Every year in Alaska, dozens of people die in fatal car accidents. Statistic from 2015 show 65 Alaskans have been killed on Alaskan roadways that year. In other words, someone died on an Alaskan road every 5.6 days.
Many of these crashes were caused by another driver’s negligence. Negligence includes drug and alcohol use behind the wheel. Authorities estimate drugs and/or alcohol were involved in nearly half of these deaths. Unsafe or excessive speed contributed to at least 37 percent of them. A combination of drug and/or alcohol impairment and unsafe speeds were linked to at least 66 percent of fatal accidents in 2015.
The first step in determining whether a civil claim should be brought after a car crash involves determining whether the other driver was negligent. Under Alaskan law, negligent conduct normally arises in two ways: (1) when another driver acts unreasonably under the circumstances; or (2) when another driver violates the “Rules of the Road” found in 13 AAC 02.
For example, 13 AAC 02.085 requires drivers to stay in their own lane until they “first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.” 13 AAC 02.125 requires all drivers turning left to “yield the right-of-way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” Finally, 13 AAC 02.130 requires drivers first stop at Stop Signs, and then only enter a roadway when safe to do so … when there are no other vehicles “so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard.”
The best way to determine if your loved one’s death was caused by negligence – and if a wrongful death claim should be brought – is to consult with an experienced wrongful <strong>death attorney. The attorney’s job is to first determine whether any party was negligent. This normally requires a candid assessment of the Rules of the Road and how each driver conducted himself or herself behind the wheel.
The reason it makes sense to investigate negligence is because holding people accountable is good for society. It’s not about punishing … it’s about accountability. If we don’t hold people accountable for their negligence, there is no incentive for people to drive more safely in the future. This is simple human nature.
Common examples of driver negligence include:
- Drug-impaired or alcohol-impaired driving
- Excessive speed / Unsafe speed for the road or weather conditions
- Texting while driving
- Falling asleep at the wheel
Depending on the circumstances of your case, your family may be eligible to receive monetary compensation to cover:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills incurred as a result of the accident
- Wages and benefits your loved one would have earned
- Child and/or spousal support
- Loss of consortium between relatives
- Pre-death pain and suffering
Accountability for these claims will either be paid directly to the surviving spouse, children, and/or other dependents of the deceased person – or via the decedent’s estate.
Statute of Limitations:
Finally, it is important to remember that Alaska has a two year Statute of Limitations for death claims. AS 09.10.070 / AS 09.55.580. That means the family of a decedent must either settle related claims – or file a lawsuit – within two years of the wreck, or lose valuable rights. This includes the right to compensation. This is HUGE. Please pay close attention to the Statute of Limitations found in AS 09.10.070 and AS 09.55.580.