In many situations, personal injury accidents not only result in the injury of the victim, but of the person who is negligent as well. In fact, sometimes the person who is at fault loses his or her life. This type of scenario is most commonly seen in motor vehicle accidents, but can occur in other situations also. Unfortunately, many injured victims do not realize that they still have rights under Illinois law, even if the negligent person becomes deceased.
While the fact that the responsible party passed away in itself does not bar the victim from making a personal injury claim, it can make doing so rather complicated. According to the Illinois General Assembly, under Illinois law a deceased person is a nonexistent entity and therefore cannot be party to a lawsuit. Accordingly, a personal injury claim that is brought against a person who is already deceased when the claim is filed is null and void. Victims still have legal options, however.
Even after a negligent person becomes deceased, the personal injury victim can attempt to settle a claim with the deceased’s liability insurance carrier. For the most part, doing so is handled similarly to any other personal injury claim. When the victim and the insurance company cannot reach a settlement agreement and the case must be brought before the court, however, the process becomes significantly more complex.
If an estate has already been opened for the deceased and a personal representative has been appointed by the court, then the case may proceed with the personal representative serving as the defendant for legal purposes. In this type of scenario, the lawsuit continues much like any other personal injury case.
When there is no estate, however, and no personal representative, Illinois courts can appoint a special representative without opening an estate for the purposes of defending the claim. In this situation, compensation for injuries may be limited to the proceeds of the deceased’s liability insurance.