Injured in Washington State and the At Fault Driver is Deceased?

July 8, 2019
There are times when the driver who caused a crash dies in it. What comes to issue is whether a survivor who was injured in that crash can sue the deceased person for the damages that the survivor suffered as a result of the crash. You can’t sue a dead person, but you can certainly sue his or her estate. Here’s a very recent case raising that specific issue when a 29-year-old woman died and two other people were injured in a crash near Loon Lake Washington that was allegedly caused by the decedent.

The Facts

The decedent was driving a Toyota sedan and allegedly crossed the centerline on U.S. Highway 395 outside of Loon Lake. She crashed head-on into an oncoming Lexus SUV. The 40-year-old driver of the SUV and her 65-year-old passenger were both injured and taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Unfortunately, the driver of the Toyota was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.


The law in the State of Washington allows the two surviving car crash victims to pursue compensation for their injuries, but in doing so, they must depart from the established procedure that they would have used had the driver who crossed the centerline lived. According to Gourley Law Group, upon the death of a person, his or her estate usually passes through the probate process. The decedent’s assets are inventoried, and a value is placed on them. The debts of creditors are also paid. After that, the probate court enters an order distributing the remaining assets of the estate to the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries.

As soon as the driver who is said to have crossed the centerline died, the injured survivors became possible creditors. The personal representative (executor) of the decedent’s estate is required to give the survivors of the crash notice that the estate has been opened along with the deadline for filing claims against the estate. Failure to file a timely probate claim will probably operate to forfeit any rights that the victims might have against the other driver’s estate. If they don’t receive a probate notice, they can file a claim anyway. If no estate was opened, as potential creditors of the estate, they can petition the probate court to open an estate. They must act quickly though. Time limits apply.

A hearing on the survivors’ claims might be necessary to determine liability. Assuming that there is going to be a ruling in their favor, a determination can be made on any damages that they might recover. If the decedent had liability insurance, any damages awards would be paid from that coverage. If the decedent was uninsured or underinsured, assets from her estate might be available. Assuming that the victims had uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, claims might be made through that coverage too.


In many cases anyone seeking compensation for their injuries will never have to pursue an estate as the other driver likely had insurance.
Getting compensated by an insurer may be difficult, even if the driver who caused the crash appeared to have been at fault. Many insurers delay or deny claims and will even attempt to blame you for your injuries.
Always consult with an attorney after any crash which resulted in a serious injury or death. in many cases an experienced injury lawyer can significantly improve the outcome of your case.

Spokane Personal Injury Lawyer

This simple facts of the above case will get legally complicated right away. All rights that the victims might have need to be protected quickly and carefully by an experienced and effective personal injury lawyer. If you were injured as the result of the carelessness and negligence of somebody else, contact our offices as soon as possible to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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