Could I Still File a Claim if the At-Fault Driver Died in the Crash?

injured person speaking with attorney about car accident

If you suffered severe injuries in a car crash that you didn’t cause, you could be entitled to compensation from the at-fault party. But what happens if the other driver was killed in the accident? If the liable party died as a result of the crash, your injury claim might be more complex than a typical car accident claim. You can still be compensated for your losses. However, you will most likely need a skilled personal injury attorney’s help to successfully navigate the claims process and pursue the settlement you deserve.

If you were injured in a car accident that resulted in the at-fault party’s death, contact the New York car accident lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C. right away to discuss your case. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you determine the correct course of action for your claim.

Did the At-Fault Motorist Have Insurance?

Many states operate on a “fault’ based auto insurance system. However, New York is a no-fault state for auto insurance. All New York motorists must possess at least $50,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which they can turn to for coverage after a car accident regardless of fault. PIP is designed to reduce the burden of third-party claims and personal injury lawsuits on the legal system.

Your PIP policy should cover your medical expenses and your lost earnings if you had to take time off work to recover from your injuries, up to your policy limits. But what if you were seriously injured in the accident and your PIP policy doesn’t cover all your losses? New York state law allows auto accident victims who have suffered serious injuries to step outside the no-fault auto insurance system and pursue a third-party insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit directly against the individual who caused the accident.

If you suffered a serious injury, you could potentially pursue a claim against the deceased motorist’s liability policy. In New York, all drivers are required to carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person and $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident. The insurance company should process your claim as if the at-fault motorist had survived the crash. You might feel apprehensive about pursuing a claim against the deceased person, given that their family will likely be in mourning. Fortunately, the only entity you should have to interact with is the deceased motorist’s insurance company.

Was the At-Fault Motorist Uninsured or Underinsured?

If the at-fault party was uninsured or lacked sufficient coverage to cover your losses, then you might not be able to obtain compensation through their insurance policy. In that case, you would most likely file a claim against the deceased motorist’s estate. When a person with assets and property passes away, their estate must go through probate. Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s estate is divided up according to their wishes, and their remaining debts are paid off to creditors.

If you are pursuing a claim against the deceased motorist, you are technically a creditor of the deceased person’s estate. If your claim is successfully resolved through a settlement or in litigation, then the estate will need to pay the claim during probate. This process can be understandably complex. Retaining a skilled car accident attorney to help you navigate the legal process can be essential to bringing a successful claim.

Did the At-Fault Motorist Lack Insurance and an Estate?

If the deceased motorist lacks insurance coverage and doesn’t have an estate, then you may need to pursue other avenues for compensation. First, you could turn to your PIP policy for coverage up until you’ve reached your policy limits. Then, if your PIP policy won’t cover all of your losses, you could also turn to uninsured or underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage for additional compensation if your insurance policy includes UM/UIM. A skilled injury attorney can also help you identify other possible sources of financial relief, like through your health insurance.

How to Bring a Strong Car Accident Claim

To bring a successful insurance claim, you’ll need to provide evidence that the deceased motorist was liable for the accident. An attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove fault. Some of the most common types of evidence lawyers use in car accident cases include:

In addition to establishing you suffered a severe injury in the accident, you’ll need to show that the deceased driver acted negligently. The four primary components of negligence include:

  • Duty — You must establish that the at-fault party had a duty to prevent you from being harmed.
  • Breach —You must also prove that the liable motorist breached that duty through some form of negligence (such as texting while driving).
  • Causation —Third, you must demonstrate how the driver’s negligence led directly to the crash that caused your injuries.
  • Damages —Finally, you need to be able to demonstrate that you suffered compensable losses due to the accident. Compensable losses may be monetary (medical expenses) or non-financial (pain and suffering).

Every personal injury case hinges on the evidence provided. The insurance company’s goal is to save money. So, they will look for ways to shift blame or poke holes in your account of the crash in order to avoid a large payout. By providing extensive evidence of fault (as well as your losses), you will have a better chance of securing a fair settlement.

How Finz & Finz, P.C. Can Help You

Expenses resulting from a car accident can quickly add up. Hospital bills, rehabilitative care, auto repairs, mental healthcare, and other costs can place a significant financial strain on you and your family. You shouldn’t be responsible for costs related to a car accident that someone else caused.

Thankfully, there are potential avenues for compensation that may be available to you even if the at-fault motorist passes away in the crash. Proving liability can still be a challenge, though. So, we highly recommend hiring a trusted New York City car accident lawyer to handle your case. Working with an attorney can significantly improve your chances of bringing a successful claim.

Call Finz & Finz, P.C. at 855-TOP-FIRM for a free case evaluation and to discuss how we can help you today.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.