Broderick Law Firm, LLC

What Happens When the Responsible Driver is Killed in the Crash?

car accident death

Most people know that a negligent driver who injures you in a motor vehicle accident is typically responsible for damages. Some of the most common include paying your medical bills, paying to repair or replace your damaged vehicle, compensating you for lost income, paying other expenses related to your injury, and compensating you for pain and suffering.

But what if you’re hit by a drunk driver or someone runs a red light and plows into the side of your vehicle, and the driver who caused the accident dies in the crash?

Benefits for the Deceased Driver / Surviving Family Members

When the deceased driver was at fault for the accident, some benefits may still be available in Massachusetts. That’s because the Massachusetts “no fault” system requires drivers to carry $8,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). PIP can be used to cover medical expenses associated with the accident, lost income due to the injury, replacement services, and funeral expenses. Though the amount of coverage is relatively small, it can help to cover final expenses.

Depending on the type of insurance coverage the driver carried, additional benefits may be available. For instance, Massachusetts drivers have the option of purchasing MedPay coverage for medical costs in excess of the PIP limit.

New Hampshire is a fault state, so there is no PIP coverage available. However, New Hampshire drivers do have the option of purchasing no-fault medical payments coverage. So, available benefits will depend entirely on whether the deceased chose to buy this coverage and the amount of coverage purchased.

Additional Responsible Parties

If the deceased driver was entirely at fault for the accident, compensation will likely be limited to the no-fault payments described above. However, if the driver was only partly responsible for the collision, there may be additional compensation available. In both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, a driver who was only partly responsible for an accident can recover a portion of their damages from another responsible party. However, both states use a comparative negligence model, meaning that a driver who was more than 50% responsible will not be able to recover anything.

For example, if the deceased driver was 60% responsible for the accident and a trucking company that left debris in the road was 40% responsible, the driver (and their estate/surviving family members) would be barred from recovering damages. But, if the responsibility was flipped and the deceased driver was 40% responsible, they (or their estate/surviving family members) could potentially be awarded 60% of their damages.

Benefits for Victims of a Negligent Driver Killed in the Collision

If the person responsible for your injuries was killed in the accident, your rights remain very much the same as if the responsible driver had survived. That’s because both Massachusetts and New Hampshire have statutes providing that certain causes of action survive the death of a party. So, when the responsible driver in an automobile accident passes away (whether in the collision or later), the driver’s estate becomes responsible for damages that would have been attributed to the driver.

If the deceased driver had automobile insurance when the collision occurred, the insurance company remains responsible for damages just as if the policyholder were alive. Since it is typically the insurance company that handles settlement negotiation, payment, and even trial of a personal injury case, the accident victim likely won’t experience much if anything differently than they would have if the responsible driver had survived. If the insurance coverage is sufficient to compensate the injured party, this will generally be the only step necessary.

If the driver was uninsured, the estate will be directly responsible for any damages the injured person can establish. However, recovering these damages will depend on there being sufficient funds in the estate to cover the damages. And, there are certain expenses and obligations that will take priority over a personal injury claim, meaning that the funds in the estate may be diminished.

Finally, if the driver was insured but did not have sufficient insurance to cover your damages, your own underinsured motorist coverage may help to fill the gap.

The Bottom Line for People Injured by Deceased Drivers

The bottom line is that your options and access to compensation remain very similar if the driver who injured you–or any party who is responsible for your injuries in some other way–passes away before you have been compensated for your injuries.

As in any other injury case, the damages available will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries and other damages, the amount of insurance coverage available, and other resources available to satisfy a judgment.

Attorney Kevin P. Broderick has been helping injury victims in Massachusetts and New Hampshire recover fair compensation for decades. Take advantage of a free consultation to learn more about your rights, what type of action may be available to you, and what types of damages you may be able to pursue. Just call 978-459-3085 to schedule.

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