A Message Regarding COVID-19: We are available to consult with you during this difficult and extraordinary time. If you, a family member or friend have been injured in an accident, our first concern is that you focus in the near future on your health and well being as well as that of your family and friends. Please feel free to contact us by phone or email with legal questions you may have concerning your accident, or other areas of the law. We are here to help. Be safe. Thanks.

Medical advances give so much opportunity for injury victims to regain their health and many, many times an injury victim can recover and move on with their life.  But not always. When a personal injury lawsuit has already been filed and the victim, or the guardian of the victim, is already in place certain things will happen rather quickly.  And some of those things are difficult to contemplate.

As the court is likely to be sympathetic to a family’s religious burial customs and if a lawsuit is already filed, it would be customary for the plaintiff and defense lawyers to confer quickly and put together a plan to make the necessary examinations and preserve appropriate evidence for use at trial while allowing the family to bury their loved one in as reasonable a timeframe and preserving as much dignity as possible.

In some cases when a person has been severely injured through no fault of their own, an insurance company may enter into a temporary agreement to provide for loss of income when the injured party is a primary provider.  When the injury victim passes away, that temporary agreement comes to an end. And while an insurer may be accommodating for a period of time, it is not unusual for an insurer and its attorney to press hard to bring the lawsuit to an end once a victim passes away.  The damages a person suffers stop accruing when the person dies. In that respect, once the person dies you can make an accurate accounting of the costs and final impact upon the surviving family members.

Every state has a process for providing official notice to the Court when a person who is the subject of a lawsuit dies. States may require a refiling of the lawsuit, but in some states the existing suit can be converted from personal injury allegations to a wrongful death suit.  It is generally accepted that a court will allow the documents, depositions, and other evidence already on record in the personal injury suit to also be available for use in the wrongful death suit.

Another way a lawsuit is impacted is that an estate for the decedent will need to be opened.  Once the estate is open, it will request authority from the Court to maintain or otherwise pursue the lawsuit. The Court must ensure that the estate is handled properly and that a person is designated to make decisions relating to the suit which may include settlement authority.  Or it may establish a process for the designee to notify the other beneficiaries and obtain consent to enter into or negotiate towards a settlement agreement.

Depending on the marital and parental status of the decedent, the Court may require a Wrongful Death judgment to be maintained for the benefit of the decedent’s children and that is another process which will require an attorney, like a wrongful death lawyer to file the necessary paperwork and represent one’s interests before the court.  It is important to work with legal counsel who understands both the technical legal process and also demonstrates a good bedside manner in dealing with a client who must transition from injuries to death.