The person who caused a car accident does not always walk away unscathed. Being at fault does not protect them from the brunt of the damage. Sometimes, they are far more injured than the person they hit, and they could even be killed.
Texas operates on an at-fault system. Essentially, the driver who causes an accident is responsible for the medical expenses and property repairs of all involved. This recompense mostly comes from their insurance, but when insurance isn’t enough, the at-fault driver can be sued directly.
It’s a generally simple system, but that simplicity vanishes quickly when the at-fault driver dies. In this article, we will explore what you can do when an at-fault driver is killed at the wheel.
You Can Still Go Through Insurance
Drivers are insured for as long as they are drivers. Put simply, if an at-fault driver is insured, they are covered when a wreck occurs. It doesn’t matter if they live, die, are injured, or walk away unharmed. You can still file a claim with their insurance company, regardless of what happens to them.
If they were uninsured or underinsured, you can make a UI (Uninsured Motorists) or UIM (Underinsured Motorists) claim with your insurance company. UI and UIM help protect drivers from exactly this situation, helping cover expenses when the other driver isn’t properly covered.
You Can Make a Claim Against the Estate
The word “estate” often conjures up images of vast property owned by the wealthy. Legally, however, the word has a much broader definition. When someone leaves behind property after death, that property is their estate, regardless of its size.
If the deceased driver’s insurance, or lack thereof, leaves you unable to cover your bills, you may be able to file a case against their estate. Typically, this process works the same as it would if they were still alive. Instead of working directly with the at-fault driver and their attorney, you and your lawyer will work with the estate’s personal representative. This “PR” will likely have representation, too.
You can reach a settlement with the PR and their attorney, or, if necessary, you can take the matter to court. If, in either case, you are awarded compensation, your payment becomes a part of probate.
Probate is the legal process where a PR manages an estate’s debt and distributes property according to a will. You become one of the estate’s creditors, and you are paid alongside any other debts. Probate can take a while to finish, but eventually, you should receive your compensation.
Challenges When an At-Fault Driver is Killed
Since the deceased is no longer able to speak for themselves, there is no chance to interview each driver, getting to the truth. Instead of “your-word-vs.-theirs,” the situation becomes “your-word-vs.-no one’s.” This can actually make your case harder to prove. The family of the deceased can claim that your allegations are wild and unfounded.
Their response may not be that severe, but they could still oppose you. Motivated by the grief of their loss, they could be offended that you’re even attempting to receive compensation. They may try to stand in your way out of principle or a need to avoid the hassle.
For these reasons and more, you need a skilled attorney by your side. You need help proving that your allegations are not fabrications. With their investigative skills, your lawyer can help prove your claims. They can research your medical records, showing how your story is consistent with your injuries. Similarly, they can use the physical damage of the car to prove what happened. Sometimes, surrounding damage backs up your story as well. There may also be official reports from the police that validate your claim.
If you need help receiving compensation from an auto-accident, contact our firm today. We may be able to take on your case and help prove your side of the story. For a free consultation, call (817) 591-4222 or reach out online.