What Happens if the Defendant (The Person Who Caused Your Accident) Dies Before Your Lawsuit or Settlement is Over?

Accident Attorney Because lawsuits can often take years to reach trial, or before they get resolved, sometimes parties to a lawsuit can pass away. In other situations, in an accident, a responsible party might die from injuries suffered in an accident. An example of this occurred in Victorville on September 1, 2014, when the driver of a Honda Civic recklessly drove his car at a high rate of speed, near 90 mph, into the rear of another car. The driver of the Honda died from his injuries in the collision and sent two victims to the hospital with injuries of their own. These two victims have a claim against the 32-year-old deceased driver for his negligent and reckless conduct. But the driver is dead, so what happens?

With the death of the person who caused this accident where do these victims turn to recover damages for their losses and injuries?

A Claim Can Proceed Against the Deceased Party's Insurance Policy

The answer to this question may be multifaceted. If the deceased driver has an insurance policy to cover him for his negligent or reckless activities, such as causing an accident, then a claim would start with the available insurance policy. Depending on the nature and scope of the injuries, as well as the amount of insurance available for the claim, a demand to the insurance company may fully resolve the dispute and provide proper compensation to the injury victims. If the available liability policy does not have enough money to pay for all the injuries, then the injury victims might be able to turn to their own uninsured motorist insurance coverage for additional compensation. All this depends on the availability and amount of the insurance purchased prior to the accident by both the deceased and the injury victims.

It's Also Possible to Seek Compensation from the Estate of the Deceased

If there is not enough insurance provided by the at-fault driver, and there is not enough uninsured motorist coverage, or none at all, to pay for the injuries, then the injury victims could try and recover damages from the estate of the deceased. When someone dies, they leave their worldly possessions behind. For some, that "estate" may be substantial, for others it may be nothing at all. If the deceased driver has a substantial estate, then a claim can be made against the estate itself to seek compensation, or additional compensation, to pay for the injuries inflicted on the innocent accident victims. There are procedural steps which have to be followed to make a claim against an estate or the claim can be lost. The ironic thing is that in most instances, when a person has a large estate, they tend to have larger insurance policies and there is a lesser need to pursue the estate directly. For those with small or no estates, they routinely have little or no insurance coverage because of the cost of that coverage, thereby requiring you to either suffer from the injuries without compensation or rely upon your own uninsured motorist coverage.

Unfortunately, when there is no insurance and no available estate, there is little hope for recovery, absent unusual circumstances or other possible sources of recovery beyond the dead driver. All options must be explored to help the injury victims secure the best and proper compensation.

Let Our Car Accident Lawyers Help You Through This Unique Legal Situation

Ultimately, the best protection you have from the damages caused by a negligent driver, who dies in the accident or sometime thereafter, is to make sure you have an ample uninsured motorist insurance policy of your own. By so doing, your future does not depend on the at-fault’s preparedness, or lack thereof, in purchasing a sizeable insurance policy. If you're involved in a similar situation, or have more questions about the claims process involving a deceased party, we urge you to call us today at 909-481-0100 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our car accident attorneys. We have offices in Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville, conveniently positioned to serve all of the Inland Empire and High Desert regions.