Personal Injury Lawyer
When the willful actions or harmful negligence of others causes personal injury to an individual, the victim has the right to seek compensation for damages through legal means. However, if the injury is particularly grievous, or if there are other factors at play, the plaintiff may die before the case is settled, or in some cases, even before the lawsuit is filed.
However, the death of a plaintiff doesn’t necessarily remove the grounds for legal action. Depending on the specifics of the case, those responsible for the estate, including administrators, executors, and heirs, have several options available.
Death While a Lawsuit Is Pending
The death of a plaintiff during a civil proceeding like a personal action lawsuit usually does not automatically result in the case’s dismissal. Rather, the suit is inherited, along with the deceased’s property and assets, by the heirs to the estate. However, the court must appoint a successor to fulfill the role of plaintiff in the lawsuit. It falls to the administrator or executor of the state to request this by filing a death certificate and notice of death with the court within 90 days after the event occurred. However, the court may dismiss the case if the executor fails to complete this step within the allotted timeframe.
If a person with a valid personal injury claim dies as a result before filing a suit, the heirs to the estate then have the right to file a wrongful death suit against the responsible party. Keep in mind that the victim has to have died because of the wrongful actions of the defendant. For example, if the individual was injured in a car accident and died as a result of those injuries, the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate would have grounds to bring a wrongful death suit. However, if the person injured in the accident died from cancer, the death was not caused by the accident and so it was not wrongful.
A wrongful death suit can only be brought by the personal representative of the estate. The court can appoint a representative, or surviving family members can choose someone to represent them.
A survival action is similar to a wrongful death suit in many ways. The main difference is that a wrongful death suit seeks to compensate surviving relatives for the negative effects that a loved one’s death has caused them, while a survival action seeks to recover damages that would otherwise be owed to the plaintiff if he or she were still alive.
The death of personal injury plaintiff can complicate an already difficult process. We can help guide you and explain your options to you when you contact our office.