Most personal injury claims are resolved in one of two ways: (1) the claimant settles with the liable party, or (in most cases) his or her insurance provider; or (2) a judgment is awarded to the claimant after trial.
But what if the party liable for the claimant’s injury is deceased?
It depends. If the deceased defendant’s applicable insurance policy limits provides adequate (or more than adequate) coverage for damages, the plaintiff may have no desire to pursue litigation. In this case, he or she may seek recovery of insurance proceeds only in an action that is “to be conducted in the same manner as if the action were against the personal representative” but is actually served on the insurer, under Probate Code Section 550 and 552.
However, this route comes with a significant limitation. Probate Code Section 554 requires that: “either the damages sought in an action under this chapter shall be within the limits and coverage of the insurance, or recovery of damages outside the limits or coverage of the insurance shall be waived. A judgment in favor of the plaintiff in the action is enforceable only from the insurance coverage and not against property in the estate.”
There is a second way for a plaintiff to pursue his or her personal injury claim: by filing suit against the decedent’s estate, or successor in interest if there is none. It is important to note that if the plaintiff fails to file a timely creditor’s claim against the estate, the action is barred. It is also important to note that neither punitive nor exemplary damages are recoverable in such a suit.
Have you been injured in an accident and need legal advice from an experienced California personal injury attorney? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact Wilshire Law Firm for immediate assistance. We can provide you with a comprehensive evaluation of your case and inform you of your best options. To discuss your case with one of our dedicated accident injury lawyers, call (800) 522-7274.