Alleviate Your Concerns With These Answers to Common Injury Questions
While some degree of uncertainty is inevitable, the stress of the unknown associated with a personal injury case can be frustrating. Here, experienced injury attorney Ben Crittenden draws from his years of experience and knowledge of the law to address many of the most common concerns and questions. Find out what to expect from the legal system, how long your case will take, what type of compensation you may be able to obtain, and much more. Don’t see your question? Reach out to Ben today! Take a moment to fill out our online contact form to find the answers you need.
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How will a spoliation letter help my truck accident case?
A spoliation letter is a notice that is sent to an opposing party in the aftermath of an accident that orders them to preserve all evidence that is relevant to the accident. The word “spoliation” refers to anything that jeopardizes evidence, including destruction, loss, alteration, or concealment.
Details Included in a Spoliation Letter
After an accident that involves a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, a spoliation letter should be sent to the driver’s employer as soon as possible to put the company on notice that specific types of evidence must be preserved. After a trucking company receives a spoliation letter, the courts can be very harsh if the company is found to have destroyed or tampered with evidence.
Following are some of the pieces of evidence the spoliation letter should include:
- Service logs kept by the driver to determine whether he was taking the number of rest periods required by law to help prevent fatigue
- Data from on-board recording devices, which can identify the speed of the vehicle at the time of the crash and other driver actions
- Records of inspections on the tractor and trailer
- The truck driver’s personnel file, which will show his or her qualifications and whether he or she was fit to drive
- Alcohol and drug testing results from the driver
- The truck and trailer that were involved in the crash
- Information involving the commercial vehicle and the freight it was carrying
- Photographs and videos taken at the scene of the crash
Contact an Experienced Vehicle Accident Attorney
Don’t go it alone if you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident involving a semi-truck or commercial vehicle. In Alaska, attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many accident victims and their families tell their stories, and he can help you tell yours. Call his Anchorage office to set up a free, no-obligation consultation, or request his free newsletter, which will provide a variety of information to help you make the best decisions about your accident and injury claim.
What dangers do box and delivery trucks pose in Anchorage?
They have become a common sight in most neighborhoods: delivery trucks bringing residents packages, groceries, and other items. With the increase in online shopping, there are now more delivery trucks on Anchorage roads than ever before. This means an increase in delivery truck crashes.
Many Delivery Drivers Are Inexperienced
Also known as box trucks, delivery vehicles can be challenging to drive—particularly for the inexperienced driver. Many businesses experience high turnover rates, so they often hire drivers with no prior experience. These high-profile vehicles are unstable and usually have a manual transmission, making them difficult to maneuver. Often drivers are in unfamiliar neighborhoods with pedestrians and cyclists as well as children playing, so distractions are everywhere.
Causes of Box and Delivery Truck Crashes in Anchorage
Some of the common causes of box and delivery truck accidents include:
- Distraction. Delivery drivers who are looking at their GPS to find addresses, checking their personal messages, talking to a co-driver, or dozing off at the wheel put people at risk on busy local streets.
- Speeding. Time is of the essence for most delivery drivers, so they may drive over the speed limit to finish their routes on time.
- Sudden stops. Drivers who are looking for an address in an unfamiliar area might stop and start suddenly, causing a crash with the car behind them.
- Illegal parking. Delivery trucks often block driveways or other vehicles, forcing moving cars to go around them and potentially into oncoming traffic.
- Poor loading. If trucks are not loaded properly, this can throw off the balance of the truck, making it more difficult to drive.
If you are involved in an accident with a box truck driver, you might be able to hold the driver and the driver’s company liable. Calling an attorney after an accident can seem daunting, but an experienced lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected, and you are able to obtain all the compensation you deserve when the crash was not your fault. Call Anchorage attorney Ben Crittenden to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.
You can also request his free newsletter, which will give you additional information so you can make the best decision for your vehicle accident situation.
What are punitive damages in a personal injury case?
