Sometimes the individual who was responsible for causing you injury may pass away before you have the opportunity to bring suit for damages. So what can you do if this happens? You have the option of bringing suit against a deceased person’s estate. However, in the state of California, this is not always the easiest task.
Claimants Must Act Quickly When Dealing with a Decedent’s Estate
In most state cases, those interested in bringing suit against a deceased person’s estate must first file what is called a creditor’s claim, before they are able to proceed with bringing a lawsuit in Superior Court. Since claimants only have a one-year statute of limitations under California Code of Civil Procedure section 366.2, they must act quickly – especially if a petition to open up probate of the decedent’s estate is first required.
Suing a decedent’s estate is much easier when it comes to traffic accidents since an actual procedural path exists. The individual bringing the claim is limited to bringing it against the auto insurance coverage held by the decedent. Under sections 550-555 of the California Probate Code, the claimant is essentially suing the insurance company, while the decedent’s estate only acts as a lesser defendant.
Recovery in Excess of the Settlement Offer
A recent ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal on the case of Meleski v. Estate of Albert Holden, found that accident victims in the state of California are allowed to recover in excess of the decedent’s policy limits, so long as the insurance carrier refuses to settle and the claimant acquires a court judgment in excess of the settlement offer.
Ultimately, the case established that insurance companies act at their own risk when they refuse a reasonable settlement offer. Plaintiffs may recover a judgment that greatly exceeds the limits of the insurance policy in question.
Section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure serves to encourage parties to settle by punishing those who refuse to accept a reasonable settlement offer. Under section 998 insurance companies in cases like this are considered a party.
Biddle Law Helps Those Dealing with the Probate Process
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a deceased party, it can be confusing to know what to do and how to operate. By seeking the counsel of a knowledgeable and experienced probate attorney, you can better understand your options, as well as the risks and rewards that likely accompany each of them. At Biddle Law, we know the probate process from beginning to end and work to serve our clients to the very best of our abilities. To learn more about the probate process and what you are and are not entitled to, as well as to schedule a consultation, visit us online or call us at 650-532-3470 today!