The appropriate type of civil lawsuit to file against a negligent driver for causing death in a traffic accident is called a wrongful death action. The family of the deceased must file an estate in the person's county of residence, and it is the estate that files against the person or persons who are liable to pay compensation. Death claims in Tennessee and elsewhere can be significant, particularly where there may be an extended amount of lost wages or lost earning capacity over the lifetime of a younger victim.
That appears to be the case in an accident that occurred in May 2014 that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old Metro police officer who was assisting in an accident cleanup on I-65. At that time, the defendant struck and killed the officer with his motorhome, which was carrying a trailer. The deceased officer had less than one year on the force.
The officer's estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a Tennessee court against the driver of the motorhome, a 72-year-old man from Ohio. The man faces criminal charges of reckless homicide and failure to yield, and he will appear in court on May 29 on the charges. A guilty plea to one or more of the charges will confirm what appears to be a clear case of civil liability against the defendant.
The wrongful death action is independent of the criminal charges and is filed by the estate for monetary damages, not criminal punishment. It is likely that in a case of clear liability, such as this one, the defendant's liability insurance carrier will pay the full coverage on the policy. However, it remains to be seen whether or not that amount will be sufficient compensation for the large claim that exists. A personal injury attorney in Tennessee who is experienced in wrongful death actions and obtaining maximum insurance from all available sources will be an indispensable resource on behalf of the estate in a case like this one.
Source: wkrn.com, "Wrongful death suit filed by parents of Metro officer killed on I-65", April 30, 2015