Alaska Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules

If you've been injured in an accident in Alaska, make sure you understand these rules before you start your personal injury case.

By , Attorney

If you've been injured in Alaska—maybe by a dangerous product, or a negligent doctor, or in a car wreck—you might be thinking about filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Before you do, take some time to learn about the basic Alaska personal injury laws that will control your case.

We'll introduce you to the fundamentals, including:

  • Alaska's deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in court
  • what happens if you're also to blame for the accident that caused your injury
  • whether there are caps on Alaska personal injury damages, and
  • where and how you file an Alaska personal injury lawsuit.

What Is the Deadline for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Alaska?

Like all states, Alaska imposes a deadline on filing personal injury lawsuits in court. This deadline is found in a law called a "statute of limitations." As a rule, you must file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations deadline expires or you lose the right to sue, forever.

General Rule: Two Years From Date of Injury

The general Alaska personal injury statute of limitations is two years. (Alaska Stat. § 9.10.070 (a) (2023).) This two-year deadline usually begins to run on the date you're injured, though in some cases it could start to run later. The two-year deadline specifically applies to lawsuits for:

Exceptions to the General Rule

Alaska law creates some exceptions to the general two-year statute of limitations. If an exception applies, you might have more time to file your lawsuit in court. Here are some (though not all) of the exceptions.

The Discovery Rule

In most cases, the two-year limitation clock starts to run on the date you're injured. But what if you don't know right away that you're hurt? If that happens, Alaska's discovery rule might temporarily stop the running of the statute of limitations clock.

Under the discovery rule, the two-year clock begins to run on the date you discovered or should have discovered that you were injured. The discovery rule can be difficult to apply, so if you think you might need to rely on it, you should get help from an Alaska lawyer.


The statute of limitations clock doesn't run while the injured person is a minor—meaning younger than 18 years old. Once they turn 18, the two-year clock starts to run. (Alaska Stat. § 9.10.140(a) (2023).)

Responsible Party Leaves the State or Goes Into Hiding

When the party responsible for causing a personal injury leaves Alaska or goes into hiding in the state, the limitation clock doesn't run during the period they're absent or in hiding. (Alaska Stat. § 9.10.130 (2023).)

Get Legal Help

Statutes of limitations are among the most difficult of all laws to understand and apply. The consequences of a mistake can be devastating: You might lose your personal injury claim forever. Think about getting help from an experienced Alaska attorney to find out how long you have to file your personal injury lawsuit in court.

When You're Partly Responsible for the Accident

To recover compensation (called "damages") for your injuries, you have to prove that the party who injured you was legally at fault. Most times, this means showing that they were negligent. Negligence is the failure to act as a reasonably careful person would have acted under similar circumstances.

What happens when both you and the other party are to blame for an accident? The good news is that you can still collect damages. The bad news is that the damages you're allowed to collect will be reduced by your share of the fault. Here's how it works.

Pure Comparative Fault

Alaska follows what's called a "pure comparative fault" rule in injury cases. When both you and someone else are legally responsible for an accident, Alaska law first decides how much each of you was to blame. Then the damages you're entitled to collect are reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. Even if it turns out that you were mostly responsible for the accident, you can still collect some damages. (Alaska Stat. § 9.17.160 (2023).)

Comparative Fault Example

Suppose you're waiting to turn left at a traffic light. An oncoming car with its right-hand turn signal flashing approaches the intersection. Thinking it's safe to turn, you enter the intersection. At the same instant, the other driver speeds into the intersection and hits your car at high speed.

Both you and the other driver are hurt. You file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, who claims that you, too, were partly to blame and seeks damages from you. At trial, the jury decides that the other driver was 60% to blame, but that you were 40% at fault. The jury assesses your damages at $80,000 and the other driver's damages at $50,000. Here's how much each of you will collect.

Your $80,000 in damages must be reduced by the 40% of fault assigned to you, meaning you'll collect 60% of your total damages: $80,000 x 60% = $48,000. The other driver is entitled to collect 40% of their $50,000 total damages: $50,000 x 40% = $20,000. When it's all said and done, the other driver's insurance company will write you a $48,000 check. Your insurer will write the other driver a $20,000 check.

