Author Topic: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?  (Read 10543 times)

MishMash

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 712
So, my father was killed in a car accident last week, my mother was the at fault driver, it looks like his pacemaker might have gone off in the car and when my mom went to look at him, ran a red light and got Tboned.  He probably only had a few months to live anyway, and had been preparing us all for the inevitable so while the WAY he went was a shock, the fact that he passed was not.

We've got everything taken care of, she's out of ICU, the funeral is done, but now we are wondering how to protect her house.  All she has is a house worth about 450k (owes 100) and roughly 100k that will be coming in via life insurance.  My father had a 500k liability policy so we are hoping the other party just goes for that and it's over with.  But, questions, in NJ, can they take the insurance then file a personal lawsuit against my mother?  We are at the moment trying to pin down a lawyer for her but it's been hectic the past week. 

The only citation she is going to be receiving (per the cop) is running a red light, and he's pushing off sending it for as long as possible to allow her to heal, she remembers none of the accident. 

ysette9

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6816
  • Location: Bay Area, CA
    • The Best Is Yet To Come
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2015, 12:23:24 PM »
I am so sorry for your losses. This must be such a shock to the entire family.
I don't have any real advice for you except it would be a good idea to consult a lawyer in this case. There is just too much at stake in my opinion to go off of the advice from a bunch of clowns from the internet, no matter how well intentioned we might be.

Good luck.

ZiziPB

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3327
  • Location: The Other Side
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2015, 12:32:10 PM »
I am sorry for your loss. 

Start by talking to the insurance company and the lawyer they retain.  That lawyer will be defending the case.  At some point in the process your mom may need separate representation but I would definitely start by talking to the insurance company.

MishMash

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 712
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2015, 12:40:09 PM »
For clarification, the other cars occupants, one was released same day, the other was held for observation for 2 days but we've heard it's mostly bumps and scrapes (they were in a truck).  The insurance company is already on it, I'm more concerned with if they can sue via insurance, settle, then come after my mother for more.

JoJo

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1615
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2015, 12:40:43 PM »
Did anyone in the other car get hurt?  It seems like that's your exposure here.

MishMash

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 712
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2015, 12:49:42 PM »
From what we hear one was literally bumps and scrapes, the other was in the hospital for 2 days prior to discharge, we don't know what for.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3056
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2015, 12:51:17 PM »
I expect they are pretty shook up as well, having just accidentally killed a person.

KBecks2

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 618
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2015, 12:58:26 PM »
I'm so sorry for your loss, accidents are so stressful and I'm so sorry that your family is going through all of this.

The other parties will have medical bills that sound fairly normal and those bills will get paid.  Your mom and dad have car insurance and that should cover those costs.  Are you concerned that the bills for a) their medical and car, b) your medical and car will exceed the insurance?  Just wait, and don't stress, and don't make any crazy decisions.  Focus on taking care of your mom. 

RangerOne

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 714
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2015, 02:02:54 PM »
Always sad news to hear something like that.

Talk to your insurance when your up to it. They have their own lawyers and they can tell you how much money they can cover you for in the event the other party sues for damages beyond the typical medical bills and they could also tell you what the likely outcome will be. Typically that amount should be pretty high.

MillenialMustache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 265
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2015, 02:15:30 PM »
I very much agree with the first poster. The insurance company is really only out for themselves - I would highly suggest consulting a lawyer.

Blonde Lawyer

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 752
    • My Student Loan Refi Story
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2015, 02:31:29 PM »
As I said on your other post, I'm so sorry you are going through this.

You need to talk to a lawyer and your insurance company and I can't give you legal advice but I will say in my experience it is pretty rare for a lawyer to bother going after someone's personal assets in car accidents.  If it is a big case, they usually exhaust the liability policy and then the underinsurance policy if applicable but it is often too time consuming and costly to go for personal assets/liability.

Most policies are ##/### like $150,000/$300,000.  That means each individual can get up to $150,000 and all people injured in the accident can get combined $300,000.  So if three people were injured in the accident they have to allocate the $300,000 across all three with no one person getting more than $150,000.