You may have heard the term 'punitive damages' but likely do not have a full understanding of what exactly punitive damages are or when they are appropriate. In fact, punitive damages are awarded to accident and injury victims in only a small percentage of legal cases. Typically, these cases are very serious. The person responsible for the accident or injuries must have behaved in an especially negligent manner to warrant punitive damages.
Understanding Punitive Damages in Alaska
In a personal injury claim, victims typically receive compensation for medical care related to their accident, as well as for lost wages and benefits. These are known as compensatory damages, and they are fairly tangible. It is a somewhat straightforward task to add up medical costs and evaluate the wages that have been and will be lost due to the injury. In certain cases, though, punitive damages are also awarded. Punitive damages are not tied to a specific loss. Rather they are intended to punish the responsible party and to deter similar reckless or malicious behavior. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases when the behavior of the at-fault person is deemed “outrageous” under state law. This means the behavior was done with malice or a clear reckless indifference to the safety of others. For example, a driver with multiple prior DUI convictions who again drives drunk and causes a serious crash could constitute this type of behavior.
How Much Could Be Awarded in Punitive Damages?
The amount of punitive damages is left up to a jury or judge’s discretion, though many states cap the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. Alaska law states that these damages may not exceed the greater of either three times the amount of the compensatory damages that were awarded or $500,000. State law also sets a number of considerations to determine the appropriate amount, including:
- The likelihood that harm would come to another person at the time of the act
- The degree to which the defendant understood that likelihood
- The duration of the action and any attempts to conceal it
- Any financial gain the defendant hoped to reap from the action
- The attitude and conduct of the defendant when discovered
- The financial state of the defendant
- Damages awarded to others in similar situations
- The severity of the criminal consequences the defendant may be facing related to the action
Tax Consequences of Punitive Damages
It’s important to note that any compensation awarded as punitive damages would be subject to taxation by the federal government. It must be reported on an annual tax return as “other income.” This could have a significant impact on the taxes owed by the injury victim, so it’s important to discuss these consequences with an attorney and tax advisor.
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by a person whose behavior was especially careless or malicious, it may be possible to pursue a claim that includes punitive damages. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and obtain all the compensation you deserve. Anchorage-based attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many Alaska victims find the best way to move forward after a serious accident. Call Ben today or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to speak directly with Ben and find out how he may be able to help.
What kinds of prescription medication can cause driver impairment?
Impaired driving is most often associated with behavior that is against the law—drinking and driving or using illegal drugs. However, prescription and over-the-counter medications can also affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Even when approved by a doctor and taken appropriately, some medications affect drivers in a way that can cause dangerous car accidents.
Prescription Drugs That Can Affect Driving Safety
It’s important to note that medications can affect people very differently. Some drugs and dosages can impair one driver, while another driver may feel little or no effect at all. This is why all drivers should take extra care when considering driving after taking a medication. Some medications that can impair a driver’s ability include:
- Allergy medication. Antihistamines and other allergy medicines block histamine release to help reduce the inflammation that causes allergy symptoms. This also works in the brain, however, and can lead to drowsiness.
- Antidepressants. While it is generally considered acceptable to drive while taking an antidepressant (such as Zoloft or Paxil), researchers have reported that these medications and the conditions that warrant their use can affect driving. The type of antidepressant, dosing level, age of the driver, and presence of depressive symptoms can increase the risk of impairment. Additionally, some of these medications also cause drowsiness.
- Pain medication. Opioids are the most common medication used for pain management today. Drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine are effective in easing pain, but they also can be accompanied by a number of side effects that can impair driving. Sleepiness, nausea, difficulty breathing, and confusion are all dangerous behind the wheel.
- Sleep aids. Many people use a sleep aid to help fall and stay asleep. While they can be effective in getting people to sleep, these aids can affect people the next day. The Cleveland Clinic specifically warns that being too drowsy to drive the next morning safely is a possible side effect. Used over time, these medications can also lead to memory problems and mental disorders, both of which increase the risk of car crashes.
