Tourist Injuries in Alaska

Over the last decade, Alaska has become an absolute tourist hotspot. In fact, in 2017 (the last year for which information is available), Alaska received almost two million visitors, with over half of them arriving via cruise ship. Unfortunately, some of these tourists receive more than souvenirs on their visit and are injured through no fault of their own. This raises the question, then, what remedies are available to tourists if they live outside of Alaska.


Cruise Ship Injuries 

Since more than half of the tourists who visit Alaska arrive on cruise ships, it stands to reason that a number of them are injured. Injuries aboard ship present a special complexity. This is because personal injuries that occur onboard a ship are covered by maritime (or admiralty) law.  Generally, this means that neither Alaska nor federal law are applicable to most personal injuries that happen upon the navigable waterways in Alaska. Rather, maritime law is an amalgamation of federal, state, and international law. Moreover, personal injury cases involving maritime law are typically heard in federal district court rather than in a state court. Only attorneys who are approved to practice in a federal court are allowed to do so.


State Court Jurisdiction

What about the other half of tourists? Some tourist injuries will fall under the jurisdiction of the Alaska court system. Specifically, most cases will fall under the jurisdiction of either the District or Superior Court. The District Court has limited jurisdiction and can hear civil claims involving less than $100,000. The Superior Court has broader jurisdiction and can serve as the trial court in any lawsuit including those in which the claims are for more than $100,000. In cases in which tourists are injured, there is often another consideration about what court has jurisdiction and where the parties reside.


Federal Jurisdiction

 Outside of those cases involving maritime law, there is often another reason for federal jurisdiction in cases where tourists are injured in Alaska; namely, diversity of citizenship.  Federal law provides for the federal District Court to have jurisdiction over lawsuits where the parties are from different states or countries and the amount in controversy is more than $75,000.  This means that if you are from Washington state and you travel to Anchorage and you are hurt by an Alaskan company and your damages are greater than $75,000, chances are that your case will be heard by the US District Court in Anchorage. There are also courts in Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Nome. In these proceedings, ordinarily the court will apply Alaska law, utilizing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure  These rules determine how the entire litigation and lawsuit process work and can be substantially different than the state version of these rules.

Obviously, no one wants to go on vacation and get hurt. However, it happens. Given the circumstances (more than half of the tourists are from cruise ships) and the distance many travel to get to Alaska, prosecuting a personal injury lawsuit when a tourist is injured is a complex legal matter. If you have been injured, you owe it to yourself to get the best representation you can.  The skilled legal professionals at Power & Power Law have represented injured tourists for decades and they are committed to fighting for the results you deserve. If you have been injured on a visit to Alaska and you need help, give them a call at 907-222-9990 or 833-669-9990 (Toll Free) or click here to set up your initial consultation and see what they can do to help you get the resolution you need.