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Dealing With a California Injury Case When the Person Who Hit You Dies Shortly After the Accident

Each personal injury case comes with its own unique set of circumstances. Sometimes, the events that unfold may make a case more complicated than it might have otherwise been. One of the keys to success is making sure that, whatever happens, you are prepared and equipped to continue forward through the legal system and get the compensation you need. To do that, it helps to make sure that you have a knowledgeable California car accident attorney handling your case.

Take, for example, the injury case of a Bay Area woman named Rebecca. Her case began with an accident during the winter holidays of 2013. Rebecca was a passenger in a vehicle that was hit by a vehicle driven by 91-year-old Raymond. Raymond’s auto insurance policy had a limit of $15,000 for any single injury and $30,000 for any one incident.

Shortly after the accident, Raymond died from unrelated causes. When the person who is at fault for the accident that injured you dies shortly after the crash, that can potentially create complications for you. The law only allows you to sue living people or entities currently in existence in order to obtain compensation for the harm you suffered. If another driver caused a crash that injured you, and that driver is living, you would sue that driver. If the driver has died, pursuing compensation generally involves naming the deceased’s probate estate as the defendant. This may become complex if there is no legal heir who steps up and becomes the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.

These complications are not complete barriers, though; they simply require proper knowledge of the legal system to address. Rebecca’s attorney went to the probate court and opened an estate for Raymond. The filing indicated that the sole purpose of the attorney’s opening the estate was to name Raymond’s estate as a defendant in Rebecca’s injury lawsuit. Then, an employee of Rebecca’s attorney stepped in as Raymond’s personal representative. In this situation, the employee was named as the personal representative for the sole and limited purpose of accepting service of the court papers in Rebecca’s lawsuit.

Rebecca used these procedural processes to keep her lawsuit moving. Keeping a case moving forward is important because you only have a limited time to act. In fact, the statute of limitations was a key issue in Rebecca’s case. The appeals court ruled that the trial judge had incorrectly declared Rebecca’s filing to be too late. The limitations period the trial judge used was the wrong one. The period that the trial court used, which was one year from the date of Raymond’s death, would have applied if Raymond had not had insurance. However, when a person who dies prior to the resolution of a personal injury claim against him does have insurance, California law gives the injured person two years from the date of the accident in which to file a lawsuit. The accident happened on Dec. 29, 2013. Rebecca filed on Dec. 21, 2015, so her lawsuit was in time.

To make sure that your case receives the skillful and determined handling you should expect, reach out to the experienced San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. We have been helping injured drivers and passengers pursue their legal cases effectively for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Jury Awards Man With Disabilities More Than $41M in Damages for Massive Injuries Suffered in California Intersection Crash, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 19, 2018

Injured Passenger Receives $12M in Damages Award for Injuries Suffered in Southern California Drunk Driving Accident, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Sept. 6, 2017

Car Accident

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    I retained Ilya Frangos of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos on a business litigation matter involving a frivolous lawsuit filed in federal court. Ilya guided me through the case and helped make sure that I understood the process… He always took the time to answer all my questions and helped put my mind at ease. I would highly recommend him and this firm!


    I called Mr Frye after my wife had passed away… John listened to my case over the phone, after aggreeing to represent me, handled everything from there… I have already recommended Mr Frye to a friend for help with a similiar case and would without reserve recommend him to anybody. He came highly recommended as an expert in these type cases, and I believe he demonstrated this personally.


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    A great experience. Excellent law firm which treats their client’s with the utmost respect. Very knowledgeable and made me fell extremely secure when handling my personal injury claim. Would highly recommend Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos to handle your next case.

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    I was fortunate enough to have been represented and retained by this law firm for my injuries sustained by an under insured motorist. I must say Chantel Fitting and Illya Frangos went above and beyond trying to resolve my case… I would highly recommend this law firm and stop shopping around if you are looking for the best, as this is as good as it gets.

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