What if Someone Dies While their Lawsuit is Pending?

An elderly loved one is injured in a motor vehicle accident as a result of someone else’s negligence. He or she receives medical treatment for the injuries he or she suffered in the accident and eventually files a claim with the at-fault motorist’s insurance. The insurer refuses to negotiate fairly, and your elderly relative is forced to file suit, but the attorney appointed by the insurer for the at-fault driver refuses to negotiate in good faith and tries every stall tactic in the book to draw out the case until your elderly relative finally dies during the time the lawsuit is pending. The natural question is: what happens to the lawsuit? 

Most people would assume that the lawsuit is over since the person who was injured passed away, but this is not actually the case. While that person’s death does change the parties to the case given that the injured person’s personal representative takes over for the decedent as the plaintiff, it does not change the fact that this person suffered real injuries and damages as a result of the at-fault motorist’s actions. Therefore, just because that person passed away, the at-fault motorist (and in particular his insurer) should not receive a windfall for dragging out the lawsuit. Thus, the person’s estate can still receive compensation for the injuries and damages suffered by that person prior to her death as a result of someone else’s negligence. 

Florida Law If a Plaintiff Dies During the Pendency of a Lawsuit

A person can die during the pendency of a personal injury lawsuit and the lawsuit is not extinguished with his or her death. Under Florida law, a personal injury claim (and virtually any other type of claim) survives a plaintiff’s death. While this does have an effect on the proceedings in that the personal representative of the injured person’s estate does take over the case in place of the injured plaintiff, nothing else changes except for the damages that may be recovered. 

This makes sense when you consider that your elderly relative incurred medical bills, lived her last years in pain, and suffered other damages as a result of the actions of the negligent motorist who injured her. Therefore, for that motorist’s insurer to be able to evade responsibility for paying for your relative’s damages simply would not be right.

So, What Happens in Your Relative’s Situation?

A personal injury case does not die with the person who is injured. Instead, the estate of the person who died retains the right to pursue that claim. So in the example above, the deceased person’s personal representative would file a motion to prosecute the lawsuit on behalf of the decedent with the court. The damages that could be recovered in the lawsuit would be a bit different because your relative would not recover for any future pain and suffering as a result of her pain and suffering due to the injuries she suffered as a result of the at-fault motorist’s actions or any future medical expenses associated with those injuries given she dies. Those amounts would be fixed at whatever amounts she had incurred prior to her death, but a jury would still be called upon to determine those amounts. Nevertheless, the lawsuit would otherwise proceed the same as if she were still alive.

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley if You or a Loved One Have Been Injured in Florida

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, our experienced personal injury attorneys have decades of legal experience representing those injured in a wide variety of scenarios, including in motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, pedestrian or biking accidents and a wide variety of other types of personal injury claims and lawsuits. We have represented over 16,000 satisfied clients and have handled personal injury claims or lawsuits in tragic a circumstance where a client dies while the person’s lawsuit or claim is still pending. We know how to deal with this exact situation and will ensure that your relative’s survivors or heirs receive the full compensation your relative would have been entitled to if she had not passed away. Therefore if you or a loved one has been injured in a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today at contact@schwedlaw.com or (877) 694-6079 today.