Can I file a car accident claim if the at-fault driver died in the crash?

Fatal Car Wreck Involving Two CarsCatastrophic auto crashes that leave some occupants seriously injured can also be fatal to others. Drivers are at particular risk for fatal injuries because they are behind the steering wheel, and the driver’s side often takes the brunt of the impact.

So it is not unheard of for one party to be seeking compensation from a party who died in the crash. If the deceased driver is found to be at fault in the crash, you can still hold their insurance company—and possibly their estate—liable for your losses. Our Indianapolis car accident attorney explains further.

Contact an Indiana Auto Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible

After seeking treatment for your own injuries, the first thing you should do is hire an experienced Indiana car accident attorney.

A claim against a deceased driver’s insurance company or estate will be complicated, and you should entrust it to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

You might feel bad about holding someone who has lost their life accountable for your accident, but you are entitled to compensation for your losses regardless of the condition of the other driver. Your lawyer will handle the situation in an efficient, professional manner so that you can focus on your own recovery.

It Might Just Be a Matter for the Insurance Company

If the deceased driver was determined to be 100% at fault for the crash and had sufficient liability insurance coverage to fully compensate you for your damages, your lawyer might only have to submit a compelling claim on the policy. The driver’s death does not void his insurance coverage.

As long as the insurer agrees to the demand, the case can be settled quickly with no involvement from the surviving family members. Even if the insurance company decides to dispute the determination of fault, the matter can still be handled between your lawyer and the insurance company’s lawyers. If a settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer can file a lawsuit against the insurance company to get you the compensation you deserve.

Insufficient Insurance Coverage Could Lead to a Claim on the Estate

If the deceased driver did not have enough coverage to fully compensate you, but they have significant personal assets, a lawsuit can be filed against the driver or, more accurately, against their estate. This process will be more complicated than it would have been against a living driver, and it will take significantly more time, but it is possible to recover what you are owed.

The deceased person’s estate will have to go through probate, and your lawsuit will be dealt with along with other creditors and claims on the estate during the probate process. In the meantime, your own health insurance or uninsured motorist coverage should take care of your expenses until the case is settled.

Evidence Your Lawyer Will Present

Whether your personal injury lawyer is dealing with the other driver’s insurance company or their estate, he will gather evidence to strengthen your claim for damages. This evidence might include:

  • Police report. A fatal crash will be thoroughly investigated by the police, so there will be ample documentation of how the negligent driver caused the crash. Your attorney will present police evidence to support your claim.
  • Photographs or videos of the scene. The police report will likely also include photographs of the scene, which will show the devastation caused by the crash, including damage to your vehicle. There may also be surveillance cameras in the area that captured the accident.
  • Expert testimony. If the insurance company denies that their client was fully at fault, your lawyer might bring in a crash reconstructionist or other traffic expert to examine the scene—or photographs and witness statements after the fact—and testify in support of your claim.
  • Witness statements. Anyone who witnessed the crash—including bystanders and passengers—could provide valuable information about what happened. Witnesses to the other driver’s behavior before the crash—such as distracted or reckless driving or drinking at a bar—will also be helpful.
  • Your medical records. Your lawyer will need to provide evidence of the extent of your injuries and the potential total cost of treatment. Their claim will include documentation of doctor visits, medical tests, bills, and projections of treatment costs.
James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller