What Happens if the Driver Who Caused the Car Accident Dies?

Maryland law allows car accident survivors to claim compensation from the at-fault driver. This is because Maryland is a fault-accident state. So, the negligent driver bears the losses of an accident. If the at-fault driver dies following the car accident, you would usually be able to pursue the same recovery options as in cases where the negligent driver is alive. In most cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance company (or the driver’s employer’s insurance provider if they were a professional driver) will approach the victim’s injury claims just as though the at-fault driver survived the crash. Thus, you can still expect the insurance carrier that covers the at-fault driver and/or the vehicle he/she was driving to take steps to avoid payment and to minimize your injury claims.

Access to evidence is quite limited in fatal car accident claims. If the at-fault driver passes away after the collision, the insurance company knows that a jury would likely sympathize with the decedent, and thus they try to discount their settlement offers in these claims. Also, with a driver no longer available to testify, insurance companies are free to formulate their own theory of how the car wreck happened, and they will not hesitate to place blame on innocent victims. It is important to promptly investigate the car collision to collect and preserve valuable evidence to show how the car collision occurred, to establish fault for the decedent at-fault driver, and to ensure that you protect your compensation rights for all aspects of your car accident claim.

If the at-fault driver was driving a borrowed vehicle that does not belong to a family member, you should look for coverage first on the vehicle he/she was driving, also look at all family-owned car insurance policies in the at-fault drivers’ household. These policies provide excess/additional liability coverage for your injury claims. Beyond these policies, you can also collect the underinsured motorist (UIM) policy for the car insurance covering the vehicle you were in when the crash occurred PLUS all other family-owned UIM policies in your household.

Do I lose my right to compensation after the at-fault driver dies in the car wreck?

No, you can still file a compensation claim after the death of the responsible party. Your legal right does not die with the driver. Instead, you can now proceed against the deceased’s estate. Notably, you can not sue the other party’s insurer directly. This is because you are not a party to the insurance contract.

Therefore, you can not sue based on that contract. If you sue the insurance company, the court will strike your claim. Your best chance is thus to proceed against the deceased’s estate. You can recover the same damages you get had the decedent survived with legal action.

Is Maryland a no-fault car accident state when a death occurs?

Maryland is not a no-fault state for automobile accidents. In no-fault states, drivers must buy personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and make their claim for damages from their own insurer under PIP coverage unless their injuries were serious. The Maryland statute of limitations on car accidents is generally three years from the date of accident. For fatal accidents, families have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim if the decent was not at-fault for the accident. If an at-fault driver dies, the injured party will have three years to bring a claim against the estate of the decedent.

How long do I have to sue the deceased’s estate?

Just like normal car collision claims, you can not approach the court whenever you like. Instead, you must institute any action within definite periods. The general car accident statute of limitations does not apply here either. Instead, Section 8-103 of the Maryland Estates and Trusts law applies.

This law gives litigants only six months to make claims against a deceased’s estate. After that, the time starts counting from the decedent’s death date. After this period, you may lose your right to compensation. In some cases, you may also have just two months.

This will be where the estate’s personal representative sends you a mail or notice. This notice will inform you that your claim will be barred, except you present your claim within two months of the mail or delivery of notice.

Is there an exception to this rule?

Unfortunately, six months is too short to file a personal injury lawsuit. Suppose the car wreck victim is severely injured. Then, they may not have recovered well enough to file a claim. In addition, many people are not aware of this law.

Such injured victims may thus believe that they have more time. This problem will be more pronounced if they rely on the general statute of limitations. Finally, an at-fault driver may die, and the injured victim is unaware of such death.

Suppose you even get a notice from the deceased’s estate. Two months is still insufficient to prepare and file a sold car accident claim. Fortunately, you can have the general car collision statutory period of three years. This will be possible where the at-fault driver has a valid and enforceable insurance policy.

What if the car collision resulted in both drivers’ deaths?

What if both drivers; the at-fault driver and the victim die in a fatal car collision? You can claim insurance benefits as the victim’s spouse or family member.

A wrongful death settlement may include compensation for:

  • Your loved one’s medical care, including emergency care, hospitalization, and surgery
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Your loved one’s pain and suffering prior to death
  • Loss of the decedent’s wages and financial contribution to dependents and family members who relied on that income before the collision
  • Loss of consortium, care, assistance, companionship, and protection

If the deceased negligent driver had insufficient coverage, your loved one’s personal representative might also file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s estate. Like personal injury cases, wrongful death cases involve proving the allegedly responsible driver’s liability. Any wrongful death settlement or lawsuit award would go to the victim’s legal beneficiaries, usually the surviving spouse, children, or parents.

Proving your case against the deceased at-fault driver

The at-fault driver’s death does not make your compensation claim easier. Instead, you will still have to establish your right to damages. An insurance company or the deceased’s estate may even be wary of your claim. This is because the at-fault driver is not alive to defend themselves.

So, your attorney will need to gather evidence to win your lawsuit. An experienced car accident lawyer will help you ensure that your claim is not undervalued. Therefore, you will need the same types of evidence you will require if the at-fault driver was still alive. This will include:

  • Eye witness statements
  • Photographic evidence
  • Video and CCTV footage
  • Physical evidence from the accident scene
  • Pictures from the crash site
  • The findings of an accident reconstructionist

The insurance companies may attempt to shortchange the family

After a fatal car crash, insurance companies for parties with potential legal liability may get in touch with the family of the deceased to offer a “quick” settlement. Typically, however, the amount of a settlement offered “out of the blue” does not reflect the full amount of money that the family deserves to receive as compensation for the tragic loss of life due to a car accident. Families should never accept these offers (which come with onerous legal strings attached), at lease not without first consulting with an experienced wrongful death car accident injury attorney.


Did you or a loved one survive a Maryland car accident? Or are you dealing with a complicated car accident claim involving a deceased negligent driver? The legal team at the Law Offices of Larry B. Litt can help you and your loved ones protect and enforce your legal rights, and secure the highest possible settlement for your past and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call 443-844-1528 for a free no obligation consultation with an experienced car accident attorney.