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What To Do If the At-Fault Driver Dies

Posted by Harlene Labrum | Mar 02, 2021

 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Organization, an average of 98 people died  daily in motor vehicle accident fatalities in the United States in 2019. Sometimes, the at-fault driver may become the victim of his own faulty driving and die due to the injuries caused in the accident. In such cases, if you are the other driver, you may feel remorse, however, at some point you also need to take care of your own injuries and recover compensation for the injuries and damages you endured and suffered. The most common question that arises in the mind of victims of an accident where the at-fault driver dies relates to the recovery of their compensation. If you suffered injuries in an accident where the at-fault driver died, learn how a Tennessee driving accident attorney at Labrum Law Firm at (615) 338-9500 can help you with your case.

Who Will be Responsible to Compensate a Victim if the At-Fault Driver Dies?

In the state of Tennessee, the victim of an accident where the at-fault driver died has two possible means of recovery of compensation for his damages:

  • The automobile insurance company of the at-fault driver will pay a claim under the insurance policy
  • The at-fault driver's estate (if the driver was underinsured or uninsured).

In rare cases where the deceased driver did not have auto insurance, the victim may be able to recover some damages from his own car or medical insurance.

Steps To Recover Compensation in an Accident Where the At-Fault Driver Dies

The victim of a car accident where the at-fault driver dies can pursue different options to recover compensation. These options include filing a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company, filing a personal injury lawsuit against the deceased driver's estate and/or the insurance company, or in rare cases, turning to one's own medical or car insurance company.  However, the choice of the options may differ from case to case depending upon a few factors including:

  • What are the policy limits of the at-fault driver's automobile accident?
  • Was the at-fault driver uninsured despite mandatory requirements under law?
  • Did the at-fault driver create an estate or estate planning documents?
  • Were the negotiations between the at-fault driver's insurance company and the family of the victim successful or not?

If you suffered injuries and losses in an auto accident where the at-fault driver died, learn how a Tennessee driving accident attorney at Labrum Law Firm at (615) 338-9500 can help you navigate the multiple steps to recover compensation and negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf or file a personal injury lawsuit.

Understanding Tennessee Law

Unlike some states such as Florida, Tennessee is considered to be an “at-fault” state. This means that the driver who was at fault and caused a car accident will be liable to the victim for compensation and damages. This law plays an important role in the automobile insurance industry and thus, has an impact on how the victim of an automobile accident will receive compensation.

Once it is proven that the driver was at fault, the driver's insurance company will have the legal requirement to pay damages according to the at-fault driver's policy limits. If the driver's insurance policy is insufficient to cover all the claimed damages, then the remaining amount of damages may be recovered from his or her personal assets. 

Car Insurance Requirements in Tennessee?

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the state of Tennessee requires the following minimum liability insurance limits:

  • $15,000 - property damage per accident
  • $25,000 - per every injury or death for each accident
  • $50,000 - per total injuries or deaths for each accident

Thus, assuming that the at-fault driver had his insurance policy limit at $15,000 for property damage as per these minimum requirements under the law and the victim's claim for property damage is for $25,000, the additional amount of $10,000 in damages may be recovered from the deceased driver's estate.

Types of Compensation Available To Victims

The victim of a car accident where the at-fault driver dies can claim potentially receive compensation for the following economic and non-economic losses:

  • Medical bills (and expected future medical expenses)
  • Loss of wages
  • Loss of future income
  • Pain & suffering
  • Loss of limb or permanent disability
  • Psychological therapy
  • Wrongful death

When Victims Are Partially At-Fault

In determining liability in a car accident, Tennessee follows the “modified comparative negligence system.” The victim who makes a claim for damages and compensation must show that their fault constituted 49 percent or less of the total fault that led to the accident. If the fault of the person claiming damages was at 50% or more, then he or she may not have a successful claim. Please make sure to never let this dissuade you from attempting to file a claim under the law. Even if you were partially at-fault for a car accident, visiting with an experienced car accident attorney can help ensure that your legal right to receive compensation remains protected.

Steps To Take After Your Car Accident

If you are the victim of an accident where the at-fault driver died, consider taking the following steps:

  • Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Report the accident to the police.
  • Try to collect evidence related to the accident including the cause, date and time of accident. Take photos if possible and try to get the contact details of the witnesses.
  • Try to find out the at-fault driver's contact information.
  • Do not make any statements to the at-fault driver's insurance company. These statements may have a detrimental impact on the amount of compensation.
  • Consider contacting a driving accident attorney who can help you in negotiations with the deceased's insurance company or their estate.

Learn How a Tennessee At-Fault Driver Death Accident Attorney Can Help

Proving fault and recovering compensation in an accident where the at-fault driver died can be challenging to navigate. The insurance company will try to settle for far lesser compensation than you may be entitled to under the law. The deceased driver's family members or the estate will also try to defend the claim. If you suffered injuries or losses in a car accident where the at-fault driver died, consider contacting our experienced attorneys at Labrum Law Firm at (615) 338-9500 to learn more about how our team can help you with your legal rights.

About the Author

Harlene Labrum

Harlene is focused and passionate about helping those injured in car wrecks.  She earned her J.D. at Nashville School of Law and her Bachelor's degree at State University of New York at Albany, awarded with the highest GPA and high honors.  Harlene began her career in law as a personal injury par...

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