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Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases

graveyard-1417871_1280-240x161.jpgUnder Tennessee law, family members of a deceased person who dies due to wrongful actions of another person are allowed to file wrongful death claims and sue for damages. Typically, claims must be filed within the statute of limitations, but under certain circumstances the statute of limitations period can be "tolled" or put on hold.

Tennessee Statutes

When an individual dies as the result of another person's actions, family members often seek justice on behalf of the individual who was killed by filing a wrongful death lawsuit with a wrongful death attorney. In Tennessee, wrongful death claims are treated as a special type of personal injury case, in which the injured person can no longer bring his/her own claim to court.

In most states, including Tennessee, state statutes are put in place to protect an immediate family member like a spouse or child who is rightfully entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. Statutes prevent friends or distant relatives from filing a wrongful death claim ahead of a spouse or child. Most statutes have specific provisions that set forth when and how wrongful death claims and lawful actions can be brought, as well as who can bring them. In Tennessee, the wrongful death statute gives priority to the surviving spouse, with first priority to bring a claim on behalf of the deceased individual and to control the litigation.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations

In Tennessee, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim is one year from the date of the deceased person's death. When the statute of limitations is tolled, the one year statute of limitations period can be extended by a Tennessee court. Tolling provisions can benefit a plaintiff by extending the time period in which he/she is permitted to file a lawsuit.

A statute of limitation is generally tolled for minors, adults who lack the capacity to sue, and during times of disaster. The statute may also be tolled if a defendant fraudulently conceals information or evidence regarding personal injuries or wrongful death. In Tennessee, a spouse can not assert claims as the legal representative of the deceased person. The legal representative must be a wrongful death attorney who can initiate proper civil court procedures and tolling procedures if necessary. A plaintiff's ignorance about timely filing and/or proper filing procedures will not toll the statute of limitation.

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