Have you lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence or misconduct? Are you wondering if you can sue their estate to get some form of justice and compensation? This is understandably an emotionally trying time, but it helps to understand your legal options.
What Exactly is an Estate?
Let’s start with the basics – what constitutes an “estate”? An estate refers to the totality of a deceased person’s assets and liabilities that they accumulate over their lifetime. This includes any real estate properties, bank account balances, insurance policies, investments, personal property, and so on.
The distribution of these assets to beneficiaries is dictated by the will of the deceased or by legal inheritors in case there is no will. The estate must also settle any outstanding debts and liabilities before it can be dissolved.
This is where your potential claim factors in. If the now-deceased party caused harm through negligent or intentionally malicious actions, you may have grounds to sue their estate for damages even if they have passed away.
Navigating the Probate Process
However, suing an estate is not as straightforward as filing a regular personal injury lawsuit against a living defendant. Estates typically enter probate – a long legal process of appraising assets, clearing debts, and eventually distributing inheritances.
Your claim would be subject to state probate laws. The estate cannot be dissolved until your lawsuit reaches resolution either through a verdict or settlement. This also means collecting any damages awarded to you may be complex or delayed.
Proving Valid Grounds Against the Estate
You need to prove that the deceased person’s actions directly caused the death of your loved one and the resulting grief for their family. Strong evidence of negligence like reckless driving or medical malpractice can validate your claim.
Police reports, medical examiner findings, eyewitness accounts matter when establishing wrongful death against an estate. Skilled personal injury attorneys know how to build a compelling case by gathering such evidence.
What Damages Can You Claim?
Seeking reasonable compensation for the trauma of losing a beloved family member is justified. But what specific damages can you claim from the estate?
This covers quantifiable financial losses – medical and funeral bills, loss of dependents’ future income and benefits, decrease in value to the deceased’s own estate. Courts can award such damages if sufficiently evidenced.
Pain and suffering damages account for the emotional devastation of losing someone dear prematurely. The mental anguish of the deceased in their final moments if they endured a slow death can also be claimed. So can the abstract loss of love, care, and guidance.
If the behavior causing death was egregiously reckless – like drunk driving – courts sometimes award punitive damages too. This is to punish such socially irresponsible acts. But meeting the high threshold for punitive damages award is difficult.
Collecting Awarded Damages
Say you manage to prove grounds for wrongful death and secure rightful compensation through a successful verdict or settlement. Can you collect the full amount easily from the estate?
Unfortunately, less-solvent estates may not always have enough liquid assets to readily award high damages. Complex probate court proceedings typically follow big verdicts against estates. You may receive compensation in installments over months or years as the estate liquefies assets.
If multiple parties file claims against the same estate, available assets get split proportionately. Ultimately, you may gain only partial compensation depending on the estate’s financial health. But skilled probate attorneys help maximize your share.
Why Act Quickly?
Each state’s statute of limitations sets deadlines for filing wrongful death lawsuits – typically 1 to 4 years. Delaying legal action could make your claim invalid if this window lapses.
Simultaneously, probate closing an estate also follows statutory timelines – around 3 years on average. Timing your lawsuit appropriately to avoid either deadline passing matters.
Can You Seek Compensation for Pain and Suffering from an Estate After Settling with Their Insurance Company?
Should You Pursue Claims?
Despite lower payout likelihoods and lengthier processes, suing estates serves an important purpose. Negligence that proves fatal deserves consequences – future trauma and loss for grieving families should not go unacknowledged.
Holding offenders accountable through courts cautions others against risky behaviors like distracted driving. Alpine Legal Group suggests remembering that – your lawsuit could save lives by promoting due prudence.
To conclude, suing estates for wrongful death and securing damages for pain and suffering is feasible but tricky. Statutes of limitation, navigating probate disputes – all benefit from working with competent wrongful death attorneys. They can offer no win-no fee representation with minimal upfront costs too.
The death of beloved family members leaves permanent voids in survivors’ lives. But securing some measure of justice in their memory helps find closure. Reach out for professional legal advice on how to approach lawsuits against estates. Nothing compensates for losing someone dear, but ensuring accountability keeps communities safer.