In addition to medicines prescribed by a doctor, the Federal Drug Administrations (FDA) warns that even over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies can cause reactions that jeopardize safe driving. Also, interactions between prescription drugs can impair driving ability. Drivers who do take medication should discuss the possible effects on driving with the doctor and pharmacist. All drivers have a duty to behave responsibly behind the wheel, and understanding how a drug may affect you is an important element of safe driving.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a crash caused by an impaired driver, you have a right to be compensated. Attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many Alaska victims obtain the compensation they deserved after an accident. Call his Anchorage office today or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about who he is and what he does.
What does Alaska workers’ compensation cover?
Most Alaskans in the workforce have probably heard mention of workers’ compensation, but many might be unfamiliar with exactly what that means. Workers’ compensation is a benefits system that provides medical care and wage replacement to employees who have suffered an illness or injury on the job. Regardless of who was at fault for the injury, workers can apply for and obtain these benefits to help them recover as fully as possible.
The Benefits Alaska Workers’ Compensation Can Provide
When an employee is injured in the course of his work—in a car accident traveling for the job, in a fall at a job site, or in any other of the many common work-related accidents that occur every year—he may need time away from work to seek medical treatment and recover. While necessary, this can create a significant financial strain for the worker and his family. Workers’ compensation exists to help ease this burden and get employees back to their normal lives as much as is possible. Workers’ compensation provides compensation for:
- Medical expenses related to the work injury. These expenses can include hospital stays, surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and more.
- Wage replacement for income that would be lost when the employee is not physically able to work during his recovery or on an ongoing basis if the employee suffers a permanent disability.
Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Alaska’s workers’ compensation system provides a number of different types of benefits to address the wide range of needs of injured workers. These benefits include:
- Temporary total disability (TTD). Workers who are unable to work at all during their recovery from a work injury may collect TTD. These workers are expected to make a complete recovery and return to work.
- Temporary partial disability (TPD). Workers who can return to work directly after an injury but cannot perform all their normal duties until they are fully recovered are eligible for TPD. These workers are also expected to recover completely.
- Permanent partial impairment (PPI). For workers who have suffered a permanent injury such as an amputation or loss of use of a body part, PPI is paid in addition to temporary disability benefits.
- Permanent total disability (PTD) Workers who can “no longer regularly and continuously work” because of their job-related injury, may qualify for PTD benefits.
- Death benefits. Surviving dependent family members of a worker who dies as a result of his work-related illness or injury may collect death benefits.
An Attorney Can Help If You’ve Been Injured on the Job
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The system can be confusing, however, and it does happen that claims can be discouraged by employers or even denied without cause. Anchorage-based attorney Ben Crittenden helps Alaska workers understand their rights and obtain the compensation they need to recover. Ben provides experienced guidance to injured workers and their families to ensure their success moving forward. Call Ben’s office today or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about how he may be able to help.
What kinds of injuries cause Alaska truck drivers to seek workers’ compensation benefits?
A 2017 study by the Insurance Information Institute (III) reported that heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers reported more than 47,000 injuries that year, ranking it second on the list of occupations with the most injuries.
Injury Risks for Alaska Truck Drivers
While driving a truck may seem fairly straightforward, the occupation does face a variety of injury risks. The main dangers include:
- Repetition. Sitting for so many hours a day in the same position can be hard on the body. The constant vibration of the moving truck and the lack of movement can lead to serious back and neck problems. In addition, many drivers are responsible for some amount of loading and unloading cargo. Repeated bending, pulling, and lifting can cause muscle strain.
- Vehicle crashes. Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury in the U.S., and even professional drivers are not immune to accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 170,000 injury crashes involving large trucks in 2017. Given the size and weight of a truck, these accidents can be serious, with drivers experiencing a wide range of injuries from lacerations and broken bones to traumatic brain injury and paralysis.
- Loading and unloading. In addition to repetition injuries sustained loading and unloading a truck, there are other risks as well. Shifting cargo can fall during the process, striking the driver. Slips and falls are also common causes of injury at the loading docks.