You may also want to speak w/ a plaintiff's attorney.  This sounds crazy but hear me out.  Your dad's estate may have a wrongful death case against your mom.  Some of that insurance policy can go to your dad's estate.  Depending on your local laws the estate may be considered a person of itself like a corporation.  Many of these things are settled privately with the insurance company without a lawsuit.  Some of that money could even go back to your mom if she is a beneficiary of the estate.  Many insurance clauses have exclusions for insured v. insured though so an attorney would have to look at it.  My professor told me about a case where a husband sued a wife for negligence and the family was aghast.  Husband told the family, "it was wife's idea! She's not paying it, her insurance company is."  Now if your mom is the administrator of the estate I don't know if she could make a claim even on behalf of the estate against herself.  It would likely be a conflict and another administrator would need to be appointed for that.  You likely have at least a year (three in my state) to make that decision though.

Bottom line, seek counsel to be sure.

Goldielocks

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6747
  • Location: BC
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2015, 02:37:39 PM »
The good news about life insurance payments, is that your mom can typically take them out as a monthly annuity or protected account, which can often be kept out of reach of the suing party.  (Unless there is a legal way to force her to make monthly payments in future).

Talking with your life insurance agent is a great starting place to learn more about this.

Next, your car insurance company has a vested interest in not paying out a full 500k, and will bring big lawyer bucks to defend it, if it makes money sense for them to do so (e.g., seems obvious that the other party only needs $300k and is trying to get more).  So talk with your car insurance lawyer representing you (ok, representing their money), too.  At the very least, they will tell you if a claim for liability can only be made once, with the 500k insurance covering to that limit and the excess judgement going against your mom, or if you would be pulled through the courts twice.  Also, note that typically the car insurance you have will help pay for your own injuries and car damage, too.

Then you can decide if you want your own independent lawyer, once you have as many facts as possible to get for the asking.

In my region, there would be only one trial or arbitration to determine total liability, from which insurance pays up to 500k.  It is rare around here for judgments to go above the insurance limits, when insurance is in place, but that is trending. 

A second trial / court action is started if your mom defaults on any remaining payments, to try to get a judgement to garnish wages or money somehow, but not to reassess the amount owed. If your mom is retired, I imagine that forcing her to sell her home or remit pension / annuity (life insurance) money would be less likely.

These are all my guesses, as an observer, but NON-EXPERT, even in my own jurisdiction which is not USA.  Don't take advice from random bloggers, after all, but use common sense.

And above all - my sympathies for your loss.  Good for you to try to help your mom by thinking through all this.

aj_yooper

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1091
  • Age: 9
  • Location: Chicagoland
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2015, 03:09:44 PM »
Sorry to hear of your loss.

This is our family's experience of car insurance: 

My mom was killed in a winter accident that was technically my dad's fault.  In Michigan, it was required by his car insurance that he meet with their representative to do the insurance investigation of the accident and to cooperate in the process, which he did.  The other parties were also, like my dad, not seriously injured, but I believe they were also briefly hospitalized.  My dad received a payment for my mom's death and the insurance covered the other parties' expenses as well as my dad's.  Thankfully, there was no further litigation and my dad did not need to retain his own attorney. 

We were all dazed and confused by the events, but the insurance adjuster was quite good.  Hope it works out well for your family.

Capsu78

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 733
  • Location: Chicagoland
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2015, 03:47:47 PM »
I say it's too early for a lawyer...let the dust settle, the insurance companies to respond and settlements to be offered.
Get your grieving out of the way and realize the grief process puts everybody on a different schedule.
When my Mom was getting sicker I found a book that explained you only die in one of 4 circumstances-  You are murdered, you take your own life, you die suddenly or you accept it could be coming soon.  Each , believe it or not, has certain pro's and cons. Either it's over before you know it or you had a chance to plan for it.  Ironically, your silver lining here might just be that with your Dad's failing health issues, it seems you had a chance to get some of his affairs in order.  While he didn't die peacefully in his sleep, he didn't linger through a month of pain like many do.
I hope you can find some Peace in this awful event...

Taran Wanderer

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 681
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2015, 11:35:32 PM »
I'm sorry for your loss.

