Soldotna, Alaska—KTTU News Alaska reports that 87 year old Mary Hunter was killed in a two-car collision on Alaska’s Sterling Highway outside Soldotna on Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Ms. Hunter was a passenger in a vehicle traveling north when the driver of a southbound vehicle, 17 year old Savanna Schoessler, lost control of her vehicle, crossed the center lane, and collided with the vehicle Ms. Hunter was traveling in. The vehicle carrying Ms. Hunter was driven by 65 year old Sterling resident, Mary Johns.
We wish Ms. Johns and Ms. Schoessler speedy recoveries from any injuries they sustained and express our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Ms. Hunter. Depending on the outcome of the police investigation, as well as any unknown circumstances surrounding the accident, there are several things that all parties and their families 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 all parties have two years to file a claim, settle it with the responsible party or the claim goes away and you will never be able to file it. With respect to Ms. Hunter, it’s important to know that as Ms. Hunter’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. Hunter was unmarried and childless. This may include what is known as a survivor action, which addresses any pain and suffering Ms. Hunter may have endured in the moments prior to her death. It would also be wise to look into Ms. Hunter’s insurance coverage and any possible first party coverage, including death benefits.
(2) Ms. John’s auto-insurance coverage may have a med-pay or medical bills provision which can help cover some of the expenses associated with treating any injuries she sustained in the crash. Depending on whether Ms. Schoessler has coverage and what the details of her coverage are, this may also be covered under your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Also, and a fact unknown to many people, if Ms. Johns 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. In any event, Ms. Hunter’s family and Ms. John’s should immediately notify Ms. Schoessler’s insurance carrier of their claim.
(3) Seek out the incident report from the Alaska State Troopers ASAP – and consider hiring your own investigator (Visit here 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.)
(4) Contact an attorney to help you ASAP. Depending on the circumstances you may or may not have a viable claim. However, it is critical that you speak with someone who can properly advise you of all of your rights.
With respect to Ms. Schoessler:
(1) Please remember that any statements you make to the police or 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. Additionally, your attorney will be able to handle your discussions with your insurance company without exposing yourself to any unnecessary problems and can advise you of how to best obtain compensation for any injuries you sustained in the crash.
For All Parties:
(1) Contact an attorney to help you ASAP. For more information on finding an attorney you can contact Ward Merdes for a referral at the number below or you can contact the Alaska Bar Association for a free lawyer referral at 1-800-770-9999, or visit the National Board of Trial Advocacy website at www.nbtanet.org.
No matter what the circumstances surrounding the accident were, it’s critical that everyone drive safely and carefully, particularly at this dangerous time of year in Alaska. 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 the parties involved. No matter who you contact, just be sure to hire an attorney who has handled cases like this before.