When a Work Injury Keeps Truck Drivers Off the Road
Truck drivers are required to do a lot more than simply sit in a cab and drive. They are also required to do tasks such as loading, making repairs, unloading, and more. When an injury is sustained, it can have a significant effect on a driver’s ability to do his job properly and safely.
- Muscle strains or other muscle conditions can prevent a driver from being able to sit upright, handle the bounces and jerks of a truck ride, and load/unload cargo.
- Carpal tunnel can make it difficult to steer, shift, and operate vehicle systems promptly and effectively.
- Broken bones from falls or crashes may make all of the tasks associated with driving and cargo work difficult or impossible.
- Neck injuries can limit a driver’s ability to view his surroundings and identify changing road conditions as quickly as is necessary.
When drivers experience these and other injuries, performing their jobs may not be possible, and it is likely necessary to seek medical care. This is where Alaska’s workers’ compensation system can help. This benefits system exists to provide medical care and compensation to employees who suffer injuries in the course of work. It provides the necessary medical treatment and financial support to help injured drivers make as complete a recovery as quickly as possible.
An Experienced Alaska Workers’ Compensation Attorney May Be Able to Help
While the workers’ compensation board is not a court of law, the decisions that are made are binding and can have a significant impact on the future of the injured workers and his family. When an employee is injured on the job, he needs and deserves the chance at as complete a recovery as possible, and an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help workers reach this goal. Anchorage-based attorney Ben Crittenden has helped other workers secure the care and compensation they needed. Working with clients and their families, Ben:
- Explains workers’ rights
- Prepares paperwork and locates documents
- Helps file for benefits
- Negotiates with insurance companies
- Represents workers’ interests at hearings
- Pursues personal injury claims when necessary
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries on the job, you may be eligible for Alaska workers’ compensation benefits. Call Ben today or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch directly with Ben and learn more about how he may be able to help.
What is a structured settlement?
When it comes to car accident injury claims, it is very common for the case to be settled before going to court. This means that the crash victim and the at-fault driver (or usually his insurance company) agree on a sum of money that will be paid to the victim. This compensation can cover a wide range of accident-related expenses, including medical care, lost wages, property damage, and more. In most cases, the compensation is awarded in one lump sum payment. This is not the only option, however. Injury victims may find their interests are better served through a structured settlement agreement.
What Is a Structured Settlement?
A structured settlement is an arrangement in which the injury compensation is provided to the victim in regular payments over time. Every structured settlement is unique, and it can be tailored to the specific needs of each situation. The payments can be made weekly, monthly, or in whatever timeframe is most beneficial. The timeframe for the structured settlement is agreed upon by both parties at the time it is accepted.
When a Structured Settlement Is Best for Alaska Injury Victims
While lump sum payments are more common in injury claims, a structured settlement can offer specific benefits for victim and their families. Victims may want to consider this type of arrangement if:
- You don’t need a large sum of money right away. Injury victims may need money from the settlement offer to buy a new car or cover high medical costs, but this is not the case for everyone. If you don’t need to use that money right away, it may be more effective to receive the money over time.
- You worry about the temptations associated with a lump sum. Temptation lurks for everyone when a large sum of money suddenly appears. It may be difficult to resist the urge to spend on unnecessary or lavish items. This is especially important for those who may have serious or long-term injuries that may require future medical bills that will need to paid.
- You worry about the demands of others. When a person comes into a large amount of money, it may be the case that family members or friends will take this opportunity to ask for a handout. While it’s natural to want to help those you love, the compensation from a settlement is awarded because it is necessary for victims to obtain medical care and remain financially stable. If it will be difficult to turn down these requests, a structured settlement can help.
Deciding What Type of Settlement Is Most Beneficial
There are advantages and disadvantages of both lump sum payments and structured settlements. Before an injury victim decides which path is best, it’s important to consult with an attorney and a financial advisor. Typically, once any type of settlement agreement is made, it is very difficult to go back and make changes to the terms of the agreement. Victims and their families need all the information about their rights and how any type of settlement will affect them going forward.
