Alaska Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

If you are injured or suffer property damage from a motor vehicle accident in Alaska, any lawsuit you file will almost certainly be governed by Alaska state law. Below are some of the more useful features of Alaska’s personal injury and motor vehicle safety laws:

Statute of Limitations: The deadline for filing a personal injury or property damage lawsuit in Alaska is two years after the accident, except that the deadline extends to six years with respect to damage to real estate (unlikely in an automobile accident).

Shared Liability: Alaska is a “pure comparative fault” state, meaning that although you can win a personal injury lawsuit even if you were partly at fault for the accident, your damages will be reduced in exact proportion to your percentage of fault as determined by the court. You can receive 1 percent of your damages, for example, even if you were 99 percent at fault, but you will have to pay 99 percent of the other party’s damages, if any.

Fault/No Fault Insurance: Since Alaska is a “fault” insurance law state, you are free to file a lawsuit against the other driver or file a claim against his insurance company.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Alaska requires every driver to carry a minimum liability insurance coverage of 50/100/25 — $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident and $25,000 in property damage.

Types of Damages Available: Compensatory damages are available. Although punitive damages may be available, in most cases they are limited to 300 percent of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers: Alaska does not require its drivers to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

DUI/DWI Laws: A Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher will support a conviction. If the driver is under 21, any detectable amount of alcohol, even 0.01%, will be enough. Enhanced penalties apply to drivers with BACs of at least 0.15%. The minimum jail time is 72 hours, while the maximum fine is $1,500 and the minimum term of driver’s license suspension is 90 days.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: An injured party can win a product liability lawsuit over a defective auto or auto part by proving that the product failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect or, when a design defect is alleged, that the risks of the design outweigh the benefits.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: Minors under 18 are required to wear a helmet, but adults are not required to wear a helmet.

Seat Belt Laws: Every occupant of a car who is 16 and older must wear a seat belt. The fine for a first offense is $15.

Dram Shop Laws: Alaska law allows a victim injured by an intoxicated person to sue a licensed drinking establishment, such as a bar, for (a) serving alcohol to the intoxicated person if he was under 21, or (ii) serving alcohol to the intoxicated person after he was clearly intoxicated. It is extremely difficult if not impossible for a victim to sue an unlicensed social host for providing alcohol to an intoxicated person.  

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Alaska forbids all drivers from texting while driving, but does not forbid other uses of hand-held electronic devices.