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Rich Nielsen Dies In Motorcycle Wreck. Here's The Law…

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Sadly, yet
another Alaskan motorcyclist was killed. Rich Nielsen, 62,
died in a motorcycle wreck that took place near Beaver Creek in BC. It is
reported that a female oncoming
driver swerved into Mr. Nielsen’s lane, forcing his motorcycle off the road. Nielsen
died at the scene.

This has been a really bad year for motorists. Way
too many folks are dying on our roads. It seems that we awaken each day to reports of fallen Alaskan motorists. Worst of all, when a man like Nielsen goes down – a
man who by all accounts was a genuinely decent guy – there is no way
to feel better about it. It just stinks all-the-way-around.

At the same time, when the Nielsen family is back
on its feet, it needs to know the following law so that insurance companies
don’t take advantage:

1. It’s illegal to cross the center-line.
The on-coming woman who did so, even though she was “trying to avoid an object in
the road” – had no right to enter Mr. Nielsen’s lane. By entering Mr.
Nielsen’s lane, the on-coming driver was 100% at fault. The other driver’s
insurance company is on the hook to square up (as much as you can in these
circumstances) with the Nielsen family. If the other driver was Alaskan (likely since this wreck happened very near the Alaska/Canada
border), Alaskan law may apply.

13 AAC 02.085(a) provides that a vehicle
must stay in its own lane unless it is safe to leave that lane:

(a) A vehicle must be driven as nearly as
practicable within a single lane, and may not be moved from that lane until the
driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.

Furthermore, 13 AAC 02.060 provides that vehicles may not
be driven left of the center lane:

(a) A vehicle may not be driven on the left side
of a roadway under the following conditions:

(1) when approaching within 500
feet of the crest of a grade or a curve in a highway where the driver’s view is
obstructed for a distance which creates a hazard if another vehicle is
approaching from the opposite direction;

2. The Nielsen family should also be aware
of AS 09.55.580, our wrongful death statute. If Mr. Nielsen had a
“dependent” – a spouse, financially dependent child, etc. then his
estate may bring a full claim for wrongful death. Even without a dependent, a smaller claim may be brought. Though it is little solace
when a person is dead, at least Alaskan law allows for the decedent’s family to
assert claims.

3. Alaska has mandatory automobile liability insurance of
at least $50K. Most folks buy substantially more. Once the Nielsen family is emotionally
stable, it should consider bringing a wrongful death claim.Just write a
nice letter to the other driver’s insurance company, cite the above laws, and
ask for a “certified copy of __________ (the other driver)’s Declaration
Sheet.” When you get it, write a nice, second, letter, request “Full
Policy Limits” – along with costs, interest and statutory attorney fees.
They might balk at paying the statutory attorney fees unless you actually hire
an attorney – but some insurers pay anyway in situations like this;

4. Also file a claim with Mr. Nielsen’s OWN
insurer(s). Whatever insurer covered his motorcycle should be contacted and a
WRITTEN claim mailed to them. Whatever other insurers covered Mr. Nielsen – for
all other vehicles – should likewise be sent claims. This can be tricky. You
might want to contact a lawyer to help you with this part;

5. If the other driver was acting within the
“course and scope” of her employment, be sure to file a claim with
her employer; and

6. Note that the Statute of Limitations for
personal injury and death in Alaska
is but two years. Time is not critical … for now. Just don’t delay. I strongly
recommend that you take action soon.Folks who delay tend to forget. Don’t
fall into that trap.

And
yes, I recommend that you call a lawyer to help you. Suck it up and do it as soon as you are able.

And please, DO NOT call me. I’m happy to provide this commentary. It is solid and
good advice under Alaskan law. I hope it helps the Nielson family. At the same
time, I’m tired of being flamed, or called an “Ambulance Chaser” because
I write these pieces. Instead, please go to the Alaska Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, or the
American Association for Justice (AAJ), or the National Board of Trial Advocacy
(NBTA) [Disclaimer: I’m the Alaska State Chairman of the NBTA] to find a qualified person injury attorney who will help you through this
nightmare.

Having
lost a brother in a car crash, I know this situation really stinks. We wish the Nielsen
family well.

DRIVE
CAREFULLY OUT THERE … AND SLOW DOWN