A personal injury case does not end if the defendant dies. If this happens, a plaintiff can still file a lawsuit and collect a judgment from the defendant’s estate. This unfortunate situation does, however, make the continuation of a lawsuit much more difficult.
The Supreme Court of Montana recently addressed the issue of suing a deceased at-fault driver in the case of Locke v. Estate of Davis. While the case took place out-of-state, the same general principles apply to Florida cases.
In May 2011, both drivers were driving on the same road in opposite directions when one driver lost control of her vehicle, went into oncoming traffic, and hit the plaintiff’s vehicle head-on. The driver who caused the accident died just a few hours later at a hospital. The plaintiff sustained a number of serious physical injuries as well as emotional injuries.
The decedent’s estate subsequently issued a notice stating that any creditor claims against the estate should be made within four months. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the decedent’s estate more than one year later, when she reported a number of injuries, including a broken hand and soft tissue injuries to her shoulder and back. The plaintiff also claimed that she fell into depression and suffered from anxiety and insomnia due to the accident.
The plaintiff sought compensation in excess of $250,000. The decedent’s insurer offered $16,500 to cover the plaintiff’s medical expenses. The plaintiff refused that offer. However, the plaintiff repeatedly offered to settle with the insurance company for the policy limit of $100,000, but the company refused.
The case went to trial, and the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her $400,000 plus costs. The decedent’s estate filed a motion to amend the judgment to reduce the amount to the policy limit of $100.000. The estate argued that the plaintiff had failed to file her claim within the required four-month window. It is important to note the plaintiff had plenty of time to pursue this claim under the state’s statute of limitations.
The trial court denied the motion to amend.
On appeal, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part. The court maintained that the insurer could be liable for the damages despite it not being a named party in the lawsuit. However, the court reversed on the issue of damages. Since the plaintiff failed to file within the four-month window, she was not permitted to recover more than the insurance policy limits.
This case highlights the nuances that often come into play in personal injury cases. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our skilled Miami car accident attorneys understand what it takes to handle these types of claims and can put our knowledge to use in your case. We proudly serve clients throughout South Florida. To learn more about your rights and options, feel free to contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.
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