When a person or a business harms someone else, the responsible party has legal and financial liability. The law in Alaska allows those harmed by the actions, negligence or omissions of others to pursue personal injury lawsuits. You can sue a drunk driver who broke your leg in totaled your vehicle.
Unfortunately, sometimes the individuals most harmed by the illegal or irresponsible actions of a person or business will die as a result. They will obviously not be able to sue the company or person who caused their fatal injuries. Instead, what could have been a personal injury lawsuit may give way to a wrongful death lawsuit instead.
There are two crucial restrictions on wrongful death lawsuits that families in Alaska need to understand.
Not just anyone can file a lawsuit
It is possible to have a long-term relationship with another person and to not be able to take legal action after their death. In fact, even if you are the spouse of the deceased party, you will not be the one to file the wrongful death lawsuit.
Under Alaska law, it is the personal representative of the decedent’s estate that can initiate a wrongful death claim following a family tragedy. If the claim is successful, the estate will receive the proceeds of the lawsuit and then distribute them in accordance with state law. Spouses, children and other immediate family members have the strongest rights to wrongful death compensation.
There is a brief window of opportunity to file
Grief is a powerful emotion, especially when a loss was unexpected and your relationship with the deceased individual was a close one. It could take you months, if not years, to feel like life has gotten back to normal after a tragic and unexpected fatality.
You will unfortunately not have the leisure of waiting until your grief subsides to pursue justice in the civil courts. The statute of limitations that applies requires that you initiate civil proceedings within two years of your loved one’s death or potentially forfeit the right to take legal action.
Learning more about the limitations that apply to wrongful death claims in Alaska can help grieving families obtain justice for their recent loss.