At The Law Office of Ben Crittenden, attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many accident victims understand their rights and explore all options to find the most beneficial arrangement. The compensation awarded to victims can have a significant effect on the success of recovery, and it’s important to have all the information you need to make the best possible decisions. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident, contact Ben today to learn more about how he may be able to help. Call his Anchorage office or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch directly with Ben.
What is the Alaska Fishermen’s Fund?
For most workers employed in the state of Alaska and around the country, a job-related injury would result in a workers’ compensation claim to obtain medical care and compensation to aid in the employee’s recovery. However, circumstances for seamen are a little different. Federal law dictates that fishermen receive work injury benefits under general maritime law and the Jones Act. Alaska, with its robust fishing industry, is the only state that offers additional benefits for injured seamen with the Fishermen’s Fund.
What Is the Alaska Fishermen’s Fund?
The fishermen’s fund “provides for the treatment and care of Alaska licensed commercial fishermen who have been injured while fishing on shore or off shore in Alaska,” according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The fund is considered a “payer of last resort,” which means benefits are provided only after other options (such as private insurance, vessel insurance, or government programs) are exhausted.
These benefits are similar to those provided by workers’ compensation, but federal law prohibits injured seamen from utilizing the typical workers’ compensation system. Rather, they may pursue care and compensation under the Jones Act. In Alaska, the Fishermen’s Fund uses revenue collected from state fishing licenses and permits to finance medical benefits for injured seamen.
Who Qualifies for Fishermen’s Fund Benefits?
Eligibility for benefits from the Fishermen’s Fund is very specific. To receive aid from the fund, an injured seaman must:
- Have an injury directly related to his work as a commercial fisherman
- Hold a valid commercial fishing license or limited entry permit dated before the time of injury
- Have been injured in Alaskan waters or onshore in Alaska
- Receive medical treatment within 60 days of injury
- Apply for Fishermen’s Fund aid within one year of the injury
- Document each treatment through a medical note and submit the note to the state
The Benefits of the Fishermen’s Fund and How to Obtain Them
The Fishermen’s Fund can provide compensation for the costs related to the medical care and treatment of the fishing injury. These costs can include:
- Doctor visits
- Chiropractic care
- Transportation to and from provider appointments
Injured seamen can file for aid from the Fishermen’s Fund by submitting an application and a number of supporting documents. The criteria for benefits are strictly followed by the state; any error/omission in applying or providing the proper paperwork would likely result in a denial of benefits. An experienced attorney can help injured seamen understand their rights and responsibilities, determine the proper channels to seek benefits, and ensure that the request is filed completely and on time.
Contact an Experienced Alaska Work Injury Attorney
Commercial fishing has been named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Maritime injuries can be severe, and a lack of proper medical care can affect workers and their families for years to come. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries while working as a fisherman, you may be eligible to receive benefits from the state’s Fishermen’s Fund, and an experienced lawyer can help you fully understand your options. Attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many Alaska seamen and their families after a job-related injury. Call Ben today in his Anchorage office or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page. He can learn more about your situation and help you decide how to move forward most effectively.
What is subrogation?
While negotiating with insurance companies or going to court may feel like the most overwhelming part of the legal process after a car accident, a victim’s journey may not end there. Once compensation is awarded, others may try to claim some of that money as their own. A third party may demand repayment of expenses related to your accident. Subrogation is one of the most common ways that accident victims can lose some of the injury compensation they need and deserve.
What Is Subrogation?
Subrogation means, in the legal sense, that one party claims the legal rights of another party. Typically a health insurance company claims the rights of the injured party in the following situation: When a person is injured, his own health insurance company may pay his medical expenses related to the accident. Later, when the victim receives accident compensation, part of that compensation would likely have been awarded to cover medical expenses. If the victim did not pay any out-of-pocket medical expenses because his own health insurance covered them, that money will go back to the insurance company. Otherwise, the victim is essentially paid twice—once when his own insurance company paid his medical expenses and again when the at-fault driver’s insurance settles the claim.
