It doesn't happen frequently, but occasionally the negligent driver who injured you in a crash dies before your claim is settled. This is a recurring scenario with elderly drivers.
When this happens, the insurance company for the driver is still on the hook for the injuries caused by their deceased insured. Occasionally, however, the insurance company may not know their insured driver died, particularly if that person's death occurs well after the crash for reasons unrelated to the crash.
And you may not know it either.
If you are trying to resolve your injury claim on your own, and you are fast approaching the expiration of your two year statute of limitations, this may be a real problem.
Why? In Ohio, you cannot sue a dead person. You have to sue that person's estate. If you are unaware that the negligent driver has died, and wait until the last minute to hire an attorney, you risk letting your statute of limitations expire if you sue a deceased person rather than his estate, only to find out afterwards that the negligent driver is now deceased.
But what if no estate has been opened on behalf of the deceased driver? Ohio law allows your personal injury attorney to open an estate on behalf of the deceased negligent driver in order to sue the estate and properly preserve our injury claim. If this is done timely and correctly, the deceased person's insurance company will defend the claim, and coverage under the deceased person's policy will be preserved.
This can get complicated and it can take some time to properly open the estate, so the last thing you want to do is wait until a few days before your two year statute of limitations is about to expire before hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you.
A word to the wise if you've been injured by an elderly driver.