Deceased Defendant: What To Know About Estates, Probate, and Compensation

If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know there is nothing simple about the aftermath. From hospital bills to vehicle damage, there is a lot to deal with in the days and weeks after an accident. Figuring out how to find justice and compensation is one of the most complicated parts. One way things can quickly get complicated? When the person who caused the accident is killed in the accident or dies before the case is resolved.

For example, imagine that Driver A makes the reckless decision to drive home after a few drinks at a bar. On their way home, they cause a head-on collision with Driver B when they run through a red light. Driver A dies in the accident, but Driver B survives with serious injuries. If Driver A is dead, how can Driver B find compensation for their injuries?

What is an Estate?

A situation like this will likely involve the estate of the deceased defendant. In the legal and financial world, “estate” refers to everything comprising the net worth of an individual. This includes real estate assets, as well as stocks, bonds, and savings accounts. It also includes anything else that is of value, like vehicles, artwork, and jewelry. An estate can also include things like debt, loans, and mortgages. When someone dies, a personal representative, or executor, oversees the estate. This is often a close family member. It can also be an attorney appointed to oversee the estate.

The Probate Process

When someone dies, their beneficiaries and creditors—anyone to whom money is owed—go through a court-supervised process called probate. During the probate process, any debts are paid from the estate. At this time, beneficiaries also receive any assets left to them. In a situation where an injured party is trying to earn compensation from a deceased defendant, they become a potential creditor. If the defendant’s actions caused their injuries, leading to expenses like medical bills or lost wages, the estate owes them a debt. This means that along with paying off other debts, the estate may also owe money to the injured person.

However, just like in an accident with a surviving defendant, the injured person must still prove that the defendant was at-fault for the accident. If there are disputes over the facts of an accident, the case might still even go to court.

Car accidents can be complex, and dealing with estates and probate can make matters even more complex for everyone involved. If you have been in a car accident, it’s always a good idea to meet with a personal injury attorney—they can walk you through the specifics of your case, and can help you find the best solutions for  moving forward.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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