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James Cool
James Cool
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Crash on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway leaves one dead. Here’s the law……

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The Anchorage Daily news reports that a two-car accident on December 19, 2008 in the Mat-Su valley left one woman dead. According to reports, the sedan driven by the deceased, Judy White, was rear-ended by a large pick-up truck at approximately 3:30 p.m.. Early reports suggested that Ms. White had slowed down or stopped on the snowy roadway when the pick-up collided with her vehicle. Reports also indicate that both drivers were wearing the seat-belts.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Ms. White’s loved ones. It is awful to lose someone you care about, especially during the holiday season. Please accept our warmest regards.

However, there are a few things that Ms. White’s family and the driver of the pick-up should be mindful of:

Mrs. White:

(1) The Statute of Limitations for personal injury and death claims in Alaska is normally two years (AS 09.10.070). This means that you have two years to file your claim, settle it with the responsible party or your claim goes away and you will never be able to file it. As Ms White’s survivors, you can bring an action on her behalf. Her natural survivors would be a spouse or child, however parents or siblings can bring a wrongful death action if Ms. White was unmarried and childless.

(2) You’ll want to find out if the driver of the pick-up was on anyone’s clock at the time of the accident. If so, then the employer’s insurance may be available to assist you with costs resulting from the accident.

(3) Be sure to notify the carrier of any life insurance policy Ms. White may have had as soon as possible. Usually the carrier will require proof of a death certificate. Though this is unsavory business, it is often necessary in order to handle the costs of a burial and funeral services.

(4) Social Security benefits may be available to help you with the costs associated with Ms. White’s passing.

Social security provides a very limited death benefit of $255, available to spouses or dependent children. There are also survivor’s benefits for:

  • Spouses age 60 or older,
  • Disabled surviving spouses age 50 or older,
  • Spouses under 60 who care for dependent children under 16 or disabled children,
  • Children of the deceased under the age of 18 or who are disabled.

To receive these benefits, you must report the death to the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213

(5) Seek out the incident report from the Alaska State Troopers ASAP – and consider hiring your own investigator (Visit http://www.dps.state.ak.us/PIO/ for information on obtaining reports. It may already be too late to determine the exact conditions of the road or other helpful information, but the sooner you can collect evidence from the scene where the accident happened, the more valuable it will be.

(6) Contact an attorney to help you ASAP. Depending on the circumstances you may or may not have a viable claim. Additionally, if Ms. White was unmarried and had no children her claim would be “worth” less than normal. However, Alaska recognizes a “survivor action.” All that means is that Ms. White’s claim survives her death and that the pain and suffering she endured may be alleged by her successor(s). This means that if the other driver was at fault for Mr. White’s death, then her pain and suffering prior to death may entitle her successor(s) to damages.

The Driver of the Pick-Up

(1) It is advisable that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to help advise you about how to handle questions from the police, insurance company, or your employer if you were working.

(2) It is also advisable that you seek out an attorney because of any potential liability you may face as a result of the crash.

(3) Please remember that any statements you make to your, or anyone else’s insurance company may be recorded and later used against you. For this reason, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney.

No matter what the circumstances surrounding the accident were, it’s critical that everyone drive safely and carefully as Alaska roads can be very dangerous. For more information about staying safe on Alaska’s icy roads, please visit www.slowdownalaska.org.

While you are certainly free to contact Mr. Merdes at 866-735-1102 Ext. 455, this is not a solicitation or legal advice. This is offered as information to the families of those involved. If you would like a referral, feel free to contact Ward Merdes or call the Alaska Bar Assn. for a free lawyer referral: 800-770-9999. You can also try the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) at www.nbtanet.org. Just be sure to call an attorney who has handled cases like this before.