Accident Victims’ Rights and Subrogation
While subrogation is legal and insurance companies do exercise this right, it is still important for accident victims and their families to understand their own rights and ensure they are protected. An experienced attorney may be able to mitigate subrogation by working with the insurance company to anticipate the amount that may be subrogated. This way, they can potentially minimize costs, and they can consider that figure when negotiating with the at-fault’s driver’s insurance company or navigating litigation.
It is also important to note that subrogation is not the same as balance billing, a practice in which hospitals seek payment from the patient after they agree to accept a discounted payment from insurance. Balance billing is illegal in a number of states but is practiced in Alaska.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in an accident, you do have the right to be made whole through a personal injury claim. You deserve compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and more. Attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many injured Alaskans protect this right and secure the compensation they need to recover as fully as possible. Talk with Ben today to find out how he may be able to help you by calling his Anchorage office or filling out the contact form on this page.
How long does it take to resolve a workers’ compensation claim in Alaska?
This is a natural question for injured workers. When you’ve suffered injuries on the job, you’re missing work, and the medical bills start showing up in your mailbox, you want to know how quickly you can receive benefits. How long will your workers’ compensation claim take? It’s impossible to say exactly, but there are a number of factors that can give you an indication of how soon your claim can be resolved.
Factors That Affect the Timeline of an Alaska Work Injury Claim
Simple, straightforward claims can be resolved quickly. Alaska law states that the employer or insurer has 14 days from notice of the injury to make the first payment. It is important for injured workers to notify employers of any injury as quickly as possible so that they may receive care and compensation benefits right away.
However, other cases may take more time and require more work. Those scenarios could include:
- The employer or insurer has denied your claim.
- You are considering a settlement.
- Your employer does not have the required workers’ compensation insurance.
When Your Alaska Work Injury Claim Is Denied
If your claim has been unfairly denied, it is possible to appeal that decision to the state’s board of workers’ compensation. The employer or its insurance company has three weeks to respond to an appeal. If they maintain their denial, the matter would have to be taken to a hearing. Preparations for a hearing could take time, depending on the severity of injuries and the availability of the board.
Settling Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Settling a workers’ compensation claim is complicated, and the decisions should not be taken lightly. Once a settlement agreement is reached, it is extremely difficult to revisit the settlement to make any changes. A settlement may take time due to:
- Recovery. In Alaska, a settlement can only be reached when the injured worker has reached medical stability. This means the injuries have healed as much as care providers expect. The nature of the injuries will dictate this timeline.
- Investigation. An employer or its insurance company, as well as the injured worker’s lawyer, will have to conduct an investigation. This investigation will cover a wide range of information, from the initial accident itself to the future medical prognosis.
- Negotiation. There will be some amount of back and forth with an employer or its insurance company. These businesses want to protect their own financial interest, and they will do what they can to save themselves as much money as possible.
If Your Employer Doesn’t Have Insurance and Isn’t Self-Insured
Alaska law states that every employer with more than one employee must either purchase private workers’ compensation insurance or self-insure, with very limited exceptions. Even if an employer has violated this law, injured workers can still obtain care and compensation through what is known as the Workers’ Compensation Benefits Guaranty Fund. To obtain benefits through the fund, an injured worker must file a claim.
Obtaining the Care and Compensation Injured Workers Need
It may be difficult to know from the start just how long a work injury claim will take. However, regardless of the timeline, the medical care and compensation provided by these claims can make a world of difference for injured workers and their families. An injury that keeps a worker off the job can have significant effects on his family, his lifestyle, and his future. Don’t take chances if you’ve suffered an injury on the job. Even if you aren’t sure if you are eligible for benefits or how long the process may take, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your rights.
At the Law Office of Ben Crittenden, Anchorage-based attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many injured workers and their families obtain the care and compensation they both needed and deserved. He can answer your questions and help you understand what to expect from the Alaska workers’ compensation system. He offers free, no-obligation consultations to help injured workers get all the information they need to move forward as successfully as possible. Call his office today or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch directly with Ben.