Can I get the assets of a drunk driver? 57 Answers as of July 11, 2013

I was hit head on by a drunk driver. Drunk driver died and I found out her insurance is very low. If I hire an attorney, can he/she get the personal assets of the dead drunk driver? Maybe her house, retirement, etc.?

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The S.E. Farris Law Firm
The S.E. Farris Law Firm | Spencer E. Farris
Perhaps, but you will be out of luck if you wait too long as assets disappear. Especially if she left a will.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 7/29/2011
The S.E. Farris Law Firm
The S.E. Farris Law Firm | Spencer E. Farris
Perhaps, but you will be out of luck if you wait too long as assets disappear. Especially if she left a will.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 7/8/2013
The S.E. Farris Law Firm
The S.E. Farris Law Firm | Spencer E. Farris
Perhaps, but you will be out of luck if you wait too long as assets disappear. Especially if she left a will.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 7/8/2013
The S.E. Farris Law Firm
The S.E. Farris Law Firm | Spencer E. Farris
Perhaps, but you will be out of luck if you wait too long as assets disappear. Especially if she left a will.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 7/8/2013
The S.E. Farris Law Firm
The S.E. Farris Law Firm | Spencer E. Farris
Perhaps, but you will be out of luck if you wait too long as assets disappear. Especially if she left a will.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 7/8/2013
    The S.E. Farris Law Firm
    The S.E. Farris Law Firm | Spencer E. Farris
    Perhaps, but you will be out of luck if you wait too long as assets disappear. Especially if she left a will.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 7/3/2013
    The S.E. Farris Law Firm
    The S.E. Farris Law Firm | Spencer E. Farris
    Perhaps, but you will be out of luck if you wait too long as assets disappear. Especially if she left a will.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 6/26/2013
    Riley Law Firm
    Riley Law Firm | Timothy Dennis Riley
    It depends on whether the assets are protected under state or federal law. You should definitely retain competent Texas legal counsel to assist you in this claim.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Jones, Boykin, & Associates, P.C.
    Jones, Boykin, & Associates, P.C. | Noble L. Boykin, Jr.
    The answer to your inquiry is that as a general rule, you may sue the drunk driver personally, obtain a judgment and then levy on his or her personal assets. As always, however, there are exceptions. First of all, you mentioned that the drunk driver's insurance is "very low." You need to know that if you accept a settlement from the insurance company, whether low or high, that company will require you to sign a release of the drunk driver in exchange for accepting those insurance benefits. If you sign a release, you will essentially be waiving any right to go after the personal assets of that drunk driver. In actuality, however, you may not be giving up that much by signing a release depending on the net worth of the drunk driver. The drunk driver may not have a red cent in his or her name, or if he or she has assets, such as a house, it may be subject to a mortgage or other debt. What usually is done in these circumstances is that an asset check is run on the drunk driver to determine whether it is worthwhile to pursue personal assets. If not, then what my office usually does is recommend that you send a "timed" settlement demand for the policy limits of the drunk driver's liability insurance with certain conditions attached. If the insurance company does not meet the demand in a timely manner or substantially fails to meet those conditions, then the settlement offer is withdrawn. Under those circumstances, many times you can continue to proceed against the drunk driver and the insurance company would be required to pay whatever judgment is entered regardless of the amount of the insurance policy limits due to the insurance company's negligence or bad faith in failing to properly respond to the demand. Second, because you mentioned that the drunk driver is deceased, an estate would have to be set up on behalf of the drunk driver in the appropriate probate court in order to have a viable entity to sue, due to the death of the Defendant. A claim would also have to be filed in the probate court to protect any claim against the deceased driver's personal assets. Third, if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits, you may have a claim against your own uninsured motorist carrier depending on your limits of uninsured motorist coverage and depending on the type of coverage you have. This would be in addition to the "low insurance limits" of the drunk driver. In sum, the answer to your inquiry is yes, but there are a number of legal considerations which need to be addressed in order to properly represent your interests and maximize recovery. Under the circumstances you have described, it would clearly be in your best interest to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you to pursue your claim against the drunk driver and/or the drunk driver's estate.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    Yes, the driver who caused your injuries can be personally liable for your losses, if they have any assets or money. You should contact an attorney before settling your claim because there may be others responsible for your injuries.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office of William Justice Whitaker
    Law Office of William Justice Whitaker | William J. Whitaker
    Dear Sir/Madam: Yes, you can go after the drunk drivers estate, but first you would need to file a lawsuit and win in court. If, for example, you received a $100,000.00 judgment against the drunk driver in court and his insurance coverage was only $25,000.00, then yes you could take the remainder of the judgment and enforce it against the drunk drivers estate. You may not be entitled to enforce the judgment against any life insurance he had or his 401K account but against any personal property/real estate/bank accounts/cash or other assets you definitely could enforce the judgment. Because you first would need to file a lawsuit and take this matter to a jury it would be nine months to two years before you had your judgment against the drunk driver. Unless you know the man has enough assets to cover any judgment you might receive, I would recommend just going after the man's policy limits and then going after your "under-insured/uninsured" coverage to supplement the rest of the damages you received.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