As you consider your mother's response to the citation for allegedly running a red light, perhaps you should consult your attorney about the best plea:  guilty, not guilty, or no contest.  I am not an attorney, but if I recall correctly, pleading no contest allows processing and closure of the citation without admitting fault that could be used against you in a civil judgment.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3056
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2015, 05:27:23 AM »
You may also want to speak w/ a plaintiff's attorney.  This sounds crazy but hear me out.

Good point! I know a plaintiff's attorney who once sued his own sister after she accidentally drove into their mother. Her insurance thus paid out more money to the mother.

Trudie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1792
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2015, 12:07:52 PM »
I am sorry for your loss and I can relate.  My elderly father-in-law was killed in a car accident where he was technically at fault.  Although people in the other vehicle were shaken up, there were no other injuries.  As far as we can tell, it was handled all by the insurance company four years ago and we've never had any trouble.

I would talk with the local insurance agent first who can find out about any litigation.  Some states have laws that disallow related parties who are in the same vehicle from suing one another, so you may not need to worry about that.  Find out the facts about the extent of damages being claimed by the other party, then contact an attorney if you need to.  The key thing is that they need to prove damages.  It doesn't sound like there were many in this case.

I can appreciate the shock and grief you are going through.  I would say do what you can to distance yourself from the insurance side of things if you can.  Don't put blinders on, but if there's no need to worry about it if they've got things under control.

I'm a red panda

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8082
  • Location: United States
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #17 on: May 13, 2015, 12:41:21 PM »
I'm very sorry for your loss.

My advice 1) Stop posting anything about this on the internet, 2) Get a lawyer.

The_path_less_taken

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 654
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2015, 12:46:25 PM »
I'm very sorry for your loss.

And I agree with iowajoes: at the very least, don't post on any site (fb/twitter/etc) that is searchable by your real name.

Public domain stuff does end up in court nowadays.

Good luck, and I hope your mom doesn't feel responsible: it was an accident. Anyone would have looked over when the pacemaker went off.

Anyone.

Juslookin

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 320
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2015, 01:53:22 PM »
Don't do anything yet. I have worked in insurance for 20 years and have never seen a lawyer go after personal assets. It was threatened once but that was a double fatality accident, and a drunk driver and it was only a threat.

It honestly doesn't make much difference if your mom pays her ticket or not quite honestly, if she was at fault she was at fault.

You don't say what state you are in but absolutely your father's estate may have the right to pursue your Mom's insurance. You may want to consult a lawyer about that but as far as the other parties if they were treated and released or even two days for observation, that's not big money claims. Let the insurance handle it. In just about every state the insurance company needs to notify your mother in writing if they feel her policy limits are not adequate and that she may want yo retain her own attorney. I'd wait on that.

Sorry for your loss, just take some time, it'll all work out.

Sid Hoffman

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 749
  • Location: Southwest USA
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2015, 02:21:25 PM »
Start by talking to the insurance company and the lawyer they retain.  That lawyer will be defending the case.  At some point in the process your mom may need separate representation but I would definitely start by talking to the insurance company.

This was the correct answer.  The only bummer is that it can take years for accident trials to go through.  I've read stories of guys who were in an accident, then 2 years and 11 months later (in a locale with a 3 year statute of limitations) they suddenly get sued, and it still takes years after that to complete.  I've said it in other threads and I'll say it again here: we need insurance & legal reform in the US.  It's a shame that so many people are still litigating accidents 5+ years after they took place.

Le Poisson

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 13437
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2015, 02:27:18 PM »
As I said on your other post, I'm so sorry you are going through this.

You need to talk to a lawyer and your insurance company and I can't give you legal advice but I will say in my experience it is pretty rare for a lawyer to bother going after someone's personal assets in car accidents.  If it is a big case, they usually exhaust the liability policy and then the underinsurance policy if applicable but it is often too time consuming and costly to go for personal assets/liability.

Most policies are ##/### like $150,000/$300,000.  That means each individual can get up to $150,000 and all people injured in the accident can get combined $300,000.  So if three people were injured in the accident they have to allocate the $300,000 across all three with no one person getting more than $150,000.

