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Alaska case could remind family of loss of a loved one

Anytime pedestrians are involved in an accident with a motor vehicle, there is a significant chance that they will suffer injuries. However, if the driver is under the influence and makes no attempt to avoid the accident, the outcome may be significantly worse. Even if the vehicle involved is not a standard car, the lack of protection that pedestrians have typically results in their suffering serious injuries. A fatality often leaves the family of the victim with ongoing emotional pain, and any experience that reminds them of the apparent wrongful death could reignite the emotional anguish caused by the loss of a loved one. A court in Alaska recently dismissed a man's accusation that his rights were violated when he was denied certain privileges in his criminal trial in the aftermath of a fatal accident.

The initial accident took place in 2008 when a snowmobile operated by the man struck two people and their sled dogs. Police stated that the driver was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana at the time of the accident. The collision resulted in the death of one of the people hit by the snowmobile.

With regard to his criminal trial, the driver argued that he was denied the right to cross-examine an expert concerning a book drug and alcohol intoxication. The trial court determined that, since the witness was not even aware of the book, it could not be used as a professional treatise in cross examining the expert. The appeals court ruled that the defense should have been permitted to use the book during the cross examination, but also held that the error was harmless and did not infringe upon the man's right to a fair trial.

The judicial process in Alaska is long and often emotionally difficult for the family members of a deceased victim. Although the original accident and trial took place years ago, the ongoing appeal has likely been difficult for the victim's family as it continues to grieve the loss of a loved one. It was not reported whether the family availed itself of the right to pursue a wrongful death claim against the snowmobile driver. The criminal conviction would be the lynchpin of any claim for financial responsibility in civil court, and once established, demands for specific items of monetary damages would be adjudicated.

Source: Courthouse New Service, "Drunk, High Sledder Got a Fair Trial, Court Says", Jon Hargraves, Sept. 25, 2014

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