    Possibly. depends on type of assets and how they were set up.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Bristol & Dubiel LLP
    Bristol & Dubiel LLP | Murray L. Bristol
    In Texas you can sue the estate of the person that died that caused your injuries and maybe recover assets of the estate. I would recommend contacting an attorney and learn your legal rights. Our firm provides free consultations for people injured in Texas and Oklahoma.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm | Francis Hajek
    In a drunk driving personal injury case, you can go after the assets of the driver if the insurance is not sufficient. Since the driver has died, bankruptcy is not an option and so the question will be, does the driver have assets? An experienced injury attorney can certainly assist you in this process.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Ackley Law Group, PLLC
    Ackley Law Group, PLLC | Andrew N. Ackley
    If you get a judgment against the driver, you can go after the person's assets, in this case his estate, to satisfy the judgment. This includes both personal and real property. Retirement accounts and entitlements are often protected from judgments, but your attorney would have to look more into that. Keep in mind that because the driver died, time is probably of the essence.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    ROWE LAW FIRM
    ROWE LAW FIRM | Jeffrey S. Wittenbrink
    If you are injured in an accident with a drunk driver, they are personally liable for your damages. If you do not wish to settle for the amount of any insurance, you may have to sue and seek a judgment against the driver and pursue his personal assets. Retirement accounts are exempt from seizure in many cases, and will pass according to a written declaration of beneficiary instead of going through the estate of the dead person. Other assets of your drunk driver's estate may be liquidated and be sold to collect any judgments against him.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    Absolutely! You can get a judgment against the drunk driver, and if it goes above the insurance coverage, then the defendant's estate is on the hook. You should also look into your own insurance coverage. If you have "underinsured motorist coverage" then your insurance should also kick in some money. These things can get pretty tricky, so it is probably best to hire an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry | Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Yes. You would have to sue the estate of the deceased.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Rose, Senders & Bovarnick, LLC
    Rose, Senders & Bovarnick, LLC | Paul S. Bovarnick
    In a case like this, the other driver's insurer will only settle with you if you agree not to sue the drunk driver. But if you refuse the settlement, you can still sue. If you win the suit, you can get the insurance and still go after the drunk driver's assets. You may also have your own underinsured motorist protection. You should look at your insurance policy, and you should consult with a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Offices of Tom Patton
    Law Offices of Tom Patton | Thomas C. Patton
    Yes, if the decedent has assets, they can be "attached" to satisfy a judgment. Be careful not to sign a "release" to obtain the low policy limit of the decedent, however, because that will prohibit you from being able to go after the assets.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC | Russell D. Gray
    You would probably be better off pursuing your own UM/UIM coverage, if you have it. An attorney would be able to evaluate what insurance coverages you have, and would also be able to tell you whether you should go after the driver's estate as well.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A.
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A. | Lawrence A. Ramunno
    You may be able to do so but there are a number of issues.
    Answer Applies to: Delaware
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates | Barry Rabovsky
    You may have a case, based upon the information that you have supplied. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation if you call my office at either of the numbers listed below. If my office accepts your case, there is no fee charged unless we are able to obtain a settlement for you.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney | Patrick M Lamar
    Yes, but collection is often difficult.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Offices of Joseph I. Lipsky, P.A.
    Law Offices of Joseph I. Lipsky, P.A. | Joseph Lipsky
    Depending upon the injuries and damage you suffered as a result of the car accident, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit against the Estate of the person who caused the accident. You will need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who will have to file a claim against the other driver's estate. However, your claim may be secondary to other creditor's claims against the other driver's estate.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    Maybe. Do you have underinsured coverage? The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Alabama. Responses are based solely on Alabama law unless stated otherwise.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    You would have to make a claim against her estate; you can also check your underinsured motorist limits in your own insurance policy.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Ron Graham Attorney at Law
    Ron Graham Attorney at Law | Ron Graham
    You have to sue the estate and my guess there might not be much of one. You may have to invoke your underinsured policy to cover the rest. You may contact my office for an evaluation.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    Certainly, that is, if your actual damages are high enough,. Call me for more details about your injury if you like.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    Depending on the state, the answer is probably yes. In Florida, the lawyer would have to sue the estate of the deceased driver, and get a judgment against the estate. See a lawyer right away, as you don't want the deceased driver's beneficiaries setting up an estate, probating it and dispersing the assets before you act.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    That is possible, maybe. But your own 'under insured motorist' insurance may fill in the gap. Consult a personal injury lawyer soon.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Sariol Legal Center
    Sariol Legal Center | Frank R. Sariol
    Yes if the person had assets then you have a claim against his/her estate!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Anderson & Bliven P.C.
