Nevada City, CA—The Union newspaper reports that 24 year old Alaskan, Karen Burke, was involved a serious automobile accident on October 10, 2008 while traveling to Paramedic training on California Highway 20. The Union notes that Ms. Burke suffered serious injuries including two broken arms and two broken legs and remained in serious condition in Reno, Nevada following surgery to correct her injuries. Her family has informed The Union that Ms. Burke will spend more than six months in recovery and will be unable to walk during much of her recovery. Witness accounts suggest that Ms. Burke’s vehicle was struck when a pick-up crossed over the double yellow line into her lane, allegedly to pass a big rig. The driver of the other vehicle was arrested for causing injury by reckless driving and driving on a suspended license.
We wish Ms. Burke a speedy recovery and express our deepest sympathies to her and her family. Depending on the outcome of the police investigation, as well as any unknown circumstances surrounding the accident, there are several things that Ms. Burke and her family should know.
(1) The Statute of Limitations for personal injury and death claims in Alaska is normally two years (AS 09.10.070). This means that if you do not file your claim within two years you will lose your ability to recover damages for your injuries in a civil suit. Waiting beyond two years will strip you of your legal rights, including the right to be compensated. This also appears to be the case in California (http://www.expertlaw.com/library/limitations_by_state/California.html). We do not endorse the accuracy of the web link provided here, but it does appear to have a wealth of useful information about statute of limitations and claims preservations issues in California.
(2) Ms. Burke’s own Alaska auto-insurance coverage may have a med-pay or medical bills provision which can help cover some of the expenses associated with treating her injuries and her hospital stay. This may also be covered under your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Also, and a fact unknown to many people, if Ms. Burke is in a household with someone to whom she is related by blood or marriage and they have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, this may also be available to help with her medical expenses.
(3) You may want to investigate whether the driver of the pick-up (Mr. Carrillo) was on the clock at any job at the time of the accident. If he was working for someone when the collision occurred, you may be able to bring a claim against his employer(s) and their insurance company for compensation for your injuries and expenses.
(4) Seek out the incident report from the California Highway Patrol and any other investigative agency on scene— and consider hiring your own investigator. 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.
(5) Stay in contact with the prosecuting attorney in Nevada County, California where the accident occurred. You may be the victim of a crime, possibly a felony, depending on California’s laws and your injuries. If you find that the Prosecutor is not helpful or responsive to you, consider hiring an attorney in California who represents crime victims. As the victim of a crime, you may be entitled to restitution for your injuries in connection with the prosecution of Mr. Carrillo.
(6) Contact an attorney to help you ASAP. For more information on finding an attorney in Nevada County, visit the Nevada County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (http://www.nevadacountybar.com/lrs.html). Or visit the National Board of Trial Advocacy website at www.nbtanet.org and search for California attorneys in the area.
No matter what the circumstances surrounding the accident were, it’s critical that everyone drive safely and carefully because even sunny California roads can be very dangerous. For more information about staying safe on Alaska’s icy roads and everywhere else, 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 Mr. Burke and her family. If you would like a referral, feel free to contact Ward Merdes or 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.