One of the most difficult situations a Las Vegas car accident lawyer has to handle is when the at-fault driver dies in the accident. The injured party usually is not very certain what to do. The other driver has already paid the ultimate price for their negligence. Their family is grieving. Yet, the accident victim still has to find a way to pay their medical bills and costs to repair their damaged car.
This is, indeed, a situation when you need the advice of experienced car accident lawyers in Nevada. Depending on the other driver’s insurance, your lawyer can negotiate your claim and obtain your compensation without involving the grieving family at all.
However, in our experience, things are not always as simple as this. In this case, an experienced lawyer at the Christian Morris Trial Attorneys law firm will make sure that they handle your case with professionalism and consideration for the deceased family’s feelings.
Nevada Insurance Requirements and Optional Coverage
According to the Nevada Division of Insurance, drivers must carry liability insurance offering the following minimum coverage amounts:
- $25,000 per person per accident for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $20,000 for property damage.
Drivers can also opt to purchase additional insurance, as follows:
- Collision – to cover vehicle repairs or replacement, irrespective of fault
- Medpay – for the treatment of the injuries you and your passengers suffered, without regard to fault
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) – the minimum coverage amounts are equal to the mandatory liability insurance policy.
As any Las Vegas car accident lawyer can tell you, out of all optional types of coverage, UM/UIM is the most useful to have. However, in any circumstance, your best choice for getting fair compensation is letting Nevada car accident lawyers prepare your claim, negotiate it and, if necessary, file a lawsuit. This is even more important when the at-fault driver dies and you are not sure who will pay for your damages.
What Are Your Options If the At-Fault Driver Dies in a Las Vegas Car Accident?
A lawyer can pursue one of the following recovery options if the at-fault driver died in the accident that left you with injuries and economic damages.
1. File a Claim Against the Driver’s Insurance
This is usually the simplest solution. It does not involve the deceased driver’s family in any way and an experienced lawyer can win your settlement out of court. Many accident victims are not aware that the available insurance coverage does not disappear automatically with the driver’s death.
As long as their policy was valid and in force, the insurance company has to pay for your economic and non-economic damages if the respective driver was at fault for the accident.
2. Get Compensated Out of Your Own UM/UIM Insurance
If the other driver was not insured at the moment of the impact and you have the optional UM/UIM coverage, your Las Vegas car accident lawyer will help you prepare and file a claim with your own insurance company. This is also an option that will not involve the other driver’s family.
However, since not all drivers purchase optional insurance coverage, most likely you will need Nevada car accident lawyers to assist you in the most complex type of recovery, which we will discuss below.
3. File a Lawsuit Against the Deceased Driver’s Estate
In some cases, the available insurance coverage, either from the driver’s policy or from your UM/UIM insurance is not enough to compensate you for all the damages. This is usually the case when you suffered severe or catastrophic injuries in the accident, such as multiple fractures, spine injury, or traumatic brain injury.
In this case, the only option is to sue the deceased driver’s estate. The estate represents the totality of assets a person owns and which can be distributed between their heirs. If the total amount of assets exceeds $20,000 or if it includes real estate properties this process involves a legal procedure called probate.
This is a court-monitored procedure, in which a judge oversees the settlement of the affairs and the distribution of the estate, according to the decedent’s wishes expressed in a will. When a person dies intestate (without making a will) the court will determine how their assets are distributed.
How Exactly Do You Sue an Estate for Damages?
Probate rules state that a person’s debts have to be paid before the remaining assets are distributed among the heirs. Practically, the accident victim will be involved in this process as a potential creditor – up to the value of their damages.
Thus, your Las Vegas personal injury lawyer will file a claim with the deceased driver’s estate in probate court. If the executor of the estate rejects the claim, then your lawyer will instruct you to file a lawsuit against the estate.
What Do You Need to Do After a Car Accident Where the At-Fault Driver Dies?
There are some special considerations that you need to pay attention to when you realize that the other driver is unresponsive and has life-threatening injuries.
Here are the precautions you must take.
1. Call 9-1-1 and Explain the Need for Emergency Medical Care
When you report the accident, make sure to specify that both you and the other driver need medical attention. State the fact that the other driver appears unconscious and very gravely injured. This will bring ambulances faster to the accident scene, with proper equipment to offer first aid to all injured parties.
2. Document the Accident Scene
When the at-fault driver dies, it will be just your side of the story. And their insurance company will likely not take your word for it. In this case, solid evidence such as photos and videos are extremely valuable.
Your Las Vegas car accident lawyer will need them to prove that the driver who regrettably lost their life is the negligent party who caused the accident.
3. Make Sure that You Get a Copy of the Accident Report
In this specific situation, you will not be able to exchange insurance information with the other driver. The only source of this type of information is the accident report updated by the police.
You can obtain your accident report in person, by mail, or online for a small fee.
Let an Experienced Las Vegas Car Accident Lawyer Win Your Compensation
At Christian Morris Trial Attorneys law firm, we are used to handling the most complex car accident cases. The fact that the at-fault driver dies does not make your claim for damages disappear. You still have a case and we will find the best legal approach to help you win your compensation.
Since this type of claim poses specific complications, we encourage you to schedule a free case review with an experienced Las Vegas accident lawyer as soon as possible. Call us at (702) 434-8282 today!