Whenever you've suffered an injury as a result of a slip and fall on someone else's property in Alaska (whether it's residential or commercial property), it might make sense to look into your options for getting compensation for your losses -- especially if it looks like the negligence of the property owner played a part in what happened.
A number of Alaska laws will almost certainly affect any lawsuit you decide to file over your slip and fall. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall case in Alaska's court system, and the state's "comparative negligence" rule, which can limit your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Even if you're pretty sure your case will reach a personal injury settlement out of court, you still need to keep these state laws in mind, so read on for the details.
First, a little background: A statute of limitations is a state law that sets a strict time limit on the right to have a lawsuit heard in civil court. Specific time limits vary from state to state, and depending on the kind of case being filed.
In Alaska, the statute of limitations that applies to a slip and fall injury lawsuit is the same one that applies to most personal injury cases. Specifically, Alaska Statutes section .09.10.070 gives you two years to get a lawsuit filed in the state’s civil court system after you’ve suffered any kind of injury where someone else may be at fault.
That same two-year deadline applies if you only want to file a lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of personal property that was damaged as a result of the slip and fall (maybe you broke an expensive watch or phone but were uninjured).
In either kind of case -- whether the lawsuit is for injury or property damage, or both -- the "clock" starts running on the date of the slip and fall, and the success or failure of your case will most likely turn on whether you can prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe and to prevent your accident. Learn more about premises liability and proving fault for a slip and fall.
The next logical question is, "What happens if I don’t get my lawsuit started before the deadline passes?” If you try to file the initial complaint more than two years after your slip and fall accident, you can count on the defendant (the property owner) asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court is almost sure to grant the dismissal. That's why it’s so crucial to understand the statute of limitations and abide by the time limit as it applies to your specific situation.
In some rare situations the clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your case started. Talk to a personal injury attorney for the details on these exceptions in Alaska.
It’s true in every state, and Alaska is no exception: If you're thinking about making a claim against a property owner for injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident, be prepared to hear the other side argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for what happened. And be prepared to counter this argument, because if it is successful, you could see a significant chunk of your settlement or court award taken away.
When the plaintiff in a personal injury case (like a slip and fall lawsuit) is found to share some amount of blame for the underlying accident, Alaska Statutes section 09.17.060 says "contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as compensatory damages for the injury attributable to the claimant's contributory fault, but does not bar recovery."
That’s a complicated way of saying that if you are found partly at fault for your slip and fall accident, you can still get compensation from the property owner or anyone else who was at fault, but any damages award you receive from the court will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault that’s determined to be yours.
So, for example, if the jury finds you 15 percent responsible for your slip and fall, and your damages total $10,000, that will leave the property owner on the hook for $8,500 (your $10,000 total damages minus $1,500, which represents your 15 percent share of fault).
Alaska’s comparative negligence rule is likely to be a factor even if your slip and fall case doesn’t make it to trial. Even during settlement negotiations, the property owner’s insurance company (and/or their attorney) are concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court. So you can expect any settlement offer to reflect the other side’s view of the part you may have played in causing or contributing to the slip and fall. That’s why it’s so important to make a strong case against the property owner.
There are a number of arguments that the property owner can make in attempting to pin some or all of the blame on you, including: