We recently handled a case involving a tragic traffic fatality that could have been a real mess without lawyers helping guide everyone to the right decision. We also learned just because you’re left out of a person’s will doesn’t mean you’re left out of the case to recover financially for his death.
We helped five siblings fight a 2-headed legal monster to recover financially for the loss of their brother, killed in a fatal car accident by a hit and run driver authorities couldn’t find. Here’s why the aftermath of this tragedy became a 2-headed legal monster:
- Despite a close knit family with five siblings, the victim curiously left virtually his entire estate to an ex-stepdaughter. He’d divorced her mom years ago. Since the victim and his siblings shared a family beach home, they worried about losing their interest in it. They also feared losing family heirlooms the victim had.
- His will created another tough and unique legal problem for our clients. It made the ex-stepdaughter the estate’s personal representative (PR), meaning she had the right to bring the case to recover for his loss, called a wrongful death case.
Strangely, the PR couldn’t personally recover from the wrongful death settlement. The South Carolina wrongful death law limits that financial settlement to basically close relatives. Thus, only the siblings could recover financially.
But the PR could potentially recover personally for the victim’s conscious pain and suffering, in a survival case. The siblings worried their interests could be compromised if the PR desired to maximize her recovery at the expense of theirs.
Here’s how we forged an agreement to make this work– with equal credit to the PR’s lawyer for helping us.
Probate Settlement And Agreement On Handling The Crash Case
We reached an agreement giving our clients the following rights, even though the will said differently:
- They got the victim’s interest in the beach house and the heirlooms.
- The PR basically got the rest of the estate.
- Our client got named “special administrator” of the estate to control the wrongful death case, while the PR controlled the survival case.
Maximizing Insurance Recovery
We scoured all possible policies for all possible coverage. We found the following coverage:
- Uninsured auto coverage, since the at-fault driver never got caught. This coverage is on all auto policies in South Carolina.
- Med Pay coverage to help pay medical bills from the crash.
- Funeral coverage to help pay for the funeral bills.
We also developed the loss to siblings to maximize their financial recovery for wrongful death. In an unusual twist, we made clear the victim died almost immediately, to reduce the conscious pain and suffering claim for the survival case.
We achieved recovery for all available insurance he had, about $110,000.
Negotiating Settlement Money Split
Once we had the money, we had to come to an agreement with the PR on how it should be split, so we pointed out the enormity of the victim’s loss to the five close siblings compared with the quickness of his passing. Once we reached an agreement, we got it finalized in court as required by law at a hearing.
In the end, it took a ton of work, but it was worth it to help a family mired in grief, shock, and strife overcome insurmountable legal burdens for them.
If you've been overcome by a loved one's death in a fatal accident, start email us from this page to schedule a free meeting to talk about how we can ease your burden and help you make a financial recovery.