Wrongful Death Claims Are Statutory: Wrongful death claims are governed by Alaska Statutes 09.55.570 (“survivor” or “suffering before death” claims) and Alaska Statute 09.55.580 (wrongful death claims). AS 09.55.570 provides in part that all claims for pre-death suffering survives death. In other words, it is important to determine how much the decedent suffered between the time of the wreck and the time of passing. We recognize this is a difficult inquiry, requiring compassion for the family. It is also 100% mandatory. If the decedent suffered before passing, the value of related wrongful death claims increases proportionally. AS 09.55.580 is Alaska’s formal “Wrongful Death” statute. It provides for a two year Statute of Limitations and allows (in truncated essence) claims for: (1) “deprivation of the expectation of pecuniary benefits”; (2) loss of contributions for support;(3) loss of assistance or services; (4) loss of consortium; (5) loss of prospective training and education; and (6) medical and funeral expenses. These claims must be brought by the “decedent’s spouse and children … or other dependents.”
Wrongful Death Claims Require Setting Up An Estate: Because AS 09.55.580 provides that wrongful death claims may only be brought by a “Personal Representative” a probate estate must be established in the Alaska Probate Courts. Though not terribly complicated, establishing an estate is an involved process, normally requiring an attorney to do it correctly. The decedent’s spouse, child or close friend will often serve as the “Personal Representative” who will assert wrongful death claims on behalf of the Estate.
Suffering Claims (AS 09.55.570 ) Pass Through The Estate / Wrongful Death Claims (AS 09.55.580) Pass Outside The Estate: Alaskan law requires recovery for wrongful death be apportioned between AS 09.55.570 “survivor” or “suffering before death” claims and AS 09.55.580 “wrongful death” claims. AS 09.55.570 claims pass through the decedent’s estate. They are subject to probate. On the other hand, AS 09.55.580 claims pass outside the decedent’s estate, directly to the decedent’s spouse and children … or other dependents. They are not subject to probate. Apportionment between AS 09.55.570 and AS 09.55.580 is legally required and important. It should be done by a qualified Alaskan personal injury attorney.
BOTTOM LINE: When a person dies as a result of an automobile accident in Alaska, the family should call a qualified Alaskan personal injury attorney for advice on how to proceed. The call is normally free. You can expect this attorney to walk you through the difficult process of ensuring the at-fault party is held fully accountable for the loss he or she created.