The Alaska State Troopers report that Fairbanks resident Blessing Wallace, 22 and her passenger, 29-year-old Climie Douglas were involved in a 2-car accident on the Parks highway on October 10, 2008. Both occupants were trapped inside their vehicle following a head-on collision with a commercial vehicle. Ms. Wallace sustained serious injuries and Mr. Douglas died at the scene. Our sincerest condolences and hearts go out to Mr. Douglas’ family and friends. Also, we wish Ms. Wallace a speedy recovery and hope that she remains in good health following the accident. Depending on the outcome of the State Trooper’s investigation, as well as the specific circumstances surrounding the accident, there are several things that Ms. Wallace and the family of Mr. Douglas should know.
Mr. Douglas’s family should be aware you may have a claim for “wrongful death” or be able to bring a “survivor action” on behalf of Mr. Douglas. 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 will never be able to file it. As Mr. Douglas’ survivors, you can bring an action on his behalf. His natural survivors would be a spouse or child, however parents or siblings can bring a wrongful death action if Mr. Douglas was unmarried and childless.
(2) Mr. Wallace’s/the commercial vehicle driver’s automobile insurance may be available to help with this tragedy. Immediately send notice of claim to Mr. Wallace’s insurance carrier;
(3) Depending on the circumstances you may wish to send a notice of claim to the company employing the driver of the commercial vehicle. They may be wholly or partially liable, unless Mr. Wallace or Mr. Douglas was doing something wrong prior to the accident;
(4) Look into Mr. Douglas’ personal auto insurance policy if he had one. Sometimes auto insurance coverage is personal, meaning it covers the policy holder rather than the vehicle in the event that they are involved in an accident with an un/underinsured motorist. Also look into Ms. Wallace’s insurance and any possible first party coverage, including death benefits.
(5) 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.
(6) Contact an attorney to help you ASAP. Depending on the circumstances you may or may not have a viable claim. Additionally, if Mr. Douglas was unmarried and had no children his claim would be “worth” less than normal. However, Alaska recognizes a “survivor action.” All that means is that Mr. Douglas’ claim survives his death and that the pain and suffering he endured may be alleged by his successor(s). This means that if Mr. Wallace or the driver of the commercial vehicle is at fault for Mr. Douglas’ death, then his pain and suffering prior to his death may entitle his successor(s) to damages.
With respect to Ms. Wallace:
(1) It is advisable that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. You may have a personal injury claim against the driver of the commercial vehicle but only if he/she did something wrong. If the driver did nothing wrong, then you may not. Also, please be aware of the information above, it is in your interest to contact the insurance company for the commercial vehicle because they may be at least partially at fault for the accident.
(2) It is also advisable that you seek out an attorney because of any potential liability you may face as a result of the crash.
(3) 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. For more information about staying safe on Alaska’s icy roads, 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 families of Mr. Douglas and to Ms. Wallace. 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.