Cruise Ship Accidents

Passenger claims against cruise ships are not easy, they are complex and require an experienced legal team. The laws force injured passers to jump through hoops and favor the cruise ship companies.

Common Passenger Claims

When an injury, assault, or accident occurs, a passenger must prove the ship owners failed to use reasonable care, acted negligently, or knew about (or should have known about) an unsafe or dangerous condition on board. Also, passengers should be protected from potentially dangerous and violent crew members and other passengers. A cruise ship is like a small floating city and care must be taken to stop preventable accidents.

Cruise ship accidents are very complex. Sustaining an injury while on a cruise and filing a claim against that cruise company will require that you get an experienced maritime lawyer. Existing laws favor the cruise ship companies by, among other things, requiring claimants to pass through hoops not found in other areas of the law.

If an injury or death occurs on navigable water outside of a United States port, maritime law usually applies. This can limit a passenger’s right to receive compensation. Under maritime law, the cruise line is only liable for an accident when the plaintiff can show that the ship’s operator was aware or should have been aware of an unsafe condition on the ship. 

When an accident occurs in non-navigable water in the United States, the cruise ship may be considered a common carrier. A cruise line has heightened responsibility to provide safe transportation to the passengers and crew members onboard. This extends to criminal acts such as rape, sexual assault, or battery. 

Cruise ships are responsible not only for hazardous conditions, but also potentially dangerous people. They are required to provide protection to their passengers against crew members, other passengers, and pirates. Lack of adequate security can result in passengers or crew members having basis for legal action. 

The cruise liner is responsible for:

  • Installing security cameras
  • Running background checks
  • Having a good employee to passenger ratio
  • Providing light in public areas

Ticket Restrictions

Cruise operators normally place restrictive and harmful legal provisions in their tickets. This makes claims very difficult and legally complex. There are strict formal notice requirements and issues (usually 6 months), tickets can legally choose the location for any accident-related lawsuit (a forum selection clause) and some even go so far as to force a particular nation’s laws on an injured passenger (choice of law). Claims are litigated in the US federal court system and have strict time deadlines and issues. It is critical any injured passenger seek immediate representation and not delay the process at any time. Failing to act quickly may prevent an injured passenger from having the right to make a claim.

Cruise liners normally put restrictive provisions in a passenger’s ticket. It is common for cruise liners to stipulate that a passenger must notify them of a claim within 180 days of the accident's occurrence. They may also limit the amount of time a plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit, such as one year. If you were injured on a cruise ship or during a cruise line-sponsored excursion, you should contact us immediately for a consultation. 

Passenger tickets commonly have a forum selection clause. This can limit the locations where a lawsuit may be brought. Some cruise liners will restrict passengers from bringing lawsuits to cities that do not house major ports like Miami, Seattle, or Los Angeles. The plaintiff may challenge the forum selection clause on the grounds that they did not receive the contract within the timeframe needed to cancel their ticket without incurring cancellation fees. 

It is possible for the ticket to also include a “choice of law” clause. A “choice of law” clause specifies what law is applied in the event of a lawsuit. This can dramatically affect the outcome of a case. The courts will have the ultimate decision on if the clause is upheld. They will consider things such as where the accident occurred, the residency of the injured party, the cruise liner’s allegiance, the place of the contract, the accessibility of a foreign forum, and the law of the forum. 

What should the victim of an accident or crime on a cruise ship do?

  1. Immediately report the incident to the ship’s security department, in writing. 
  2. Document who and when the incident was reported to, along with who witnessed the reporting.
  3. Obtain a physical copy of your report. 
  4. If possible, take photos of the crime scene. Preferably before it is changed, but photos still need to be taken even if it has.
  5. Collect the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the people that witnessed the incident. 
  6.  Visit the onboard infirmary if you are injured. 
  7. Visit a land-based hospital at the next port, if it is necessary. 
  8. Contact an attorney as soon as possible. 

If you have suffered injury or illness while on a cruise ship and would like to pursue a claim, please contact the experienced maritime attorneys at the Cochran Firm today.

Sources

https://www.hg.org/cruise-ship-accidents.html

https://www.justia.com/injury/motor-vehicle-accidents/cruise-ship-accidents/

https://www.cruisemapper.com/accidents