Can You Sue an Estate for Wrongful Death?

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If you or a loved one were involved in an accident with another party, there is a chance that the other may not have survived. Their death does not extinguish the fact that they may have been legally to blame for your loved one’s fatal accident. Their estate would be responsible for their debts, which include what they may have owed you for the injuries they caused.

You can file a wrongful death lawsuit against an estate, and the Wilmington, NC, wrongful death attorneys at Horton & Mendez can help you recover compensation.

The Estate Is Responsible for Paying Creditors

When someone dies, their estate is responsible for the debts they incurred in their lifetime and the judgments against them. All the debts must be settled, and the creditors paid before the beneficiaries could receive their money.

A lawsuit judgment creditor is the same as any other creditor. They have the right to be paid from the assets of the estate, along with any other creditors.

Suing an Estate for Wrongful Death Means a Different Process

Filing a claim against an estate can be complex. You must prove that the deceased party was responsible for the deadly accident. You have the same legal requirement to demonstrate that the deceased party was negligent, gathering the proof that shows their responsibility. Then, you must go through the probate process to potentially have the chance to collect some or all of the damages that you suffered.

Suing on Behalf of an Estate

In North Carolina, only the personal representative of an estate may file a wrongful death claim. They would represent the family and make the necessary decisions in the case, hopefully in consultation with the family.

If there was no estate, the court would need to appoint a personal representative, who would then pursue the wrongful death action. This step could take time, which is already limited due to shortened timeframes to act.

First, the deceased person’s insurance policy would still cover damages that they caused when they were still alive. Any lawsuit that you would file against the deceased person could partially be covered by the proceeds of the insurance coverage. You would have a judgment claim against the deceased person’s estate for any amount that the insurance does not cover. However, you may need to negotiate and, in some cases, compete with other creditors to recover money from the estate. There may also be others with claims to assets that they could recover.

The Deadlines for Filing a Legal Claim Against an Estate

You may be under several deadlines to file your legal action against the estate.

The first deadline is the statute of limitations, but the law has different time limitations than the standard time deadline. North Carolina law specifically says that the usual statute of limitations does not apply if you file your claim within the deadline in the particular statute about filing against an estate.

However, you have a much nearer deadline to consider as you seek compensation. Remember that the estate is going through the probate process, and you have a much shorter deadline to file a claim.

According to North Carolina law, you only have six months from the date that a tort claim arises to file a claim against the estate. Otherwise, the claim would be “forever barred.”

In other words, you must act quickly to file the claim, contacting an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. It may be a challenge if there is no will, and you need to wait for the court to appoint a personal representative. You would need to hire a lawyer immediately so you can be ready to act as soon as you are able.

Contact a Wilmington Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If a loved one has died in an accident, your family may be entitled to substantial financial compensation, even if the other party responsible has passed away. File a wrongful death claim so you can secure the settlement or award that you deserve. The wrongful death attorneys at Horton & Mendez fight for you at every step of the process.

Call us today at 910-405-7751, or send us a message through our website to discuss your case. We want your talk with us to bring you some peace of mind during a very difficult time.

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