The Anchorage Daily News reports that a five-car accident on the Seward Highway took one life and left at least two others seriously injured. The paper reports that the accident occurred when a motorist traveling north attempted to pass vehicles in front of him/her by accelerating into the passing lane where a collision with a southbound vehicle occurred. Following this initial impact the drivers apparently lost control of their vehicles and three other cars/trucks were pulled into the accident. Emergency personnel was required to help remove motorists from their vehicles using the jaws of life.
Before going any further, it’s important that everyone take a moment of silence for the family, friends and loved ones of Heather (last name unknown) who was apparently the individual who died in the crash. Losing a loved one is impossibly hard to bear, particularly in the holiday season. Our hearts and prayers go out to Heather’s family and friends.
This article has two parts. The first will deal with Heather, the one fatality. The second part will deal with everyone else.
However, as you cope with the grief you undoubtedly feel, there are some things that you should keep in mind. Though lawsuits are unpleasant and so is dealing with insurance companies, as Heather’s survivors you have rights and one of those rights may be that you are entitled to compensation for any suffering she endured, the effects of her loss and the costs of her burial and funeral services. As Heather’s family and next of kin should be aware you may have a claim for “wrongful death” or be able to bring a “survivor action” on behalf of Heather. This basically means that as her survivors you can sue to recover damages for the suffering she endured prior to her death if the accident was caused as a result of someone’s negligence or bad driving. You may also be able to sue for the loss of her companionship, income etc. depending on the circumstances as well as the emotional pain and suffering this loss has caused you. With this in mind, please consider the following:
(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 may lose the ability to bring your case in court. As Heather’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 Heather was unmarried and childless.
(2) 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. Re-creating what happened at the scene of the accident may be crucial in determining who is at fault for the accident and whose insurance ought to pay what to whom. Once you determine who was likely at fault for the accident, see if they were working for anyone at the time. There is some suggestion that a Hemi truck was involved—find out if that is a work truck for some company.
(3) If Heather was driving, her auto-insurance and/or any life insurance she had may be immediately available to help with the expenses surrounding her death and burial. An attorney can help you negotiate with Heather’s insurance company, but you can also contact them directly. Just be careful not to sign anything without first consulting an attorney.
(4) Contact an attorney to help you ASAP. Depending on the circumstances you may or may not have viable claims but it’s an important to have an attorney advise you about it. 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 only. 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.
(1) It is advisable that everyone involved contact an attorney as soon as possible. You may have personal injury and property damage claims against other drivers or the city/state. You may also face liability of your own if you acted negligently or violated traffic laws. For this reason, the best thing you can do is contact an attorney to advise you about your specific situation. You can 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.
(2) Anyone else injured in the crash has two years under Alaskan law to bring their claim in court or settle it. If you do not assert your claim within two years it may go away forever. The only exception will be any minors who will not forfeit their claim until two years following their 18th birthday.
(3) Notify your insurance carrier of any claims which you feel you might have resulting from damage to your vehicle or injury to you. However, do not sign anything or waive any of your rights without first consulting an attorney.
(4) 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. Also, please remember that no matter how late you are or how badly you want to get somewhere, it’s never worth risking your or someone else’s life. For more information about staying safe on Alaska’s icy roads, please visit www.slowdownalaska.org.