Losing someone you love is one of life’s most painful experiences. When that loss was avoidable, caused by someone else’s negligence, it is even more devastating. Not only must you deal with your grief, but you may be haunted by the knowledge of the pain your loved one suffered. In addition to these emotional burdens, losing your family member can cause a financial burden as well: not only their last medical bills and final expenses, but the loss of their income and the care they provided for your family.

If your loved one’s life was wrongfully cut short, no amount of money can ever really make things right. Unfortunately, a financial recovery is the best our legal system can do to try to make up for your loss. Wrongful death attorney Eric Derleth has more than 25 years’ experience litigating Alaska injury cases, including wrongful death claims. He is committed to helping family members receive the maximum possible compensation for their loss so that they can begin to rebuild their lives after a tragic loss.

Alaska Wrongful Death Law

Wrongful death claims arise when a person’s life is cut short by someone else’s negligent or reckless actions. A wrongful death may be caused by a vehicle accident, medical malpractice, or dangerous conditions on property, or an intentional act, such as a crime.

Under Alaska law, wrongful death is a death that results from a “wrongful act or omission of another.” Only certain individuals can file a wrongful death suit, including the surviving spouse, children, or dependents of the deceased, or the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.

To succeed in a wrongful death case, you must prove that a person or entity had a duty of care (such as the duty to observe safe driving practices or maintain safe business premises), and breached that duty. You must also show that the breach caused the death, and that harm resulted.

Sometimes it is fairly straightforward to prove all these elements. Much more often, it is a complex process to prove the relevant facts and make the necessary connections between them. Wrongful death attorney Eric Derleth is known as the “Trial Guy” because of his meticulous approach to trial preparation and his skill in persuading juries and motivating them to achieve justice for his clients.

Damages in an Alaska Wrongful Death Case

It may feel impossible to put a financial value on the loss of your family member, but in order to award damages, courts and attorneys have to try. There are different types of damages under Alaska law.

  • Economic damages include such things as funeral and cremation or burial expenses; medical bills; the value of lost income the deceased would likely have earned and/or the economic value of domestic services they would have provided to their family.
  • Non-economic damages are those that seek to compensate for losses that have value but are more difficult to quantify. Non-economic damages include loss of consortium; loss of society and companionship; pain and suffering; and emotional distress.
  • Punitive damages are intended to punish a wrongdoer for particularly outrageous conduct that caused a wrongful death.

Not all types of damages are available in all cases; for instance, punitive damages are available only if the responsible party exhibited a reckless disregard for life. Alaska also has a cap of $400,000 on non-economic damages. There is no cap on economic damages.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alaska

Like other civil lawsuits, wrongful death suits in Alaska must be filed within a time frame known as the "statute of limitations." The statute of limitations is typically two years after the date of death for wrongful death claims; this deadline may be extended when the deceased was a minor. However, in no case may a wrongful death claim be filed more than ten years after the death. You should assume that the statute of limitations on your claim is two years unless your lawyer tells you otherwise.

After the statute of limitations has expired, you cannot file a wrongful death claim, no matter how great your losses or how outrageous the conduct of the responsible party. If you think you might have a wrongful death claim for the loss of a loved one, you should contact an experienced Alaska injury attorney as soon as reasonably possible after your loss.

Hiring an Alaska Wrongful Death Attorney

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you deserve not only compensation, but compassion. Wrongful death attorney Eric Derleth has a strong track record of success because of his knowledge, preparation and skill, but also because he genuinely cares about his clients and is motivated to fight for them.

Our office provides consultations at no obligation to you and receives an attorney fee only if your case is successful. To learn more about Alaska wrongful death claims, and how an attorney can help you, contact the Trial Guy. From his office in Soldotna, Eric Derleth serves clients in Anchorage, the Mat-Su, Juneau, and throughout Alaska. Call our office at 907-262-9164 today for a free, confidential consultation.