    Anderson & Bliven P.C. | Scott Anderson
    Yes and no. First, you have a limited time to file a claim against the estate of the drunk driver. Second, there may be other creditors that have claims and it will be up to the judge to determine their priority. Third, the survivor(s) of the drunk driver may have priority to certain assets that would be judgment proof. Fourth, you may have insurance proceeds that you can claim. I would be happy to discuss your case with you and review your case to see what your options may be.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Premier Law Group
    Premier Law Group | Jason Epstein
    If there is anything to get it may be possible to get it.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Allen Murphy Law
    Allen Murphy Law | W. Riley Allen
    You have to get a judgment first against the Estate. Then, it depends on what attachable assets the Estate has.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    David Hoines Law
    David Hoines Law | David Hoines
    Not house or retirement or martial property; very hard to collect in Florida.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    That is possible if your damages exceed the policy limits.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    LT Pepper Law
    LT Pepper Law | Luke T. Pepper
    You can sue her estate and see if you can attach her assets in addition to her insurance to pay a judgment.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Martinson & Beason, PC
    Martinson & Beason, PC | Elizabeth Beason Moore
    Assets of the person would be recoverable. You also need to see if you have anything available to you under your own insurance policy.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink | Steven Alan Fink
    Yes. You first have to file a claim against their estate, assuming they have one. If claim is rejected you will have to sue. Once you get a judgment you can collect from any assets of the deceased.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    First, if you carried underinsured motorist coverage, thats the first place to look for compensation. But your coverage needs to be greater than his. In other words, if you only carried $15,000 underinsured coverage and thats all he carried, you get no benefit from your policy. If he had $15,000 and you have $50,000, you can recover the difference of $35,000 from your own policy. Yes you can sue the estate of the driver for your injuries. Speak to a lawyer and you will probably need to retain a private investigator to ascertain the assets of the deceased to see if it is worthwhile pursuing.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    Yes, there are ways to get the drunk driver's assets. However, you normally must reduce your claim to a judgment meaning you must either settle the suit with the personal representative of the estate or win a lawsuit against the estate. You have 8 months (in South Carolina) to file a claim against the estate after the estate publishes notice to creditors, which is done immediately after the estate is opened. You should also check into whether you have underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage kicks in if your damages exceeds the a fault driver's insurance. I also know of a technique that can sometimes allow my client to collect all damages, above and beyond the at fault driver's insurance coverage. However, I have to keep it secret, because it is somewhat of a trade secret, and if adjusters learn about it, it won't work.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    The Kelly Law Firm, P.C.
    The Kelly Law Firm, P.C. | L. Todd Kelly
    Sometimes. There are a lot of factors to consider.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    Shaw Law Firm
    Shaw Law Firm | Steven L. Shaw
    You can file a claim against the estate of the deceased driver by notifying the personal representative of the estate. If no estate has been established, you can do so as if you were a creditor. I would highly suggest talking to an attorney on this. It is fraught with complications that you will need an attorney with experience to handle.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC | Travis Prestwich
    Yes. The claim you have is against the at-fault party, ie in this case the drunk driver. Whether that person had assets is another matter but there are strict time limits when the other party dies. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Magnuson Lowell P.S.
    Magnuson Lowell P.S. | Richard S. Lowell
    The answer - with some exceptions - is 'yes.' But it only makes sense if there are significant assets. Otherwise, they can 'protect' smaller assets and you won't be able to touch them. Also, assuming that the driver's estate is being probated, it is important to file a claim against the estate quickly.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/1/2011
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A.
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A. | Christopher J. Roberts
    Yes. The estate of the person who hit you can be made a defendant in a civil action, and if you obtain a judgment then it becomes payable from the estate. You may want to hire a lawyer or investigator to do an assets check before you go this route, however. A lot of people have "negative assets" these days, with underwater mortgages, car loans in excess of vehicle worth, and so forth. No point going after the estate if there are no assets to recover. You should also check with your own insurance company. If you had uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, your own insurance will step in and compensate you for your loss. That would be a much easier means of obtaining compensation if you had the coverage. If you didn't have the coverage, there may also be a way to argue that your insurance company should have offered it to you but didn't. It's a long shot, but worth looking at if you had serious injuries. You should talk to a lawyer in your area. Almost all lawyers who handle personal injury matters such as this will engage in a free initial consultation to discuss your case in more detail. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 2/21/2012
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