July 17, 2019
Personal Injury Lawyer
A personal injury lawsuit is often brought by someone who is negligently injured. If the injured person dies before a lawsuit is brought, what happens? The answer is, it depends.
When the Plaintiff Dies Before Filing a Lawsuit
If no legal action has been initiated, then you’ll have to look at the statute of limitations. Generally, a plaintiff has a certain amount of time to bring a personal action claim against a defendant. If the plaintiff dies before the statute of limitations has expired, the estate can bring the lawsuit against the defendant. At this point, the action may be a wrongful death claim, rather than personal injury case.
If the statute of limitations has expired, you are probably out of luck. The statute of limitations doesn’t start when the person dies, but rather when the injury occurred. However, there may be legal implications that changes the start date. If the case was being investigated for murder, the timeline begins when it was discovered that the death was due to murder. For product liability, the statute of limitations usually starts on the date of the injury, rather than discovering that the death was due to a product malfunction.
The legal implications are further complicated by varying laws around the country. For some types of cases, the statute of limitations might be one year, while for others, it could be three years. For children, the statute of limitations may be much different, too. It’s important to talk to a lawyer as soon as you can to preserve your right to sue.
What if the Plaintiff Dies While the Lawsuit Is Pending?
In a personal injury case, the lawsuit doesn’t just go away if the injured person dies. The executor of the estate or another personal representative of the estate can continue to pursue the claim. Once the claim is settled, any recovery is distributed to the heirs according to the will or laws of succession in the state.
What If the Defendant Passes Away During the Lawsuit?
If you filed a lawsuit against a person who dies before it’s settled, again, your case doesn’t go away. Your case simply proceeds against the person’s estate. It can complicate matters, because the estate has to go through probate. Because the defendant isn’t available, it does make the legal proceeding more difficult but not impossible.
Your Personal Injury Lawyer Can Address These Situations
A death of a plaintiff or defendant doesn’t make the case go away, but it certainly can make it more complex. Talk to a wrongful death attorney about your claim.