11182017Headline:

Fairbanks, Alaska

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Ward Merdes
Ward Merdes
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Tamara Saathoff Dies on Glenn Highway. Lessons Learned?

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It is difficult to determine who is at fault for most car accidents. Use your head and think. Don’t listen to insurance companies who have a vested interest in saying it was “somebody else’s fault” t o avoid writing a check. Talk to a qualified personal injury attorney. Get him/her to investigate the crash. You might be surprised.

On 07/18/07, Tamara Saathoff died when she drove her pickup truck into the back of a State of Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) truck that was parked in her lane. There was a resulting accident. Newspaper accounts suggest that the DOT truck had lights illuminated, with an arrow attempting to divert traffic. So, what’s the law regarding who is at fault?

In Alaska, our civil justice system is based upon “pure comparative fault.” Alaska Statute 09.17.080 is directly on point. That means if you are injured, the court must examine who hurt you, even if more than one person [including you] might have contributed to your injury.

In a case like this, investigation might reveal that the DOT was partially at fault. Who knows … perhaps the lights on the DOT truck were not cleaned. Perhaps they were burned out. Perhaps they were placed such that the setting sun made them impossible to see. Any host of situations might have contributed to Tamara Saathoff not seeing them. If the DOT made such a mistake, and it was unreasonable, then the DOT might be responsible for some of the damage that it caused. Ms. Saathoff’s family would have a viable claim against the DOT.

Or, Tamara Saathoff might be at fault. It seems that Ms. Saathoff just might not have been paying attention to where she was driving. If that’s the case, a good portion of fault might get apportioned to Ms. Saathoff. And of course, if Ms. Saathoff was under the influence of drugs or alcohol … most (or all) of the responsibility for this wreck would rest squarely on her shoulders.

It’s like a pie. An attorney’s job is to investigated and determine fault, even if there are multiple slices.

So, how does this affect you? What can you learn from this?

When tragedy strikes, you have to think. Think. Think. Think. First blush impressions are normally wrong. More than half of my time is spent investigating car wrecks. Until your wreck has been investigated by a person who genuinely knows what he/she is doing – the insurance companies will try to convince you that it was “the other person’s fault.” They will shamelessly steer you away from any scenario that causes them to write a check. Insurance companies are brilliant in this regard. Their adjusters are well-trained and very capable. Most folks who’ve been smeared in a wreck, have no chance to fight with an insurance company. They do this for a living.

Do yourself a favor. Recognize that some accident scenes are tricky. Call a qualified personal injury attorney to investigate your claim(s) before you just take the insurance company’s word for it. You might be surprised.

For more informtion on this subject, please refer to our section on Tractor-Trailer Accidents.