Personal injury law states that the at-fault driver should compensate their victims. But what happens when the at-fault driver dies in a crash? Such situations can be confusing when seeking compensation for the loss caused by the deceased driver. Should you file a claim with the decadent’s insurance or their families?
Such questions can be well answered by a licensed personal injury attorney in Bakersfield. The experience and skills of accident attorneys help them understand the predicament of their clients hence, they’re better placed to advise accident casualties. Besides, most lawyers work on a contingency fees basis–meaning you shouldn’t worry about upfront fees and other obligations.
General Car Accident Claims Rules
American states follow at-fault or no-fault insurance laws, and California is an at-fault state. The faulting driver is held responsible for the loss– injuries and property damage sustained by the other driver. In simple terms, the victim can file a claim against the at-fault driver and recover damages for their loss.
Alternatively, you can sue the at-fault driver and their liability insurance will step in to rescue their client by paying the damages. It should be noted that the majority of claims are resolved out of court as long as the involved insurance company cooperates.
Effects of the Death of a Faulting Driver on Your Claim
You can seek compensation from the insurance company of the decadent driver if their policy was still active before death. On humanitarian grounds, most victims prefer other ways other than seeking compensation from the deceased’s family if the decadent didn’t have an active auto insurance policy. But what happens if the deceased’s insurance policy can’t sufficiently cover your loss?
You can still be compensated for all your losses even if the at-fault driver (deceased) was either underinsured or uninsured. The underinsured motorist coverage can compensate you if the at-fault driver’s policy is not sufficient to cover your loss. This coverage is an add-on to your regular auto insurance coverage and should be provided by your insurer. Underinsured motorist policies are typically expensive but they can be beneficial in the event of an accident where the at-fault driver is underinsured.
What if the faulting driver wasn’t insured? You can still file a claim under the uninsured motorist coverage in your insurance coverage. The coverage can be used in specific situations, such as:
- Hit-and-run accidents;
- If the faulting driver doesn’t have an auto insurance coverage;
- If the faulting driver’s insurance policies lapsed. Auto insurance policies typically lapse if a policyholder fails to pay premiums.
It should be noted that purchasing uninsured or underinsured auto insurance policies is not mandatory in California. The policies are offered when purchasing regular auto insurance. Clients must execute written waivers when declining such offers. However, most drivers accept uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage offers to protect and prepare themselves for unforeseeable situations.
What happens if you don’t have an Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
You can still be compensated even if you don’t have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and the faulting driver doesn’t have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Your attorney should bring a claim against the decadent’s estate and recover damages. The estate’s representative is close kin to the deceased in most cases although you’ll likely be dealing with their lawyers.
You might be involved in the probate process, where the decadent’s estate is divided according to their will. The probate process involves dividing the estate into valid beneficiaries after settling all debts–that’s where you come in as a creditor. However, you must be given a go-ahead by a court because a claim for a car accident can’t be filed against the decadent’s estate. The claim is likely to be settled by an insurance company.
Proving a Claim against the Deceased Driver
The decadent’s death is no proof that they were negligent. Your attorney must gather evidence to build a strong against the deceased and recover damages from their insurance company. However, you should know that the insurance company will likely try to deny, avoid, or undervalue your claim.
It’s important to involve a personal injury lawyer when engaging an insurance company to avoid being exploited by the insurance company. Insurers understand that litigation can be costly hence, a valid claim might not go to court– particularly if you involve a lawyer
Also, you should document the scene of the accident because the documented data will make evidence to help your attorney build an impregnable case. Admissible evidence can include:
- Pictures of the accident scene;
- Witness statements and accounts–request the presence of the witnesses in court if possible;
- Audio recordings from the accident scene.
You can still recover damages even if the faulting driver dies in a crash. A legal professional can advise you on how to go about it.