Though many auto collisions are caused by simple mistakes, many others are the result of extremely dangerous conduct that puts everyone on the road at risk of serious injury. If you or a loved one was hurt in an accident involving outrageous acts, you may be able to recover a special type of monetary damages under Alaska law. The key is understanding how liability works in motor vehicle crashes, and the difference between negligence and recklessness by the responsible driver. Your Alaska car accident attorney can explain how these details may increase your compensation, but some general background information may help.


Definition of Negligence


Most car crashes are due to negligence, which is the failure to exercise proper care under the circumstances when driving a vehicle. This is a duty that applies to all motorists, who are required to operate their cars in accordance with how a reasonably prudent person would. If this hypothetical driver would have acted differently than the motorist who was responsible for the accident, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. Examples of negligence in a motor vehicle collision include:


  • Speeding;
  • Texting while driving or other forms of distracted driving;
  • Improper lane changes;
  • Running a red light;
  • Failure to yield; and,
  • Many others.


Recklessness Defined


Where negligence usually involves a careless mistake, recklessness involves outrageous conduct that demonstrates a disregard for human life and the safety of others. The other motorist may not have intended to cause a collision, but that individual knew or should have known that the conduct at issue created a considerable risk. The elements of the claim are the same as a negligence-based case: You must show that the driver breached the legal duty of care, which directly caused the accident in which you were injured. However, to prove recklessness under the Alaska statute, you must show:


  • The other driver acted with malice or bad motives; OR,
  • That person demonstrated reckless indifference to the health, safety, or other interests of the victim.


For instance, it may be possible to meet this standard by showing that the responsible motorist was drunk driving, drag racing, or participating in other outrageous conduct.


Why the Difference Matters in an Auto Crash Claim


The distinction between negligence and recklessness is important because it affects the amount of monetary damages an accident victim can claim. In a case based upon reckless acts, the statute punishes the responsible driver for such outrageous behavior by assigning punitive damages. These go above and beyond the compensatory damages assigned in a negligence case; in fact, you can recover up to three times your losses for medical bills, wages, pain and suffering, and others. However, the statute caps punitive damages at $500,000.


Contact an Alaska Car Accident Lawyer for Legal Help


At Power & Power Law, our attorneys are committed to helping auto collision victims get the highest compensation available, including punitive damages where applicable. For more information on your rights, please contact our Anchorage, Alaska office to set up a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer today.