What happens if the defendant in a lawsuit dies before judgment?

Personal injury lawsuits arising from incidents like car, truck or motorcycle accidents can sometimes result in injuries of such severity that the person harmed can die as a result. In other posts we have covered the topic of how the immediate family members of a person so deceased can still pursue a money damages remedy against the defendant through a wrongful death action.

But what if, instead of your loved one who was involved in an injury-producing accident, it is the other driver who dies? Does that mean that you can no longer file, or maintain a lawsuit against that person? The answer to that question, fortunately, is “No.” 

Georgia law holds as a matter of public policy that a person cannot escape liability for an act of negligence or wrongdoing by dying. There is a specific statute governing the survival of causes of action against estates of people who had they lived would have been subject to lawsuits. The operative language in the Georgia survival statute states that a cause of action against a decedent defendant survives against the legal representative of the deceased.

Understanding how wrongful death and survival actions work is an important function of personal injury attorneys when the underlying accident proves to be fatal to either or both of the vehicle drivers (or other injured parties) involved. Although there are some similarities between these two causes of action, there are also some important differences that an attorney can help prospective personal injury plaintiffs to understand so that they can choose the best legal course through which to seek monetary recovery.

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