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Negligence: Alaska law allows claims for personal injury and wrongful death. These claims normally arise because of a person’s negligence. A person is negligent when he/she failed to act reasonably, and as a result, is a “substantial factor” in causing another person’s injury or death. A good example of typical “negligence” is driving too fast for road conditions, and running into another car. Negligence can also arise because of an airplane crash, a doctor ignoring symptoms, or a property owner leaving premises unsafe.

Note that negligence does not mean that a person intended to cause injury or death. It only means that he/she was a substantial factor in causing the injury or death. Being negligent does not make a person “bad.” It does not result in a person going to jail. Rather, being negligent normally means that a person just wasn’t paying close attention, and hurt or killed another person. Negligence arises by simply failing to avoid an accident that common sense says should have been avoided. A negligent person has to pay for all of the damages that he/she causes.

Negligence Is Not A Crime: Think about it: If a person intended to hurt or kill another person, the law would not seek to merely hold the personal responsible for the damages that he/she caused. Rather, the law would put that person in jail, where he/she belongs. The key difference between an “accident” (negligence) and “trying to hurt somebody” (a crime) is the state of mind. We don’t need to put good-meaning, but negligent, people in jail because they are not a risk to society. When a person is “negligent” he/she can still be a good person, not a criminal. A negligent person just caused an accident, and must be held accountable for all damages that he/she caused.

Justice Equals Money: Alaska ‘s injury/death law is pragmatic. Alaskan justice requires a negligent person to help the victim (or his/her family). Money equals justice in Alaska. In fact, money is the only justice that Alaskan law allows when somebody negligently injures or kills another. An injury/death claim is either: (1) settled by agreement before a jury is involved; or (2) resolved by a jury verdict after a trial. Jury trials only take place when: (1) a negligent person denies that he/she was negligent; or (2) a negligent person refuses to be accountable for all losses that he/she caused. Realistically, the vast majority of injury/death claims are settled before a jury ever is involved. It is only when an insurance company refused to pay for all of the victim’s losses that a lawsuit must be filed and a jury convened to render justice.

Social Utility: Alaska ‘s injury/death law serves public policy. It is only by ensuring that we are all 100% accountable for our actions that society can continue to progress. Think about it: If we were not held accountable for driving too fast, what incentive would we have to slow down? Most folks would just buy bigger cars, and hope for the best. Or, if a doctor was not held accountable for doing the job right, what incentive would he/she have to stay current, learning more medicine? The law only asks that a negligent person fix all resulting damage so that he/she will have an incentive to be more careful in the future.

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