Being involved in an auto accident is scary, especially if you’re left with horrific, life-changing injuries. The road to recovery following an auto accident can be long, expensive, and emotionally draining. Victims of car crashes deserve to claim compensation, but what happens when the driver of the other vehicle dies?
Do You Still Have a Valid Case?
Compensation claims for driver negligence rely on sufficient evidence that their actions caused the victim’s injuries. Considering the context of the law, the living status of the at-fault driver has zero bearing on a victim’s right to claim compensation.
In almost all states—even those adopting a no-fault insurance framework— a negligent driver’s death has no influence on your right to claim compensation. After a car crash caused by another driver, injured parties can recover damages from the negligent party’s insurance company. This typically starts off a chain reaction, which will lead you to hopefully securing a settlement.
If everything goes according to plan, the entire compensation claim takes place without any direct involvement from the at-fault driver. The only parties involved are yourself, your car accident injury lawyer, the decedent’s estate, and the negligent driver’s insurance company.
Simply put, the death of a negligent driver does not influence your right to claim compensation, unless a suitable settlement agreement can’t be reached. When a settlement agreement cannot be made, Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys will take your case all the way to the courtroom.
Filing a Lawsuit Against the Deceased Driver
Following your free consultation with our personal injury law firm, we will investigate the accident to build a compensation case. This will include medical records, evidence of loss of earnings, and liaising with relevant crash experts.
When we have a full picture, we will calculate an appropriate rate of compensation. If the at-fault driver’s insurance company isn’t willing to agree, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, the next step will be filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s estate.
This is where the process begins to look different to cases involving living negligent drivers. Rather than suing the driver, your vehicle accident lawyer will be filing a lawsuit against the deceased’s estate. The insurance company would still be responsible for defense and payment of damages, as long as there’s enough insurance coverage in place.
What If There’s Insufficient Insurance Coverage?
If the deceased driver’s insurance coverage can’t cover the cost of damages, the estate may be liable to pay the difference. This process is called probate, which recognizes the death of the negligent driver and handles payments of their existing debts.
Your road accident attorney will help you take the claim through probate court. However, if there aren’t enough assets in the estate to cover the costs, we will have to switch strategies. In cases like this, we file for compensation via your own underinsured/uninsured insurance coverage – if you have it.
While filing under your policy is a last resort option, keep in mind that this route is only designed to cover financial costs, which means any pain and suffering compensation may be lost.
Dealings with Empathy and Compassion
Feeling empathy and compassion towards the family of the at-fault driver is only natural, and it’s often enough to put victims off claiming compensation rightly owed to them. However, we must reiterate that your right to compensation doesn’t end with the death of the at-fault driver.
When you file compensation against the deceased’s estate, you won’t be dealing with the family. Instead, all interactions will be through the insurance company, who will hopefully agree to the settlement.
How to Improve Your Chances of Successfully Claiming Compensation
As mentioned previously, to build a strong compensation claim, we need to have overwhelming evidence that the at-fault driver’s actions led to your injuries. Although we will launch a thorough investigation, you need to begin gathering evidence as soon as the crash happens. Here is everything you need to do.
Immediately after the accident, get to a safe place, call 911, and remain at the scene until they’ve arrived and told you to leave. If your injuries prevent you from doing this, make sure you speak to them as soon as possible and note down the incident number.
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, begin collecting evidence by taking photos/videos from all angles, collecting details for witnesses, and writing the registration number of the at-fault vehicle.
When you’ve been told it’s safe to leave, it’s important to have a medical assessment and obtain all records, even if your injuries don’t appear serious. Some injuries can take days, weeks, or months to present symptoms. If you don’t attend the medical assessment, we have no way to link delayed symptoms to the crash, meaning the compensation claim would automatically fail.
Once you’re able, it’s important to contact your insurance provider to make them aware of the incident. During the initial call, do not say anything that could be misinterpreted as an admission of guilt. Give the basic facts, wait for a claim number, and then hang up the phone. We will take care of all insurance company interactions after this point.
The next step is contacting Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys for a free consultation, which can be over the phone, at our offices, in the hospital, or at your home. This is your opportunity to tell us your story and hand over any information you have so far. We will begin our investigation here and tell you if you’ve got a claim on your hands.
Most states have a 2-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, which means it’s important to act fast. However, there could be a substantial amount of time between your accident and the claim date, so we recommend keeping a journey to avoid facing memory issues and becoming an unreliable witness in your own case.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident where the at-fault driver died, contact us for a free consultation.