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Automobile wrecks need investigated by qualified personal injury attorneys. Don’t believe insurance companies. And, if fault is found to be with the driver, he should help the occupants find an attorney to help them file the correct claims. Insurance claims are small solace in cases like this, when good friends are lost. At the same time, it might be all you can do.

For more informtion on this subject, please refer to our section on Tractor-Trailer Accidents.

On 07/17/07, Jeffrey and Dawn Klausing were killed when the 38 foot motor home they occupied veered off a northbound straight stretch of the Seward Highway, south of Moose Pass. The motor home was ripped open, ending up in the trees along the Seward Highway. Dale Podoll was driving. The four other occupants were injured: (1) Dale Podoll’s wife, Eileen, 57; (2) Catherine Dagata, 28; (3) Donald Bobilya, 73; and (4) Fatima Leonard, 30. How should the occupants ensure that their claims are correctly handled by the insurance company?

First, the occupants should determine who is at fault. It appears that Dale Podoll, 58, simply drove off the road. He may have been sleepy [his fault], or he may have been the victim of mechanical failure [not his fault]. In any event, a thorough investigation must take place – to determine exactly why this motor home drove off a straight stretch of highway.

Second, each occupant should immediately file a claim with the motor home’s insurer. Remember, Alaskan law requires the insurance company to provide at least 50/100 of liability and 50/100 of Underinsured Motorist insurance for vehicles. That translates into: “$50K of coverage for each person, up to $100K of coverage for the whole accident.” Usually, there is far more insurance than this, normally 100/300. Also, remember that Alaskan law allows you to claim against both the liability portion of the policy – and the Underinsured portion of the policy. Furthermore, any insurance you have on a vehicle back home – could also come into play to help you with your claims. Hire an attorney to explain this to you.

Third, remember that just because the occupants were not wearing seatbelts, they still have viable claims. Don’t let the insurance company reject your claims just because you didn’t have your seatbelt on. Not wearing a seatbelt might foist some of the problem onto your shoulders … but not all of it.

Fourth, a note to Dale Podoll: Mistakes happen. This wreck does not make you a bad guy. Please don’t think for a minute that a determination of your “fault” means you are anything less than a decent person. Take this opportunity to contact the insurance company – and tell them that you want the other occupants’ claims paid … ASAP. As the captain of this ship, you owe them that much. Also, remember that your wife has a direct claim against the insurance company. If you are eventually determined to be at fault, she does not have to go after you. The Supreme Court case in Alaska that makes this proposition clear: Myers v. Robinson. Look it up. Talk to an attorney. Now.

Finally, may God bless you all. This is a tough one. You’re in our prayers.

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