Usually, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for covering the damages suffered by victims of car accidents. But the death of the at-fault driver may complicate matters, making it difficult to seek or get redress. A Houston Car Accident Lawyer may help you if you’re in such a predicament. Meanwhile, consider the following elements and options:
The At-Fault Driver Insurance
You need to determine whether the at-fault driver had insurance. Mostly, their insurer will still be held responsible for the accident damages. Your accident attorney can help you make your claim with the insurance provider. They can also take the necessary steps to secure a favorable outcome, including:
- Negotiating a settlement that accommodates your medical expenses.
- Compute pain and suffering damages.
- Investigate the accident and gather evidence to determine the other driver’s fault.
- Provide evidence of your vehicle repair cost.
Unlike no-fault states that offer redress no matter who is to blame, in Texas, you must prove the other driver was responsible. That said, the law obligates the at-fault driver’s insurer to pay you for damages – even if the policyholder dies.
However, if you go against the insurance company alone, you might have your work cut out. For starters, you would be up against experienced insurance adjusters and attorneys. Does that sound like a well-matched fight? Fortunately, your attorney can help level the playing field.
The Deceased Driver’s Estate
If the driver was uninsured or underinsured, you might bring a claim against their estate. What is an estate? Basically, it’s the property one leaves behind when they die. It encompasses their assets, such as cash and property, and liabilities.
You can file a suit against the at-fault driver’s estate if their insurance doesn’t cover your damages. Your attorney can ensure the process is managed properly to maximize the chances of getting a favorable outcome.
Similarly, if the deceased driver caused the death of your loved one, your attorney can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit against the estate. Of course, you’ll need to provide evidence to prove their fault before the court awards a redress.
All the same, the probate process allows you to file a claim in court against an estate. But this could be time-consuming, and it’s not always possible to get the outcome you have in mind. Even so, your attorney can help you navigate probate proceedings and maximize your chances of success.
Probate facilitates the division of assets to rightful heirs, but the estate’s executor is responsible for approving or rejecting claims. Again, your attorney can help you make a strong claim and increase its chances of approval by providing evidence and proof to demonstrate your claim for damages suffered in the car accident. Thus, the deceased driver’s estate could be liable to cover the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Psychological therapy
- Permanent disability
This approach is usually difficult and may only be worth pursuing if the estate can cover your damages. In any case, consult an experienced attorney to help determine whether going after the deceased’s estate is viable or necessary.
According to Texas law, the deceased driver would only be liable for damages if they were at least partially responsible for the accident. Thus if their proportion of responsibility were 70%, then their insurer or estate would be liable for 70% of your damages. As such, you must have convincing evidence to prove the deceased driver was partly or fully responsible for your accident.
Texas adopts the “proportionate responsibility” system. This means you’re likely to receive less redress if you were partially accountable for the crash (as established above). So, seek legal advice from an attorney to determine whether you’re liable. Plus, they can demonstrate your innocence and help protect your rights.
Challenges of Proving Your Case
Dealing with a deceased at-fault driver means you have to prove their fault without the benefit of questioning them in court. Hence, proving your case can be a challenge. Your attorney can help you gather the evidence needed to make your claim. This includes:
- Police reports
- Eyewitness testimonies
- Photographic evidence
- Medical records
The documents you provide will depend on your particular case. Even so, the at-fault driver’s family may still try to deny liability. For instance, they could question your evidence or try to blame the deceased driver’s death on you. That said, your attorney can help you counter such arguments.
It’s understandable to feel helpless and frustrated when filing a claim against the estate of an at-fault driver who passed away in a car accident or dealing with their insurer. And with all the considerations you need to make, it’s advisable to seek legal assistance to navigate the process.