An Overview of Wrongful Death Suits

Wrongful death suits are lawsuits filed by the deceased’s family to obtain damages for their loss. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed when there is an exception to the general rule.

Exceptions to the general rule include:

  • If a person commits suicide.
  • If a person was killed as part of their employment.
  • If an animal killed someone.

What a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Means

A wrongful death suit is a type of personal injury lawsuit in which the plaintiff seeks to recover damages for the financial loss suffered by their dependents due to the death of their loved one due to someone else’s negligence.

Alaska law recognizes four exceptions to the general rule: one cannot recover damages for emotional distress due to another’s death. These exceptions are: where the emotional distress is caused by the pain and suffering of the deceased, where the emotional distress is caused by witnessing or hearing.

For example, if an individual dies in a car accident caused by another driver, the victim’s estate may be able to bring suit against that driver. Suppose an individual is killed because of medical malpractice or a workplace accident. In that case, their estate may also be able to bring suit against the party responsible for their wrongful death.

What Does the Law Say about Wrongful Death Suits in Alaska?

There are two types of wrongful death suits in Alaska:

  1. Survival actions – Survival actions are brought by a spouse, child, or parent who was financially dependent on the deceased person at their death.
  2. Wrongful death actions – Wrongful death actions are brought by anyone who is not eligible for a survival action.

The law in Alaska is not specific about wrongful death lawsuits. It does not provide a statute of limitations for wrongful death; however, it does provide a statute of limitations for wrongful death in the case of wrongful death lawsuits brought against the government.

  • In action brought against the government for wrongful death, the statute of limitations is two years.
  • In any other action for wrongful life, the statute of limitations is six years.

A wrongful death statute defines a cause of action for wrongful death based in Alaska. The statute lists different types of causes of action for wrongful death:

  • Intentional act causing injury or death.
  • Negligent act causing injury or death.
  • Unintentional act causing injury or death.

Potential Outcomes of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Alaska

A wrongful death lawsuit can result in an award of damages, including compensatory damages to the deceased individual’s family members. Compensatory damages compensate the plaintiff for their losses, such as lost wages, funeral expenses, and medical bills.

Wrongful death lawsuits can also result in punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing. If a jury decides that the defendant’s actions were reckless or deliberate, they may award punitive damages.

An example of a reckless act would be handing a gun to a drunk person who has been drinking all day, knowing that they may lose control or hurt someone. A jury could award the victim’s family punitive damages to punish the defendant for their action.

People Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case

The plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit is usually the person bringing the suit on behalf of the estate. This person should be someone who is entitled to inherit from the deceased and has the standing to bring this type of lawsuit.

A wrongful death action could be sued by:

  • A parent or child for their loss of parental companionship and guidance.
  • An adult child for loss of their parent’s care, society, and protection.
  • A spouse for loss of consortium and services.
  • Either parent for the loss of parental society, care, and assistance.
  • Any other relative for mental pain and suffering caused by witnessing injury to or death of a relative.

Filing a Wrongful Death Suit in Alaska

Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed in Alaska for any “wrongful death,” including car accidents, medical malpractice, and other situations where a person dies due to the negligence of another. The lawsuit is filed by the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s estate.

Your wrongful death lawyer in Alaska must file a petition in Alaska’s Superior Court of the applicable district within one year of the death. The petitioner must include information about the deceased such as age, social security number, date of death, dates of marriage and divorce, names of children, and the date of a will or other document executed by the decedent.

If a will is available at the time of filing, then it must be attached to the petition. There are some exceptions to filing a petition in Alaska’s Superior Court, including when all property is left under Alaska’s Uniform Transfer on Death Act and when a spouse or children survive the transferor/ deceased. The spouses of a decedent are automatically heirs to their spouse’s estate. In such cases, there is no need for a petition for probate.

When your loved one is killed due to the negligence of another party, you want to move with speed and file a wrongful death lawsuit. When this time expires, they may not be able to receive compensation for their loss. To achieve a positive outcome in your lawsuit, hire a wrongful death lawyer today.

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