Nothing is as terrifying as a car accident, especially one resulting in painful injuries, but what if the distress continues after the car accident because the driver who caused the accident died from their injuries? Not only does this add an element of further emotional trauma for survivors, but it complicates a claim for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, and compensation for pain and suffering. How does an injury victim file a claim for damages when the driver at fault for the accident dies?
Filing a Claim for Car Accident Damages Against a Deceased Driver
Missouri is a fault-based insurance state that compels a driver who caused an accident to pay for damages to any injury victim, including the cost of their medical care and lost wages as well as property damage to a vehicle. Typically, the compensation for the victim’s damages comes through the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. An auto insurance policy remains in effect even if the policyholder dies in an accident. This means the majority of car accident claims against a deceased driver result in compensation for accident-related expenses through the insurer.
It’s always helpful to hire an experienced St. Louis car accident attorney after an accident to get the most out of your claim for damages because insurance companies often fight the claim or offer unfairly low settlements. It’s even more beneficial to have a skilled attorney when the at-fault party has died from their injuries, or if they died from another cause before settling the claim. An attorney investigates all aspects of the accident to prove the at-fault driver’s negligence, documents evidence of their liability, and then negotiates with their insurer to achieve the highest possible settlement within the limits of the at-fault driver’s policy.
What If My Damages in a Car Accident Are More Than the Insurance Policy Limits?
Drivers in Missouri must carry a minimum auto insurance liability policy of $10,000 in property damage, $25,000 for one victim’s injury expenses, and $50,000 total coverage for multiple injured victims in an accident. If a victim’s damages exceed the allotted amount, they have a right to file a lawsuit against the driver for the remainder of their expenses as well as compensation for pain and suffering.
In most car accident claims, a seriously injured victim may file a lawsuit against a negligent or reckless driver to recover damages that exceed the limits of the driver’s insurance policy. When the driver is deceased, this becomes more complex. Filing a lawsuit after an at-fault driver’s death means the injury victim must file the lawsuit against the deceased driver’s estate. The claim still proceeds against the insurance policy, but any compensatory amount exceeding the limits of the policy must come from the decedent’s estate following probate. In these cases, the probate court directs payment from the victim’s estate to the accident victim.
Essentially, an injury victim’s right to compensation doesn’t die with a deceased driver. They can hold the driver’s estate liable for their damages and expect compensation.
What if the Deceased Driver Didn’t Leave Any Assets?
If the at-fault driver dies without assets, the only remaining recourse for seeking compensation for a car accident in Missouri is to file a claim against the injury victim’s own insurance policy if they have uninsured/uninsured motorist coverage. Your St. Louis injury attorney can advise you on your options for seeking full compensation for your car accident damages in Missouri.