If the At-Fault Driver Dies, Can You Still Seek Compensation for Your Injuries?

If the At-Fault Driver Dies, Can You Still Seek Compensation for Your Injuries?In serious and catastrophic car accidents, it is not uncommon for the at-fault driver to lose their life. When the liable driver dies in the accident, it’s normal to have many questions and concerns regarding your claim, and whether it is still possible to seek compensation for your injuries.

This is normal, as an already complicated legal process often becomes even more complex when the responsible party passes away. However, an experienced car accident lawyer can evaluate your accident and determine what paths you should take to recover the necessary compensation.

Can I still file a claim if the at-fault driver dies?

If you can prove that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused the accident that resulted in your damages, you can still file a claim. It usually does not affect the validity of your claim if the at-fault driver dies. As long as you know that they caused the crash and have proof to back up this fact, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, which means that you will generally need to file a claim with your own insurance company first. However, if your damages are more than what your insurance policy covers, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the deceased driver’s estate. It is important to know that this can be a long process as you will still need to prove negligence, and the driver’s estate may need to go through the probate process.

Is there anything I need to do if the at-fault driver dies in a Pittsburgh car crash?

Under Pennsylvania § 3744, accident victims must report all car crashes that result in injuries or fatalities immediately. You must remain at the scene of the accident and wait for responding officers to arrive and make a police report. Then, you should seek medical attention right away.

If you are physically able to, you should document the accident scene before you leave. For example, it is a good idea to take photos and videos of the scene and vehicles, write down any facts or details about the accident, and exchange information with any nearby witnesses. Once you visit a local hospital and are on the road to recovery, it is important that you report the accident to your car insurance company, file for PIP, and continue documenting any hardships and challenges since the accident.

How do I prove negligence against a deceased driver?

The process for proving negligence against a deceased driver is similar to proving negligence against a living at-fault driver. You will need to successfully prove these four elements:

  1. Duty of care: You will need to prove that the deceased at-fault driver had a duty of care when operating a vehicle and sharing the roadway with you and other drivers.
  2. Breach of duty: You must show proof that the driver breached their duty of care by acting recklessly or carelessly.
  3. Causation: You must prove the driver’s breach and actions directly resulted in the accident.
  4. Damages: Lastly, you must prove that you suffered damages due to the crash. This may be medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and more.

What if my attorney already filed a claim and then the responsible driver dies?

It is not uncommon for drivers involved in severe crashes to leave the scene alive but eventually succumb to their injuries. If your attorney already filed a claim and later learned that the responsible driver died, this could result in a few roadblocks to getting compensation. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your claim, your attorney may decide to pursue the claim against the deceased driver’s estate. While this is a viable option, it is critical to know that you still have a deadline, which means that you and your attorney must act fast to ensure that you do not miss the deadline to recover compensation for your losses.

Pennsylvania § 3383 states that “The death of a person shall not stop the running of the statute of limitations applicable to any claim against him, but a claim which otherwise would be barred within one year after the death of the decedent shall not be barred until the expiration of one year after his death.” Therefore, if the at-fault driver dies within one year of the deadline, the statute of limitations to file a claim may be extended to one year from the date of the deceased driver’s death. As a result, you may be given an extra few weeks or months.

Will I be bothering the deceased driver’s family and loved ones?

It is normal to be concerned and sympathetic toward the deceased driver’s family members and loved ones. This may cause worry or hesitance about filing a lawsuit. The truth is, you probably won’t ever see or communicate with the family of the at-fault driver; your lawyer will be communicating with the insurance company’s lawyers (and potentially the estate’s lawyer) most of the time. And you likely have  medical bills, auto mechanic fees, and other expenses that are piling up; you deserve compensation to cover them and get your life back on track.

The Pittsburgh car accident attorneys at Carmody & Ging Injury & Accident Lawyers are here to fight for your right to compensation even if the at-fault driver passes away. These types of claims can become overwhelming and complicated very quickly, but our team has the experience, skills, and knowledge to guide you through every step and ensure that you get the justice you deserve for your losses. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation in Pittsburgh today.