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Slip-sliding into the New Year

Every year during the holiday season, we at Merdes & Merdes, P.C., record a holiday voice mail that starts something like, “Happy holidays from the Law Firm of Merdes & Merdes.” Then, after detailing the usual ways to leave a message we end by saying something like, “We hope you have a safe and happy New Year.”

Since my dad, Edward A. Merdes, started the firm in the 1950’s we have recorded so many holiday messages that I could probably do it in my sleep.

But what I really want to say to my fellow Fairbanksans is, be careful out there. You are my family and friends, my community and colleagues. I do not want you be a statistic. I do want to see your names in the daily newspaper among those injured or killed on Alaska roads.

Slow down Alaska – this year it’s exceptionally slippery out there. An unseasonably warm winter storm hit the Interior recently and left our roadways even icier than usual. Now we are in the dead of an Alaskan winter and black ice lurks around the bends and on the bridges we drive every day.

Vehicles are slip-sliding away out there. Hopefully one of them will not be sliding into you, but if you do find yourself in the middle of an accident, here are some things you should know.

First, legal issues will arise in almost every motor vehicle accident. Legal issues can be limited to simple interaction with a police officer on the scene; or they can involve complex litigation with multiple drivers, insurance companies, and automobile and other product manufacturers.

For a simple accident with clear fault, minor damages, no medical injuries and responsive insurance adjusters, you may be able to handle all matters without an attorney.

However, if you are involved in a serious accident with considerable vehicle and/or property damage, and with medical injuries, then there is a strong chance that you should consult with a good attorney about your rights, about what to do next, and about how and when to speak with insurance adjusters.

There is a very important deadline to consider. Under Alaska Law AS 09.10.070, parties involved in motor vehicle accidents generally have only two years to pursue their claims. This does not mean the parties should wait until two years are up before pursuing action. Rather, the families involved should look into taking take action immediately. In many law firms, such as my own, there is no charge for the initial consultation so there is no point in waiting to seek legal advice. Moreover, if your accident results in serious injury or death, then you should begin the process of seeking legal counsel immediately.

You can call me of course, at 907-452-5400, or toll-free at 1-866-452-3741, or research Merdes & Merdes, P.C. at; or you can access the lawyer referral service of the Alaska Bar Association at, or phone them at 1-800-770-9999 in Alaska, or 907-272-0352 outside Alaska.

In summation, I enjoy my work. Like my father before me I have enjoyed serving my fellow Fairbanksans for many years, but I still do not like seeing my friends and neighbors injured or killed on Alaska’s slippery roadways. What I still really want to say to Alaskans everywhere is be careful out there. Slow down Alaska – and have a safe and happy New Year.

Ward Merdes

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