could be initiated by the decedent’s estate executor.
3. How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The Tennessee Code sets a strict statute of limitations applicable to most wrongful death claims. A statute of limitations is, in effect, a legal deadline defining the maximum period in which a civil action can be filed. Every state has its own statute of limitations.
In Tennessee, most wrongful death claims are subject to a 1-year statute of limitations. However, some exceptions exist—if, for example, the family of the deceased person did not know the decedent’s cause of death, they could petition for an extension.
Your wrongful death lawyer could help you understand your rights under the state statute of limitations and explore the feasibility of filing a late claim.
4. Should I Accept an Insurance Company’s Offer of Settlement?
Insurance companies can move with surprising speed. If your loved one’s death seems directly attributable to an act of negligence, the insurance company could proactively offer a settlement.
While avoiding negotiations and claiming an immediate lump sum may seem an ideal alternative to litigation, initial offers of settlements are typically constructed to favor the company’s bottom line. Insurance agencies are, after all, for-profit enterprises, and it’s rarely in their best interests to settle a claim without first seeking to minimize financial liability.
Even if a settlement appears fair, you should always consult a wrongful death attorney before making a potentially life-changing decision. Don’t make a statement, sign an agreement, or otherwise engage with an insurance adjuster without asking for an attorney’s opinion.
5. Do You Have Experience Handling Wrongful Death Claims?
Every lawyer has the same basic qualifications: they most likely obtained a four-year university degree, graduated from an accredited law school, and passed their state bar exam.
However, not every attorney has the necessary experience to successfully resolve a wrongful death lawsuit. While an attorney who typically represents slip-and-fall accident victims may have the legal aptitude to create and file a claim, wrongful death lawsuits can become incredibly complicated.
When searching for an experienced wrongful death lawyer, always ask the following:
- Have you litigated wrongful death claims?
- How do you conduct wrongful death investigations?
- Do you have a proven history of securing favorable results for your wrongful death clients?
6. What Are the Different Types of Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Tennessee, unlike some states, doesn’t usually limit the compensation available in most wrongful death claims. Under state law, plaintiffs could receive an award for damages of the following types:
- Economic damages. This is compensation for objective financial losses, which could include reimbursement for medical expenses and funeral fees, or replacement for a loved one’s lost income.
- Non-economic damages. These are comparably subjective losses. Your wrongful death attorney may evaluate the need for payment that addresses emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of household services.
- Punitive damages. As the term suggests, these damages are issued by the court and intended to punish a defendant for egregiously negligent misconduct. While punitive damages aren’t always awarded, they can sometimes exceed the combined value of both economic and non-economic damages.
During your initial consultation with a Tennessee wrongful death attorney, they’ll possibly provide a rough estimation of how much your claim is worth.
You could receive damages for the following:
- Paid medical costs
- Funeral fees and burial expenses
- Lost income
- Lost earning potential
- Loss of emotional care and support
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
However, estimations frequently change as attorneys investigate the case and consult with experts to assess a family’s long-term financial needs.
7. Do I Have to Pay Taxes on a Wrongful Death Settlement?
Typically, the federal Internal Revenue Service doesn’t levy tax on wrongful death damages that are considered compensatory. Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages.
However, if punitive damages are awarded, the government may lay claim to a set percentage of the overall award. Before accepting a settlement, ask your wrongful death attorney whether you need to set aside money for taxes, and if there are any legal strategies to reduce your tax-related liabilities.
8. How Much Do You Charge for Representation?
Far too many families have the common misconception that high-quality legal representation comes at an unaffordable high price. While some lawyers may charge high hourly fees to establish a trust or streamline a corporate merger, wrongful death claims are different. Most wrongful death attorneys, including Weir & Kestner Injury Lawyers, operate on a contingency fee basis.
In personal injury law, a contingency fee is a type of payment arrangement established after the settlement of the claim. Usually, attorneys don’t ask their clients to pay upfront for their ordinary legal services, nor do they seek reimbursement for the routine costs of representation. Instead, the firm accepts payment as a percentage of any eventual settlement. Contingency fee arrangements often work to the advantage of both clients and legal counsel. Since attorneys know they won’t get paid if they can’t secure damages, they typically prioritize all of their cases, doing everything in their power to ensure their clients receive the compensation that they deserve. Additionally, a contingency fee agreement protects families who don’t necessarily have the immediate funds required to litigate a claim against an insurance company, multimillion-dollar corporation, or expansive government agency.
To supplement answers to your list of questions to ask a Tennessee wrongful death attorney, make sure your prospective legal counsel completely outlines the fee structure during your initial consultation.
Did Your Loved One Die Due to the Negligence of Others?
When you’re trying to heal after such a devastating loss, the complications of a wrongful death lawsuit can be overwhelming. Put your trust into an experienced legal team that will help your family recover. Weir & Kestner Injury Attorneys offer compassionate, knowledgeable guidance and focus on providing the best possible representation to victims of negligent acts.
Contact us online or call our office directly at 615.220.4180 to schedule your free consultation. We’ll arrange a time to meet with you at one of our offices in Smyrna, Nashville, Murfreesboro or Chattanooga—whichever location is most convenient for you.