Most civil claims and criminal prosecutions must be filed or charged within certain time limits according to Alaska's statute of limitations laws. some crimes like murder may be prosecuted at any time, and egregious civil claims for childhood sexual abuse may be extended for a number of years, but the majority of other cases must be filed within certain time periods. This allows evidence to be presented within a reasonable period of time so it is still relatively fresh. Witnesses are still alive, and oral testimony has not yet been clouded by time.
Why the Statute of Limitations is Important
In civil and criminal cases, the court is interested in evidence that is still credible enough to establish a viable cause of action or criminal charge. Because of the complexities of statutes of limitations and the various exceptions and tolling possibilities, it is essential that you contact an attorney. Your lawyer will want to know when your loss or the act establishing the claim occurred, the identity of the culpable party, and other facts and circumstances surrounding your case. For example, the statute of limitations may be extended if the injured party is a minor or if the injury was only just discovered.
Criminal Statute of Limitations
Except for acts of murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual assault against minors, and felony sexual abuse against minors where the sexual offender is a state employee and the victim is in custody, there are time limits for prosecuting criminals in Alaska. Violent felonies, such as manslaughter or robbery, have a statute of limitations of 10 years. All other felonies have a five-year expiration. Misdemeanor charges can also be brought for up to five years from the date the offense occurred. Crimes involving a breach of a fiduciary duty have a one-year statute for prosecution after discovery of the offense, but they are eligible for up to a three-year extension.
Civil Statute of Limitations
Civil claims have their own statutes of limitations in Alaska:
- Personal injury: Two years
- Medical malpractice: Two years
- Product liability: Two years
- Contracts: Three years
- Defamation: Two years
- Fraud: 10 years
- Damage to personal property: Six years
When symptoms from exposure to toxic chemicals do not appear for years, Alaska's discovery rules extend the time to file to when you knew of the injury or when its cause should have reasonably been discovered.
Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
If you are under the age of 18, the statute of limitations for your claim does not begin to run until your 18th birthday, except in wrongful death cases. If the plaintiff was mentally incompetent at the time of the injury, the statute might be tolled or delayed. Also, the automatic stay provision of the bankruptcy code toll the statute of limitations for bringing most civil claims.
Statute of Repose
In Alaska, the statute of repose limits filing a claim involving a construction of a project if it resulted in personal injury, death or property damage. The limit is 10 years from when the project was substantially completed. This does not apply in cases that involve fraud or misrepresentation when applying building codes or design plans. It also does not apply in cases that involve gross negligence, an intentional act, or prolonged exposure to hazardous waste. The exception also applies to breach of a fiduciary duty claims, or the use of a defective product in construction.
Speak with an Alaskan Attorney
Your attorney can determine if your case may be filed within the applicable statute of limitations and if other causes of action may be timely filed. Speak with an Alaskan lawyer if you are seeking a legal remedy or facing criminal prosecution.