You may also want to speak w/ a plaintiff's attorney.  This sounds crazy but hear me out.  Your dad's estate may have a wrongful death case against your mom.  Some of that insurance policy can go to your dad's estate.  Depending on your local laws the estate may be considered a person of itself like a corporation.  Many of these things are settled privately with the insurance company without a lawsuit.  Some of that money could even go back to your mom if she is a beneficiary of the estate.  Many insurance clauses have exclusions for insured v. insured though so an attorney would have to look at it.  My professor told me about a case where a husband sued a wife for negligence and the family was aghast.  Husband told the family, "it was wife's idea! She's not paying it, her insurance company is."  Now if your mom is the administrator of the estate I don't know if she could make a claim even on behalf of the estate against herself.  It would likely be a conflict and another administrator would need to be appointed for that.  You likely have at least a year (three in my state) to make that decision though.

Bottom line, seek counsel to be sure.

Good advice. I sued my Mom when I was 17 and she wrecked a car. Worked out well for us.

Call a lawyer pronto. Go to the scene and take photos of all approaches and any details you can pick up. Those will be valuable later on. Also get photos of the cars involved.

Blonde Lawyer

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 752
    • My Student Loan Refi Story
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2015, 02:30:18 PM »
Start by talking to the insurance company and the lawyer they retain.  That lawyer will be defending the case.  At some point in the process your mom may need separate representation but I would definitely start by talking to the insurance company.

This was the correct answer.  The only bummer is that it can take years for accident trials to go through.  I've read stories of guys who were in an accident, then 2 years and 11 months later (in a locale with a 3 year statute of limitations) they suddenly get sued, and it still takes years after that to complete.  I've said it in other threads and I'll say it again here: we need insurance & legal reform in the US.  It's a shame that so many people are still litigating accidents 5+ years after they took place.

I'll slightly disagree with you Sid.  Many injuries take years of treatment before you are at a "medical end point" to be able to make an informed demand.  Soft tissue injuries especially.  It is generally better for the parties to attempt resolution out of court.  A short SOL causes people to just file suit as a placeholder.  They still wouldn't be able to go to trial until they are near done treating or their future medicals can be reasonably estimated.  I'm in a 3 year SOL state.  We try to put Defendants and their insurance companies on notice right away but often our demand doesn't come until 2 or 2 1/2 years later. 

Le Poisson

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 13437
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #23 on: May 13, 2015, 07:20:26 PM »
Start by talking to the insurance company and the lawyer they retain.  That lawyer will be defending the case.  At some point in the process your mom may need separate representation but I would definitely start by talking to the insurance company.

This was the correct answer.  The only bummer is that it can take years for accident trials to go through.  I've read stories of guys who were in an accident, then 2 years and 11 months later (in a locale with a 3 year statute of limitations) they suddenly get sued, and it still takes years after that to complete.  I've said it in other threads and I'll say it again here: we need insurance & legal reform in the US.  It's a shame that so many people are still litigating accidents 5+ years after they took place.

I'll slightly disagree with you Sid.  Many injuries take years of treatment before you are at a "medical end point" to be able to make an informed demand.  Soft tissue injuries especially.  It is generally better for the parties to attempt resolution out of court.  A short SOL causes people to just file suit as a placeholder.  They still wouldn't be able to go to trial until they are near done treating or their future medicals can be reasonably estimated.  I'm in a 3 year SOL state.  We try to put Defendants and their insurance companies on notice right away but often our demand doesn't come until 2 or 2 1/2 years later.

Agreed. Here we have a 2yr SOL on collisions. Suits are filed for injury collisions at the 2 yr mark. For fatalities we see the suit as soon as possible after the loss. Sometimes the next day. No reason to hold off when there are no new injuries and much evidence to be lost.

Spiliph

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 30
  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #24 on: May 13, 2015, 07:56:15 PM »
I am really sorry for your loss.

okits

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10207
  • Location: Canada
Re: Dad just died in at fault car accident, how to protect assets?
« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2015, 09:36:02 PM »
I don't have any advice, I just wanted to express my sympathies for your father's death, everyone else's injuries and trauma, and this very difficult situation you're now going through.  I hope the resolution is quick and relatively painless.