How Are Wrongful Death Claims Handled?

No one wants to imagine that a loved one could be the victim of a fatal accident.  Unfortunately, it happens every day:  a loving family loses someone due to the negligence or carelessness of another party.  While the person who died may not be able to seek justice, family members can through the process of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Alaska Law and Wrongful Death

Title 9 of the Alaska Code of Civil Procedure provides the law that governs wrongful death lawsuits in the state. According to Alaska law, the legal representatives of a victim can recover damages limited to those proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence.  What those terms mean generally is that a family member who wants to file a wrongful death claim against a defendant must show that:  a)  he or she is the legal representative of the deceased with a right to file a claim and b) that the injuries and death of the victim were the results of the defendant’s negligence.

Under Alaska law, negligence can include actions and failure to take action.  Any negligence that leads to injuries may be allowable as a cause of action if the victim could have sued for such negligence while living.  This means that there are many types of situations under which wrongful death lawsuits can be filed.  Some of the most common are motor vehicle accidents, including cars, motorcycles, trucks, and ATVs; slip-and-fall accidents; medical malpractice; accidents in the workplace; and even animal attacks.

There is often a statute of limitations governing the filing of a wrongful death claim.  This statute is designed to protect both parties and encourage an early filing of a claim while evidence is still available.  In Alaska, most but not all wrongful death claims fall under a two-year statute of limitations from the date of the victim’s death.  However, there are many exceptions to this rule, so it is always wise to seek the advice of an attorney before assuming the time for filing a claim has passed

Another feature of Alaska’s wrongful death statute is that it specifies the use of funds recovered from such a suit.  All proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit must be used for the support of the immediate family of the victim first.  If there is no immediate family, the amount that can be recovered is limited to pecuniary loss or losses represented by money.  No pain and suffering or additional damages may be collected by non-family members in most cases.  However, family members are not limited to such losses; they may also sue for pain and suffering and other compensatory costs.

It is important to have the advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney before trying to file a wrongful death claim.  Barber & Associates have been representing victims of wrongful death in Alaska for many years and can help you navigate this complex area of the law.  Call us today to learn how we can help you with your wrongful death claim.

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