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Can i file a wrongful death case against the corporation that owns property where my friend was killed?

Mc Minnville, TN |

My close friend was logging a piece of property owned by a major corporation in TN in August 2011. I was with him, just to be there so he would not be alone. I was not being paid, and the company's employee gave me permission to be there. There was a horrific accident and my friend was killed. I was fortunate that the tree that he cut down did not kill me too, but I am haunted by this terrible accident, cant sleep, have nightmares about me calling out to him to watch out for the tree. The worst part of this is that there was no insurance claim for his death for his family, no accountability for the lack of safety procedures on the property, no justice for the loss of the great man's life. Can I file a wrongful death even though I am not family? Thanks much.

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Attorney answers 5


My condolences for the loss of your friend. Under general principles of law, it is likely that you have no standing to bring a wrongful death claim for the death of your friend.

The State of Oregon's Worker's Compensation Division provides information about death benefits payable to families under that state's worker's compensation scheme. I do not know whether your friend's family is eligible for those benefits or not, but it would be advisable for them to consult Oregon counsel to determine whether that benefit might be available.

So sorry for your loss.

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor


That's just general information and is not intended as legal advice, as I don't practice law in Oregon and don't hold Oregon licensure. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds Oregon licensure.

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor


Beg your pardon; I misread your location as McMinnville, Oregon.


first, i practice in indiana and illinois and do not know tn law. most states are generally similar but there are differences. you probably would not have legal standing to sue for the wrongful death of your friend since you are not family. HOWEVER, depending on the circumstances and TN law you may have your own negligent infliction of emotional distress case. state vary on the requirements for such a case. some states require that you had some physical contact with some instrumentality in the accident. some require that you simply be "involved" in the accident. you should contact a TN lawyer that does injury work. the best source is word of mouth. also the TN trial lawyers assoc would have a listing and the local county bar association may have a referral service. if there is reason to believe the property owner or someone else was negligent in causing the incident the family ought to contact a TN lawyer. good luck and god bless you and the family.


This is a complicated question to answer. In Tennessee, priority for filing a wrongful death claim generally goes to a spouse, or child, or parent, or administrator/executor of an estate. However, there are ways for a person to bring a wrongful death claim if the family members do not wish to. Regardless of who brings the claim, there are strict rules on how money will be disbursed if the claim prevails. You really need to speak with an experienced wrongful/personal injury attorney about this.

In addition, there are lots of other issues that come to mind when reading your post. Who was your friend employed by? Are you sure there is no insurance coverage? If not, is there a company or person responsible that may have assets? Have you sought medical treatment for witnessing the death? There is a possibility that you may have a claim as well.

Bottom line, you need to call and speak with an attorney. Most will meet with you free of charge for the initial consultation. Good luck.

Thomas Randel Greer

Thomas Randel Greer


Please visit for answers to frequently ask questions pertaining to personal injury and wrongful death cases.


Generally only next of kin are covered in any state's wrongful death statute . However, you may have a potential claim against the estate of your deceased friend and possibly his employer or the property owner for the negligent infliction of emotional distress on you. Whether this is a viable claim will depend upon the facts and your particular state law. I suggest you contact a personal injury attorney in the state where this occurred and further discuss the matter.

Legal Disclaimer:

If this information has been helpful, please indicate below.

Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.


Based on what you described, I think YOU have a valid, Tennessee, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress case.

Aside from that, you may be able to assist or encourage the family to do something along the lines of wrongful death, workers' comp, whatever. Either way, I encourage you not to over look YOUR claim.

Seek out an attorney, who specializes in Injury cases. Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss further. I'd make the drive for this one.

Please note that my answering this question, does not in any way mean I represent you for this, or any other case. You need to seek that actual face-to-face advise of any attorney in your area who can advise you further as to your rights.

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