Is 28 years too late to pursue a wrongful death case?

by Ross
(St. Albans, VT, USA)

My dad was killed in a car accident 28 years ago. I was six months old at the time. He was driving to work when another vehicle crossed the center line and struck him head-on, killing him instantly. There was a court case and I believe my mother was awarded a sum of money.

I don't know if there was any that was supposed to go to me when I turned 18, but I haven't seen any money from the settlement to date. I was wondering if it's too late to pursue legal action with this matter. My mother and step-dad have had a falling out and don't speak to each other.

My mother has all the court documents in her possession and is refusing to let me see them. What do you think would be my best course of action? Do I have any claim to settlement funds? Thanks for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Is 28 years too late to pursue a wrongful death case?":

Ross (St. Albans, VT, USA):

Fortunately, the court documents, including the petition to probate your father's estate, are public records. As a result, if your father died intestate (without a will), your mother likely filed a petition in probate court asking the judge to appoint her as administrator or executor of your father's estate.

In the event your father had a will (testate), and his will bequeathed his assets to your mother, you may not have access to the will.

Start with the court records. See what the legal documents in probate court say about any monies which were paid to your father's estate. Once you see the documents, you will have a better idea of the dispersal of your father's assets.

If you believe the estate and it's assets are substantial, you may want to consider retaining a probate attorney. Doing so may be well worth your efforts. An attorney can subpeona documents from your mother, even if the assets were distributed to her under your father's will.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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