If you suffer a serious personal injury, you can file a legal action against the negligent person or entity responsible so you can recover compensation for your damages. But what do you do if the person who hurt you dies?
This question actually comes up rather frequently. For example, what do you do if the person who hit your car and caused your injuries dies in the crash? Or if the lawsuit you filed wraps up, but the negligent party dies before the judgment is rendered?
In situations like these, you can still file a lawsuit for compensation. The difference is, instead of suing the person who caused your injuries, you pursue compensation from the deceased driver's estate.
Seeking compensation from the estate of a decedent
If a person commits negligent actions before death, legal claims and complaints can be brought against his or her estate after death. When people die, their assets and debts enter a legal process called "probate." Everything the decedent owns is inventoried, valued, and debts are paid before the estate assets are transferred over to the beneficiaries of the estate.
However, as a victim of a personal injury claim, you can be considered a potential creditor, or debt, of the estate. It's important to keep the following in mind - the statute of limitations for filing a claim is shorter if the defendant is the deceased. You have less time to assert your claim as a creditor and must file it with the estate via probate court. (In Ohio and in Kentucky, it's six months after the death.)
Once you've filed a claim with the decedent's estate, you've established your right to compensation for your injuries if it's decided you're entitled to them. Your case will still proceed like any other car accident or personal injury claim, with one important caveat: you must continue to pay attention to the deadlines for filing a claim with the probate court.
Why? Because you can be time-barred from recovering compensation, even if you filed your claim within the 2-year statute of limitations. Furthermore, your potential for recovery could be lower if you didn't file on time.
For example, say you were a victim of a car accident and suffered a spinal cord injury. You plan to file a lawsuit seeking $10 million, but the driver dies before the lawsuit can conclude. The policy had a limit of $500,000. If you miss the deadline for probate court, the insurance company will only have to pay its policy limits. Thus, even if the jury awards you the full $10 million, you could be barred from recovering more than the $500,000 limit, and from filing a claim against the estate for the full amount.
These are really tricky cases, so it's important that you seek legal representation quickly. Those with the top priority are paid off first, and so on down the line. Your attorney works to ensure you receive the highest possible compensation for which you're eligible.
If you have suffered an injury but the negligent party dies before your claim is resolved, you want an attorney who will fight for what you deserve. The injury attorneys at Crandall & Pera Law can hold those responsible to account, fighting to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call us in Ohio or Kentucky today or use our contact form to send us a message.