Tennessee law stipulates who can file specific civil claims should the unfortunate circumstances present themselves. What is not known to most is the instance in which a spouse has the legal authority to file a wrongful death claim, even when the spouse filing that claim may be at fault for the death. A spouse’s claim would negate any other wrongful death claims presented.
A wife and mother died in a multi-car accident where she was the passenger in her husband’s vehicle. The accident ultimately resulted in the woman’s husband being charged with vehicular homicide. The deceased woman’s daughter then filed a wrongful death claim against the husband and another driver involved in the incident.
The widowed husband then proceeded to file a wrongful death claim against another of the drivers involved in the crash. The courts decided that the husband had the priority to initiate the wrongful death claim, regardless that others claimed he was the negligent driver and responsible for the accident. Because the surviving spouse has the right to file a wrongful death claim, the daughter’s claims were dismissed. She appealed and won, on the circumstance that the courts found a conflict of interest for the husband. However, the He appealed to the Tennessee supreme court and won.
A strange as this may seem, Tennessee law is clear. The spouse has precedence in filing the wrongful death claim. The surviving spouse may use any monies awarded to help with medical and final costs. A knowledgeable attorney well versed in civil wrongful death claims may be able to provide direction and legal assistance should one find him or herself in a similar situation.
Source: chattanoogan.com, “TN Supreme Court Rules Surviving Spouse In Wrongful Death Case, Even If Negligent In Cause Of Death, Maintains Priority In Filing“, March 5, 2018