Recently, a 17-year old driver died when his car struck a Chevy SUV turning into a business parking lot off South Hackberry Street, near East Cesar Chavez Boulevard. All four people involved in the accident – the teenager and his passenger, and the driver of the Chevy and her small child – were taken to University Hospital. The driver and her child suffered “non-critical” injuries, while the teen driver’s passenger suffered “non-life-threatening” injuries and the driver himself was pronounced deceased. Law enforcement told the press that “charges were pending,” but in addition, the Chevy driver may have a civil claim against the deceased person’s estate. In Texas, it is sometimes still possible to file a claim against a defendant’s estate even if they themselves have passed away.
Is There a Cause Of Action?
In Texas, a personal injury lawsuit can be filed when a person sustains an injury as a result of another person negligently or recklessly breaching their duty to exercise reasonable care in a certain situation. Every motorist has the duty to exercise reasonable care in their interactions with other drivers or pedestrians, and if they do something to breach that duty, they may wind up on the hook for any injuries they cause with that reckless action. The teenage driver struck the Chevy (rather than the alternative), which breaches their duty to exercise reasonable care, and as he struck the Chevy, he caused injury.
All the proverbial boxes are checked; the Chevy driver could conceivably file a lawsuit against the teenager (or his parents, given his young age – most of the time, minors cannot be sued; instead the claim would be against their parents for negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle) over any injuries suffered and any damage to their vehicle. However, since the teenager died of his injuries, he is no longer present to serve as a defendant. If you are in this situation, it can feel as though you have reached a dead-end in terms of seeking compensation for your injuries. However, you do have options.
Probate Or Civil Court?
It is possible to file a claim for your injuries against the estate of a deceased defendant, and the method of doing so depends largely on whether you have already filed when the defendant passes away. If you have filed your suit already when the defendant passes away, you or your attorney must file what is known as a ‘scire facias,’ which seeks to give the court ‘notice’ or a ‘suggestion’ of death for the original defendant, and substitute either the defendant’s executor or another identified heir as the defendant in place of the deceased person.
If you have yet to file suit by the time the defendant dies, you may be able to make a choice as to how you may file your claim. You may choose to file a standard personal injury lawsuit against the estate of the deceased person (or their executor), or in some cases it may be more appropriate to intervene in any probate proceeding that might be going on, filing your claim as a creditor of the estate rather than as a plaintiff trying to sue a defendant. It depends on the nature of your specific case.
Contact a New Braunfels Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident, but the person you believe to be the liable party has passed away, you still have options in order to try and recover for the harm you have suffered. The dedicated New Braunfels personal injury lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm can help you understand your options in this case, We are happy to try and answer your questions. Contact us today at 888-392-0039 for a free consultation.