Damage Caps in Alaska Injury Cases

A damage cap is a law that limits the kind or amount of damages you can collect in a personal injury case. Personal injury damages generally fall into two categories:

  • compensatory damages, and
  • punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages

As the name suggests, compensatory damages are designed to compensate someone who's been injured for the losses they've suffered. There are two kinds of compensatory damages:

  • economic (also called "special") damages typically reimburse you for out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills, lost wages, medical equipment, and pharmacy charges, and
  • noneconomic (also called "general") damages are meant to cover more intangible losses like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and disability.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages don't compensate you, the injured person, for your losses. Instead, they're intended to punish the party who injured you and to deter others from behaving similarly. Punitive damages are very difficult to win. Typically, you must prove that the person who hurt you acted intentionally, outrageously, or maliciously to cause you harm. (See, e.g., Alaska Stat. § 9.17.020(b) (2023) (outrageous behavior or reckless indifference).) In most cases, you won't be able to meet that standard of proof.

Alaska Damage Caps

Like many states, Alaska caps both noneconomic damages and punitive damages. The amount of the cap depends, in part, on the kind of case and the injuries that are involved.

Noneconomic Damages Cap—Cases Other Than Medical Malpractice

In personal injury cases not involving medical malpractice, noneconomic damages are subject to a two-tiered cap.

Cases Not Involving Severe Injuries

In cases not involving "severe permanent physical impairment" or "severe disfigurement," noneconomic damages are capped at the greater of $400,000 or "the injured person's life expectancy in years multiplied by $8,000… ." (Alaska Stat. § 9.17.010(b) (2023).)

Cases Involving Severe Injuries

If the case involves "severe permanent physical impairment" or "severe disfigurement," noneconomic damages are capped at the greater of $1,000,000 or "the person's life expectancy in years multiplied by $25,000… ." (Alaska Stat. § 9.17.010(c) (2023).)

Noneconomic Damages Cap—Medical Malpractice Cases

In medical malpractice cases, noneconomic damages are subject to a two-tiered cap. Note that these limits don't apply if the medical malpractice arose from intentional or reckless misconduct. (Alaska Stat. § 9.17.549(f) (2023).)

Cases Not Involving Severe Injuries or Death

When a medical malpractice case doesn't involve a wrongful death claim or a "severe permanent physical impairment that is more than 70% disabling," noneconomic damages are capped at $250,000. (Alaska Stat. § 9.17.549(d) (2023).)

Cases Involving Severe Injuries or Death

The noneconomic damages cap is raised to $400,000 in a medical malpractice case that involves wrongful death or a "severe permanent physical impairment that is more than 70% disabling." (Alaska Stat. § 9.17.549(e) (2023).)

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages in Alaska are also subject to a two-tiered cap, depending on the wrongdoer's culpability. For more information, see Alaska's punitive damages cap statute, Alaska Stat. § 9.17.020 (2023).

Where and How to File an Alaska Personal Injury Lawsuit

Most Alaska personal injury lawsuits will be filed in an appropriate Alaska superior court or district court. If you're asking the court to award you less than $100,000 in damages, you file your case in the district court. But if you want $100,000 or more in compensation, the superior court is where you should file your case. In most cases, you'll file your lawsuit in the court nearest to where the accident happened, though you might have other options.

You start your Alaska personal injury lawsuit by filing a document called a "complaint." (Alaska R. Civ. Proc. 3 (2023).) The complaint must be accompanied by a cover sheet that you'll get from the clerk of the court.

In separate, numbered paragraphs, your complaint should describe:

  • the parties
  • when, where, and how the accident happened
  • your injuries
  • why the party you're suing (called the "defendant") is legally responsible for your injuries, and
  • the relief (usually money damages) you want the court to award you.

Once you've filed the complaint, you'll need to "serve" (meaning to formally deliver, as allowed by the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure) each party you're suing with a copy of the complaint and a summons issued by the court clerk. If you don't serve the opposing party within 120 days after filing the complaint, the court can dismiss your lawsuit.

One final note here. If you can't settle your personal injury claim with the insurance company and you decide to file a lawsuit, you should hire an experienced Alaska personal injury lawyer to represent you. The rules and procedures in a lawsuit are, in many cases, complicated and difficult to understand. Without experienced legal counsel on your side, you'll be at a huge disadvantage.

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