Alaska Accident Laws and Resources
Whether you are in Fairbanks, Anchorage or Seward, the beautiful state of Alaska has thousands of miles of roads to enjoy and explore. The roads of Alaska range from the 23-mile paved Denali, to the 1390 miles of the highway of Alaska. On any day, the roads are used by nearly 500,000 drivers. The drivers in Alaska, even though there are not that many of them, are involved in thousands of auto accidents every day. If you plan to live or drive in the Last Frontier, you should be sure to carry enough auto insurance. Also, it is important to be familiar with the driving laws of Alaska so that you know what to do if you are in an accident.
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Statistics and Notable Alaska Car Accidents
It was reported in 2016 that Alaska had one of the deadliest years in a decade on its roads, according to state statistics. They said they number of fatal crashes increased markedly from the year before. The state reported it saw 75 fatalities due to 69 fatal crashes. That was an increase of almost 34% from the 56 deaths in 53 crashes around the state by the same date the year before.
This increase came amid a modest increase in traffic fatalities – an increase of 10.4% for the first 180 days of 2016 compared to the same period the year before. This was based upon data culled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There has been no solid cause found for the national increase in traffic fatalities, but Alaska state officials think that an increase in driving due to lower fuel prices is a factor. Also, most drivers are using cell phones while driving, despite laws in most states banning the practice.
According to the Alaska Department of Transportation, Alaskans drove 5 billion miles in 2015. It was expected in 2016 that this rose by 100 million miles.
Also, Alaska State Troopers responded to 47% traffic deaths in 2016, and it was 32 the year before.
Crashes that killed more than one person was the major contributor to the increase. In 2014, state troopers responded to three wrecks with three deaths each, plus one double fatality wreck, but there just two double fatality crashes in 2015. There were five multiple death crashes in Alaska by mid-2016.
The Anchorage Police Department noted that the city’s 20 traffic deaths through the end of November 2016 was a slight decrease from 23 in 2014 and 2015. It was noted that impairment, speed and seat belt usage were the major factors contributing to crashes in Anchorage.
The DOT in Alaska reported it has seen a boost in the number of crashes with drivers failing to use seatbelts. Speeding is also a big factor in the state. It is a major challenge to prevent the problem for law enforcement. There are varied winter conditions from week to week in Alaska, but the posted speed limits are only for perfect conditions.
A major crash in Alaska that received press in December 2017 was in Wasilla. There, a 35-year-old man was arrested under suspicion of drunk driving after a fatal crash took the life of a 42-year-old woman. The man William Brucher was put in jail at the Ma-Su Pretrial Facility in Palmer.
According to the state police, Brucher was driving an SUV in the evening and crossed into the eastbound lanes and hit another SUV head on. The passenger in the other vehicle was killed in the crash. Brucher has been charged with DUI manslaughter. This is a class A felony. A person convicted of this crime in Alaska can be sentenced to prison for up to 20 years. The person also can be fined as much as $250,000.
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Alaska Accident Settlement Taxes
Before 1996, all personal injury settlements were ruled as non taxable. But things have changed since then. The IRS changed the tax code that puts limits on which part of a settlement gets tax-free status. Today, the part of the settlement that is tax free is that which is compensation for a physical injury. If you receive damages for medical costs and pain and suffering related to a physical injury, this is not taxable as income.
However, if you receive compensation for pain and suffering related only to mental anguish, this is taxable as income. Also, you will be taxed on money received for punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant for reckless behavior. Further, lost wages compensation is taxable as income.
But money received for property damages is not taxable as income in Alaska or at the federal level.
Since the law was changed, taxation on personal injury settlements has gotten more complex, so talk to your tax professional if you have questions.
Alaska Negligence Laws
If you are in an accident in this state, bear in mind that there is a pure comparative fault standard with personal injury cases. Under this law, your injury damages will be reduced by a percentage that is equal to your degree of fault.
Let’s say you are driving five MPH above the speed limit. You go through an intersection and are hit by a drive who went through a red light. In the court case that follows, you are assigned 15% fault for your injuries, and the other driver is assigned 85% of the fault. Your award would be reduced by 15%.
Alaska state law mandates that courts apply this comparative fault rule in personal injury cases. But understanding how the comparative fault rule works may help you in the insurance settlement negotiation too.
Alaska is also a fault state when it pertains to auto insurance. This means that drivers who have accidents can file a claim with their own auto insurance company or with the insurance company for the other driver. Or, they can file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain damages from the driver who caused the crash. In either case, it is strongly advised to have a good personal injury attorney to represent you in Alaska.
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Alaska Car Accident Statute of Limitations
If you are in a car accident in Alaska, a personal injury case must be filed within two years of the date of the injury. The same holds true for a wrongful death lawsuit. The suit must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. The lawsuit can be filed by the direct beneficiaries of the deceased such as a spouse, partner, parents and children.
Dram Shop Laws in Alaska
The dram shop law of Alaska appears in Statutes section 04.21.020. Under this law, a liquor licensee can be held liable in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit if it sells alcohol to a minor less than 21-year-old who then injures himself or someone else. However, this law does not allow a person who is himself intoxicated to sue for damages due to their own intoxication.
Auto Insurance Requirements in Alaska
Alaska is unique in the states regarding motor vehicle insurance. In many of the most remote parts of this state, vehicle registration and insurance is not required. There is an exception however to the exemption that mandates you to carry a minimum level of liability insurance if you got a ticket for a traffic violation of six or more points in the past 60 months. If you do not reside in an exempt area, you need to carry the minimum level of insurance below are face financial penalties. Under the tort system in effect in Alaska, you could be liable for the other party’s actual damages, economic damages and pain and suffering in a car accident.
The minimum amount of insurance needed in this state under the law is:
- $50,000 in bodily injury per person per accident
- $100,000 in bodily injury for all people in an accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability
Alaska law also requires that auto insurance companies provide you with the option to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist protection that is at least equal to the liability policy limits. You can buy more coverage up to the allowable limit. Also, you can reject this coverage, but you must do it in writing. You also are not required in Alaska to purchase more collision or comprehensive coverage.
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Other Alaska Driving Laws
Below are some of the recent laws that have been put into effect in Alaska to protect citizens and visitors of the state:
- Alaska features a financial responsibility law that means you must work with your auto insurance provider and all other parties in a crash to settle and pay claims if you were at fault. The Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles will enforce this mandate by suspending your driver’s license until the claim is settled.
- There is a total ban on texting and driving in Alaska
There are no caps on personal injury damages in Alaska; there is only a cap on medical malpractice damages.
Alaska Car Accident Resources
If you have suffered a car accident in Alaska, this is a stressful and uncertain time. Below are some helpful resources to help you determine the next steps.
- Were you injured in your Alaska car accident? Was another driver at fault? If so, you could be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering and medical bills. Check out Lawsuit Info Center today to learn what your case could be worth. It is common for laymen to allow the auto insurance companies to pressure them into a low-ball settlement. Don’t let it happen to you!
- If you were in an Alaska car accident, you need to report the accident to the police. Use this 12209 Form to report it if the police did not respond to the crash. If the police did respond, you should fill out this Certificate of Insurance.
- If you need any information about a court date or trial in your personal injury lawsuit, you can find information at the Alaska Court System website.
- For more information about accident reports filed with the Alaska State Troopers, you should visit their website.
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