If you are injured in a car accident, you have the legal right to pursue a personal injury claim against the person responsible for the incident. If the claim is successful, the compensation you receive will go towards paying off the costs associated with your injury, such as medical bills and lost wages. In California, the insurance company of the person who is found to be liable for causing the accident to occur usually ends up paying. However, what happens if you are injured in a car accident, but the driver who caused the incident passes away? Are you still able to file a personal injury claim against their estate or their insurance carrier? Well, thanks to a recent court ruling, injured parties do have specific rights and procedures for how to recover financial compensation following an accident, even if the person who caused the incident has died. Let’s take a look at what you can do to pursue the compensation you are owed following a car accident.
Understanding the Process
In situations where people attempt to bring a lawsuit against a deceased individual’s estate, many issues arise. The claimant will first have to file a creditors claim before they are allowed to pursue a lawsuit, and they will likely have to petition to open up probate on the estate. On top of this, claimants will only have one year during which to take these actions, as there is a strict one-year statute of limitations. However, as accidents involving vehicles and drivers usually involve insurance companies, there is a more streamlined process for claimants to follow. If you limit the amount of your personal injury claim to the amount of insurance coverage the deceased person had, then you are more likely to receive the compensation you seek. Instead of having to deal with the person’s estate, you will simply be going after the insurance company—a process that is more direct and likely to turn out in your favor.
A Recent Case Clarifies Claimant Rights
Within the last year, the California Court of Appeal ruled in favor of claimant Amanda Meleski, who was seeking compensation from the estate of Albert Hotlen, who had run a red light, collided with her vehicle, injured her, and then passed away before she was able to file a lawsuit against him. Meleski attempted to recover $100,000 from Hotlen’s insurance carrier, Allstate, but Allstate rejected this offer. Meleski and Allstate then headed to court, where Meleski was awarded $181m613.86 by the jury, and Meleski stated that she also hoped to recover legal fees to cover the costs of going to trial. She believed that since Allstate rejected her initial request for the $100,000, they were responsible for the costs associated with going to court. Allstate sought an appeal, but the Court of Appeal sided with Meleski. In their ruling, they noted that they wanted to send a strong message to insurance companies, strongly encouraging them to honor settlement requests.
Next Steps to Take
It’s helpful for California residents to understand that they still have the right to pursue compensation from the party whose reckless actions have caused them harm, even if this individual is deceased. This recent ruling provides strong deterrents for insurance companies to deny settlement money to injured parties. So, if you have suffered an injury and you need help recovering the compensation you are owed under California state law, reach out to a knowledgeable and trusted personal injury attorney who can guide you through the process.
Hales & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation is dedicated to helping clients in Murrieta and Temecula pursue compensation following an accident. Call 1-888-931-WORK (9675) today to get started.