• By: Graham Sutliff
  • Published: July 2021

Being in a car accident in Texas is an overwhelming experience. If your car accident resulted from a drunk driver, you might be eligible to receive financial compensation for your medical bills, property damage costs, and other accident-related expenses. However, what happens if the drunk driver dies before you file a lawsuit or during the course of the lawsuit? Who do you file a claim against then?

When a defendant dies, an injury claim becomes much more complicated. Hiring a top-rated Houston car accident attorney is the most straightforward way to navigate the process.

Legal Options for When a Defendant Dies before Filing a Lawsuit

When the defendant dies before you can file a lawsuit, the claim will be filed against the estate of the deceased. If a probate action is pending, you will have the option of intervening in the probate or filing a separate civil action claim along with a suggestion of death and a motion for scire fascias.

A suggestion of death is when the plaintiff brings the defendant’s death to the court’s attention and asks the court to record it.

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Legal Options for When a Defendant Dies before Filing a Lawsuit

When the defendant dies before you can file a lawsuit, the claim will be filed against the estate of the deceased. If a probate action is pending, you will have the option of intervening in the probate or filing a separate civil action claim along with a suggestion of death and a motion for scire fascias.

A suggestion of death is when the plaintiff brings the defendant’s death to the court’s attention and asks the court to record it.

Options When the Defendant Dies after a Lawsuit Has Been Filed

Under Texas Rule of Civil Procedures 153, when a defendant dies after a plaintiff files a lawsuit, the court clerk issues a scire facias. Once the defendant’s administrator or executor appears, the claim may carry out similarly to a civil action claim. Additionally, once you file a suggestion of death, the court must issue a scire fascias to defend the deceased’s lawsuit.

You must remember that the court will likely not know who the will executor is unless you tell them. Finding the executor can be challenging, as you will have to search all possible probate courts. If there is no probate pending, you may then have to identify the defendant’s legal heirs. This can be challenging to do, but an injury attorney can help.

Protecting Your Claim During Probate

A probate court handles the assets and debts of a deceased individual. These courts work to ensure that the deceased’s creditors are paid. Courts then distribute the assets to appropriate beneficiaries. Probate judges allocate the assets in this order:

  • Reasonable funeral expenses
  • Costs and expenses of administration
  • Debts and taxes with preference under federal or state laws
  • Reasonable medical expenses
  • All other claims

To best protect your claim during the probate process, hire a top-rated Houston car accident lawyer. They can help you navigate the complicated process as you pursue compensation for your injuries.

Speak to the Car Accident Attorneys at Sutliff & Stout Today

One thing you must remember is that identifying the appropriate party is critical to your case. Failure to identify, sue, and serve the proper party on time may result in a judge dismissing your case. A case dismissal may result in you having to pay for accident expenses out of pocket. Do not risk this and contact the Board-Certified car accident experts at Sutliff & Stout. We will work diligently to identify the proper party and file a claim accordingly. To schedule a free consultation, call (713) 987-7111 or complete our contact form today.

About the Author

Graham Sutliff is a founding partner at Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm. Among other awards and certifications, he is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law and has been recognized by Thomson Reuters as a Super Lawyer for the past decade. In 2019 alone, Graham recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients who were injured by others. To learn more about Graham, click here.

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