Alaska Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
If you've been injured in an accident in Alaska, make sure you understand these rules before you start your personal injury case.
If you’re thinking about filing a claim after an injury in
Alaska, it’s important to understand the different state laws that will
likely apply to your case. This article provides an overview of Alaska
personal injury claims, whether in or out of court.
Time Limits on Alaska Personal Injury Lawsuits
Alaska has its own time limits on injury claims filed in its courts. Known as a statute of limitations,
this law gives you two years after an accident to file a lawsuit in
court. If you don’t bring your case to court within two years, you'll
almost certainly be barred from filing it at all.
This two-year time limit typically starts to run on the date of your accident. However, if you suffer an injury that you don’t discover until later, the two-year time limit may start running as of the “discovery” date of the injury instead of the date of the accident. If you're running up against Alaska's two-year window and you're not sure how it applies to your case, you might want to contact an attorney.
Alaska’s Comparative Negligence Rule
One risk you face when trying to
hold a person or company liable for your injuries is that they will
accuse you of being partly at fault for your own injuries. If you are
partly responsible for the accident that injured you, the amount of
damages you can recover in Alaska may be reduced.
Alaska applies a “pure comparative fault” rule to injury cases. Under this rule, damages are reduced by a percentage equal to the injured person’s fault.
Suppose, for example, that you’re driving a few miles per hour above the posted speed limit. As you pass through an intersection, you’re hit by another driver who has run a red light. In the insurance investigation or court case that follows, you’re assigned 15 percent of the fault for your injuries in the accident, and the other driver is assigned 85 percent of the fault. If the total damages in your case equal $1,000, Alaska’s comparative fault rule will apply to award you $850, which equals the $1,000 total minus $150 representing your 15 percent share of the fault.
Alaska law requires courts to apply the comparative fault rule in injury cases. However, understanding how comparative fault rules work can help you in insurance settlement negotiations as well, where an adjuster might bring up the argument that you are partly at fault.
Alaska Auto Insurance Laws
Alaska is a “fault” state when it
comes to auto insurance. This means that drivers who suffer accidents
may choose to file a claim with their own insurer or with the other
driver’s insurer -- or to file a case in court to seek damages from the
driver who caused the accident.
Alaska law allows those injured in car accidents to go to court regardless of how severe the injuries or property damage involved. Since these laws are flexible, you may have room to negotiate an insurance settlement that doesn’t require you to go to court.
Owner Liability For Injury by a Dog or Other Animal
There is no specific statute in Alaska governing personal injury liability for dog bites. Owners will be held liable for injuries caused by their dog (or other animal) if the injured party can show that the owner “should have known” the animal was dangerous. This is known as the “one bite” rule.
Damage Caps in Alaska Injury Cases
Damage caps are laws that limit the amount or type of money damages
an injured person may receive. These laws typically limit non-economic
damages, or damages for “pain and suffering.” (To learn more about
damages caps in general, see our article on damages in injury cases.)
Alaska caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases only. The cap was set in 1997 at $400,000 -- or $8,000 for each expected remaining year of life, whichever was greater. For cases of disfigurement or severe physical impairment, damages are capped at $1 million. Again, these caps apply only to medical malpractice cases; they do not apply to other kinds of injuries. Alaska also prohibits injured people from collecting punitive damages.