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The Anchorage Daily News reports that Marvin Harris, 52, was killed on 11/29/07 while driving a semi southbound at mile 53 of the Dalton Highway. The oncoming trailer was being pulled by Jason Knight, 34 of Fairbanks. Knight was driving a 2006 Freightliner. It appears that Knight’s trailer drifted into the Southbound (oncoming) lane occupied by Harris, killing Harris on impact. Harris was apparently not wearing a seatbelt. Here’s what Harris’ family should do to ensure they exercise all of their legal rights…

First, pull up Google:Earth and get a clean photo of the roadway where this wreck occurred. It’s easy. I’ve already done it. You get a good view of what the road conditions were (under the snow) at the time of this wreck. Interestingly, it does not appear to me that Knight would have had any good reason for drifting into Harris’ lane.

Second, go to the Alaska Administrative Code and look up the regulations regarding commercial trucking. It’s found in 13 AAC 3 et seq. Pay particular attention to 13 AAC 03.060. Limitations on driving left of center. This part of Alaska’s road safety laws forbids drivers from entering the on-coming lane of traffic. It is thus clear that Mr. Knight was firmly in the wrong – and his insurer should be helping the Harris family cope with this tragedy.

Third, once you get the police report, hire a qualified accident reconstruction expert. Most good attorneys know one or more of these experts – and will be able to help you. We regularly hire them to help us better understand what actually caused a motor vehicle wreck like this.

Fourth, remember that the insurance industry is working hard – right now – to hammer you. It is looking for anything it can find to take this claim away from the Harris family, and pay them nothing. Be assured that the insurance industry will focus on Mr. Harris not wearing his seatbelt. Because Mr. Harris was not belted when he was killed, it is extremely important that the accident reconstruction expert provide an opinion as to whether a seatbelt would have helped Mr. Harris survived this wreck. Remember, not wearing a seatbelt wounds a claim such as the Harris family might present. It does not necessarily destroy the claim – no seatbelt only wounds it. Don’t let the insurance companies tell you otherwise.

Fifth, remember that the Statute of Limitations for personal injury and wrongful death in Alaska is two years. After two years, the Harris family will (likely) be left high and dry, no matter what. This is extremely important. Be sure to take action within two years of 11/29/07.

Finally, most qualified personal injury attorneys will talk to the Harris family for free – investigating and giving an opinion as to what they can expect from Knight’s insurer. There is no obligation. Attorneys like me want to handle cases like this. In cases like this, we can do a lot of good for the Harris family, ensuring that Knight’s insurer toes the line – and pays what is owed. Most attorneys like me work on a contingent fee basis, being paid only if we successfully get your claim paid. Because I was born-and-raised in Fairbanks, I don’t accept a case unles I can earn more than I charge.

BOTTOM LINE: It would be really smart for the Harris family to hire a qualified personal injury attorney today. Contact information is below.

The Harris family is in our prayers.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.

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