The Fairbanks Daily News Miner reports that Terry Bowyer, 57 of San Diego, was killed in a motorcycle wreck at mile 132 of Alaska’s Dalton Hwy. It is a gravel road, and very dangerous. The report indicates that Mr. Dalton was riding with “other motorcyclists.” It is very important that Mr. Bowyer’s family and the other motorcyclists do the following:
1. Keep and eye on Alaska’s 2 year Statute of Limitations for wrongful death. If Mr. Bowyer’s family is going to bring a claim for this tragic loss, they file a lawsuit within 2 years of the wreck;
2. Alaska’s Wrongful Death Statute, AS 09.55.580, provides for an array of claims in situations like this, mainly predicated on whether Mr. Bowyer had “dependents” such as children, or a spouse. It will require a competent accountant and economist to evaluate the total loss;
3. Investigate why this wreck occurred. It is imperative that the “other motorcyclists” with Mr. Bowyer help the Bowyer family understand what happened. Get their statements, ASAP. If this was a situation where Mr. Bowyer simply fell asleep, or did something stupid – that’s one thing. On the other hand, if the State of Alaska contributed to this problem with bad road design, or bad road maintenance, a claim against the State (or the maintenance contractor) may exist to help the Bowyer family get back on its feet, financially;
4. Get good experts involved. Find a qualified accident reconstruction expert and consulting engineers to get to this accident scene ASAP. They need to conduct critical roadsurface analysis that will make-or-break any claims that may exist; and
5. Contact an attorney – now. Be sure that he/she understands the Johnson case that requires notice to the State (of the defect) before a claim may exist. Get maintenance logs to carry this burden. Also ask if he/she understands how AASHTO regulations apply to the State’s maintenance and construction duties for the Dalton. This is critical. Ask tough questions to find the right lawyer. Find somebody you like and trust. This is important.
Just don’t contact me. I am happy to advise of the general law in these situations, but I don’t want to look like a vulture or ambulance chaser by suggesting that you contact my law office. I’m tired of being flamed by jerks who think it’s OK for the State to ignore its maintenance duties – killing folks like Mr. Bowyer – and who think the victim’s family should just sit down and take the beating. Listen to me. Call another attorney – making sure that he/she knows what they are doing with roadway defect litigation. It is a very special area of the law, and requires experience.
Finally, log onto www.SlowDownAlaska.org for valuable insights into Alaska’s driving law and how to think your way through related insurance claims. It’s free. (Disclaimer: My wife (Lori Merdes) built SlowDownAlaska.org – but it is still an informative and solid site for families in situations like this.)
Having lost a brother in a roadway wreck, I wish the Bowyer family well in this difficult time. Stay tough. /s/ Ward Merdes