What happens if defendant dies before court? 17 Answers as of April 05, 2013

I have a lawsuit against a woman who crashed into my car and I was hurt. The case has been active for 9 years now, and my lawyer told me to wait until the woman dies since she was around 90 years old so the court would not be so sympathetic towards her. I need to know if I can still sue the insurance company after she dies or am I going to be screwed? And also, I called the court house to see when my case was going to be on the docket and they said it had been up for trial 3 different times and put back on the list because they could not get in touch with the defendant. And my lawyer acts like he is being paid off. What can I do?

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Law Offices of Ronald A. Steinberg & Associates | Ronald A. Steinberg, BA, MA, JD
Open up an estate for her.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 2/1/2013
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
If your lawsuit is filed you have no problem. Lawyers are not "paid off" so stop saying ugly things about your lawyer. He may be lazy. He may be an idiot, but he is not likely to be "paid off" if you don't like him and obviously you don't, go get another lawyer. what is wrong with you man?
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 1/29/2013
Henry Lebensbaum | Henry Lebensbaum
The cause of action can be modified to include the estate of the defendant. Get a second opinion, ASAP.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 1/28/2013
Law Offices of George H. Shers | George H. Shers
The facts you cite do not make sense. Cases are supposed to be resolved within about one year [L.A. takes closer to 5], if the defendant has insurance there will be a law firm hired by the insurer to represent her, the case would not be put over because the court can not find the defendant, you have only five years in general to bring a case to trial, etc. You need to go to the courthouse and review your entire file, meet with your attorney to see what is really going on, and then take the necessary steps indicated by the information you get.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/28/2013
Law Offices of Tanya Gendelman, P.C.
Law Offices of Tanya Gendelman, P.C. | Tanya Gendelman, Esq.
Change lawyers, I have never heard such an excuse.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 1/28/2013
    David P. Slater, esq.
    David P. Slater, esq. | David P. Slater
    Retain a new lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 4/5/2013
    Law Offices of Mark West
    Law Offices of Mark West | Mark West
    I am assuming this is in California. I do not understand how your case could be still on the "civil active list" at all. There is something called the 5 year rule which states that a case must be brought to trial within 5 years of the date it is filed or can (and usually is) dismissed on motion of the adverse party, or by the Court on its own motion. If you are lucky enough and there is still a case pending, you should actually go to the courthouse and pull the file on your case and see what is going on with it. As for proceeding, there are ways to proceed against the deceased and you should get into an attorney's office soon to protect the case from disappearing before your eyes.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/28/2013
    Law Office of Christian Menard
    Law Office of Christian Menard | Christian Menard
    Talk to another lawyer because when a defendant dies, you can petition the court to open an estate in the dead defendant's name and continue your case against his estate. His carrier should still be on the hook to pay your damages if you prevail on liability.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/28/2013
    Reade & Associates
    Reade & Associates | R. Christopher Reade
    When a defendant dies, you can move to have the Defendant's Estate substituted as a Defendant. I have grave concerns regarding legal advice to wait 9 years after an automobile accident since you have statute of limitations problems, as well as certain equitable defenses arise (laches, estoppel, etc.). If you are dissatisfied with your counsel, hire new counsel.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 1/28/2013
    Durham Jones & Pinegar | Erven Nelson
    The death of the defendant should not affect her insurance coverage. The facts you recited are strange. There is a five-year rule in Nevada which states that cases need to go to trial within 5 years of being filed. Your lawyer could probably get a default judgment if the defendant's lawyer or insurance company is not responding. Your lawyer should demand policy limits from the defendant's insurance company. You might want to fire another lawyer to check into everything.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 1/28/2013
    James E. Hasser, Jr. P.C.
    James E. Hasser, Jr. P.C. | Jim Hasser
    You need to talk with your lawyer. The lawyer for the insurance company will probably file something with the court letting it know that its insured is dead. Your lawyer will have to substitute the lady's estate because her insurance company cannot be sued directly by State law. Call and complain about that to your legislators and get them to change it.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 4/5/2013
    Mike Lewis Attorneys | Mike Lewis
    It's hard for me to imagine a case in North Carolina not going to trial in a nine year period. Judges are expected to have cases resolved as quickly as possible, and it is very unusual for a case to be pending more than 2 to 3 years. I would suggest you ask your attorney for a full and complete explanation of the status of your case. Something does not sound right.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 4/5/2013
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    In South Carolina, and I suppose most states, Once the case is filed, the statute of limitations does not run after the case is filed. As long as it is filed before the Sol runs, you are fine. It does make some sense that you are better off in trial if she is deceased (it is hard to feel sympathy toward an empty defendant's chair). The case will continue after her death against her estate, and her insurance will still be liable. You do not say what our lawyer is doing that suggest he is being paid off. However, I have heard numerous people complain that they think their lawyer in my town was paid off. These are always ridiculous suspicions. A lawyer will not risk disbarment and prison for a payoff.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 1/25/2013
    A. Dawn Hayes & Assoc. P.A.
    A. Dawn Hayes & Assoc. P.A. | A. Dawn Hayes
    As long as a complaint is pending you still have a valid lawsuit. If the woman had insurance coverage at the time of the accident,the claim will survive her death. If you do not want to wait, tell your attorney that you want to move forward. It is your case.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 1/25/2013
    Curry, Roby & Mulvey Co., LLC
    Curry, Roby & Mulvey Co., LLC | Bruce A. Curry
    If the defendant dies, the law allows a plaintiff to substitute the administrator or executor of the defendant's estate into the lawsuit for the defendant. Sometimes, this requires the plaintiff to actually set up the defendant's estate on his/her behalf. With that said, nine years is a very long time to wait to resplve your case. I would consider replacing your attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 1/25/2013
    Gregory S. Shurman, LLC
    Gregory S. Shurman, LLC | Gregory S Shurman
    If a defendant dies before court, the action may proceed against his estate. If you are unhappy with your attorney, you should address your concerns with him. You can always get another attorney if you can't work things out.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/25/2013
    Moore Law Firm
    Moore Law Firm | Frederick J. Moore III
    You may need to consult another attorney. Judges do not like cases that have been on their dockets for that long so I am surprised he or she hasnt set it for trial regardless who is ready. To answer your question, in Alabama you sue the driver od the vehicle regardleasbid they have insurance. In fact absent a lawsuit against your own insurance company, you can't he mention the fact the 90 year old lady had insurance. This may be why your lawyer was waiting until she died, but I would not suggest it. In the event she dies, you have to sue her estate. While the insurance company still pays the judgment, suing a dead 90 year old woman's estate doesn't look any better than suing her before she dies.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 1/25/2013
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