You hear the term “wrongful death lawsuit” bandied about from time to time in commercials and newspaper articles. But what is a wrongful death lawsuit? Many people do not fully realize what a wrongful death lawsuit encompasses.


Wrongful Death Defined

According to Alaska law, a wrongful death occurs when the death of a person is caused through the wrongful act or omission of another. The act or omission can be intentional or a result of negligence, but it must be the proximate cause of the person’s death.


Who can File a Wrongful Death Action?

In Alaska, the personal representative of the person who has died (the decedent) can file a claim for wrongful death. This is done on behalf of the survivors of the decedent. Survivors are defined under the law as either a spouse or children or other dependents of the person who died. If the decedent has no survivors, the personal representative may file a claim on behalf of other heirs or simply, the decedent’s estate.


What can be Recovered?

The wrongful death law in Alaska allows recovery for very specific categories of damages when your loved one is taken from you. These include:

  • Deprivation of the expectation of pecuniary benefits that would have resulted from the continued life of the deceased (this is simply the money that the deceased would have provided to the survivors)
  • Loss of contributions for support
  • Loss of assistance or services to the survivors
  • Loss of consortium (meaning the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship)
  • Loss of prospective training and education and
  • Medical and funeral expenses


Statute of Limitations

The personal representative of the decedent has two years from decedent’s death to bring the wrongful death action. However, The Alaska Supreme Court has determined that “the discovery rule” applies to wrongful death actions. This means that, in cases in which the discovery of the cause of the injuries or fault in causing the injuries or death is delayed despite the reasonable efforts of the injured party or their representative to determine the injury or cause, the two-year statute of limitations does not necessarily apply.

For instance, in one case a man died in a helicopter crash and the wreckage was not found for almost eight years after the crash. A subsequent investigation found that the crash might have occurred as a result of a mechanical defect. The Court held that the remedial nature of the wrongful death statute required that the discovery rule applied since the victim’s family made every effort to discover the cause of his death. In Alaska, the discovery rule is modified by the statute of repose which generally limits a cause of action to a 10-year maximum from the date of occurrence. There are, however, limitations to this, as well.

There is no doubt that the loss of a loved one is life-altering and traumatic to those who are left behind. When a person dies as the result of someone else’s actions, it can be even worse. If you live in the Anchorage area and you are coping with this horrible situation, there is help available. The legal professionals at Power & Power law have years of experience making sure that families get the recovery they deserve. Give us a call at either 907-222-9990 or toll free at 833-669-9990 or click here to set up your initial consultation to see what we can do for you.