What to Do After the Unexpected Death of a Loved One

pallbearers putting casket in hearse at funeralRelatives are often stunned and overwhelmed after the sudden loss of a family member. Even with friends and family offering sympathy and help with “anything you need,” you’re not sure exactly where to start or what steps to take. The legal aftermath of a death involves confusing paperwork, email chains, and constant calls to county clerks and creditors—all at a time when you just want to be alone to grieve.

What to Do If Your Loved One Died in an Accident in Tennessee

Our wrongful death attorneys have outlined a basic guide for bereaved family members to follow after a sudden loss. Not all of these steps may apply in your case, but we hope it will help you get your bearings and regain some control at this difficult time.

After a loved one’s sudden passing, you may need to:

  • Get medical care. If you were also involved in the accident that caused the death of your loved one, you might have injuries of your own. It is important to take care of yourself first, both physically and emotionally. Take time to rest and recover, attend all follow-up appointments, and do not attempt to take on too much too soon.
  • Honor your loved one. A memorial service is vital for processing the emotional trauma and moving on after a loss. Take the time to celebrate your relative’s life, surrounding yourself with the people who also knew and loved them.
  • File insurance claims. You may need to file insurance claims to cover the costs of the accident. For example, if your loved one was killed in a car accident, his or her auto insurance policy may pay for medical costs and damage to the vehicle. If your loved one had a life insurance policy, you will need to file a claim for this as well by sending a copy of the death certificate to the insurer.
  • Close the estate. If you have been named as the personal representative of your loved one’s estate, you will have to enter a process called probate administration. This will allow your loved one’s property to be passed to his or her heirs, and also open a probate account so that any damages in a wrongful death case will be paid to the estate of your loved one.
  • Consider counseling. It is natural to feel shocked, angry, depressed, or numb after a sudden death. Grief can take many forms and can continue for months or even years after the incident, and raw emotions may cause trouble in personal relationships or at work. Talk with your doctor about the possibility of therapy or seek out a grief counselor to discuss your feelings with a professional.
  • Talk to an attorney. Family members can be placed under significant financial hardship after the loss of a relative, especially if the relative provided parenting assistance or a large portion of the family’s income. Tennessee law allows relatives to seek reimbursement for their losses when a death results from someone else's negligence, recklessness, or deliberate act. However, there is only a limited time to file this type of claim—and if the time limit expires, families lose the right to collect compensation permanently. For this reason, it is important to speak to a qualified injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident.

If a person you love has been killed due to someone else’s negligence, our attorneys will advise you on your next steps, gather evidence on your behalf, and fight all the way to trial to get you the closure and compensation you deserve. We begin all injury cases with a free initial consultation—and we do not collect anything unless we secure a recovery for you. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to get started, or download a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.