How Punitive Damages Work in Alaska Personal Injury Cases


The vast majority of personal injury accidents in Alaska are just that – incidents which occur because of carelessness and a failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent a risk of harm to others. The at-fault party may not have intended for these actions to cause injuries, but this person or entity can be held accountable for negligence. On the other hand, some incidents involve intentional or reckless conduct. The state has an interest in punishing such acts, as well as discouraging others from engaging in them. Therefore, lawmakers enacted the Alaska statute on punitive damages to accomplish these two goals.

The good news for victims is that the law penalizing the at-fault party also serves to increase your compensation significantly. You still qualify to recover for medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering, but punitive damages may be awarded on top of these amounts. The bar is high for recovering punitives, so it is critical to retain an Anchorage personal injury attorney for help. An overview is also useful as background.


Punitive Damages are a Separate Proceeding

The primary legal remedy in a personal injury case focuses on liability, i.e., whether the defendant breached the duty to exercise reasonable care when driving, operating a business, managing property, or engaging in other activities. If you prevail and are seeking an award of punitive damages, the court will conduct a separate hearing on the matter. The proceeding goes before the same finder of fact, whether the judge or jury.


Proving Your Rights

At the hearing, you must establish that you are entitled to punitive damages in accordance with the statute. Your burden is the “clear and convincing” standard, which requires you to present evidence that is highly and substantially more likely to be true than not. The facts you must prove are:

  • The at-fault party’s acts were outrageous and motivated by malice or bad intent; OR,
  • The defendant’s conduct exhibited reckless indifference to the well-being of others.


Limitations on Punitive Damages

If you meet this burden, the next inquiry is the amount of punitive damages. The finder of fact may consider a wide range of factors, including the duration of the misconduct and the defendant’s awareness of what could happen. However, there are limitations on exemplary damages. By law, you can recover up to three times the amount of compensatory damages OR $500,000, whichever is higher.


The State of Alaska’s Cut

In any case where the plaintiff is awarded punitive damages, the court is required to deposit 50% of the amount into the “general fund” of the State of Alaska. The concept of giving up some of your compensation may seem unfair, but keep in mind you would not get punitive damages at all without the statute.


Get Legal Assistance From an Alaska Personal Injury Lawyer 

Though punitive damages are not always available in an accident claim, you should be proactive about pursuing them in an appropriate case. For more information, please contact Power & Power Law in Anchorage, Alaska. You can set up a no-cost case review by calling 907-222-9990 or visiting our website.