Every U.S. state has insurance laws that affect drivers, and Alaska is no exception. In this article, we'll take a look at Alaska's auto insurance requirements and what they mean for drivers and passengers. We'll also explore how Alaska's laws affect drivers who want to file a claim or take legal action after an accident.
Alaska is a "fault" state -- also known as an "at-fault" or "tort" state -- when it comes to auto insurance. This means that Alaska drivers and passengers have several options if they have been insured in a car accident, including:
The course of action is usually determined by who was "at fault," or legally responsible, for the crash. The at-fault driver (usually through his or her insurer) is usually responsible for paying the medical bills, property damage, and other losses stemming from the accident. A driver who is found to be at fault in an Alaska crash may also face a driver's license suspension or other penalties imposed by the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles.
(By contrast, in a "no-fault" system, injured drivers and passengers turn first (and usually exclusively) to their own insurance coverage to get compensation after an accident. To learn more, see No-Fault Car Insurance and State Laws: The Basics.)
In order to legally operate your vehicle in Alaska, you must carry the following minimum types and amounts of insurance:
Bodily injury liability insurance pays the medical bills and related costs if you are at fault in an accident that injures or kills someone. Property damage liability insurance pays for any property damage that occurs during an accident if you are found to be at fault. For instance, if you are deemed liable in an accident in which your car hit a family's mailbox, property damage insurance would pay to repair or replace the mailbox.
Additional insurance is available in Alaska, but it's not required. For instance, personal injury protection (PIP) insurance pays your medical bills if you're in a crash, regardless of who is at fault. Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance helps protect you if another driver is at fault, but doesn't have any (or enough) insurance to cover all the costs racked up by the crash. For more information, see Uninsured Motorist Coverage: The Basics and Underinsured Motorist Coverage: How it Works.
Some locations in Alaska are exempt from the state's minimum insurance requirements. See the complete list of Exempt from Registration areas from the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles.
Many states use "insurance requirements" and "financial responsibility requirements" interchangeably to mean that drivers must show they have the resources to pay the bills if they are at fault in a crash. Alaska is not one of these states.
In Alaska, "financial responsibility" means not only that you must have the mandatory minimum insurance, but that you must work with your insurance company and the other parties involved in the accident to settle and pay everybody's claims, if you were the one at fault. If another driver is at fault, he or she has the same responsibility. The Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles enforces this requirement by suspending the licenses of drivers found to be at fault in an accident until all claims are settled, paid, taken to trial, or otherwise resolved.
To learn more about Alaska's auto insurance requirements, see the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles handout on Mandatory Insurance and Financial Responsibility, or its regulations on motor vehicle insurance.