Posted by John H. (Jack) Hickey on 12/06/2022

Can I Sue if I Get Injured on a Cruise Ship?

Can I Sue if I Get Injured on a Cruise Ship?

Cruise passengers do have the right to sue the cruise line for negligence which causes injuries onboard and on shore. The General Maritime Law of the United States applies to these claims. Under the General Maritime Law, the cruise passenger is required to follow the conditions of the Cruise Passenger Ticket Contract. This so called contract are the terms and conditions online which you, the passenger, agree to when purchasing the ticket online.  These terms and conditions are lengthy and complicated.  

The General Maritime Law allows the cruise lines to insert into the Cruise Passenger Ticket Contract the lengthy and complicated terms and conditions. The terms and conditions which are especially relevant to cruise passengers are: 

  • Venue, the place where you are required to file the lawsuit. You the cruise passenger are required to sue in the place designated in the Cruise Passenger Ticket Contract. For most cruise lines, that place is Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.   
  • Statutes of limitations, or the deadline to file a lawsuit. Every lawsuit has a deadline by when you have to file a complaint in court. For passenger claims, that statute of limitations is one year from the date of the accident. 

What you or your lawyer need to know 

There are three areas of specialty which your cruise injury lawyer, whomever you choose, needs to know to represent you as a cruise passenger.  

First, the lawyer you choose has to know and specialize in maritime law. This is a specialized area.  

Second, the lawyer you choose has to know cruise ship and cruise line operations. These ships are specialized areas where only the maritime law or the law of where that ship is registered applies. And what documents are generated onboard the cruise ships is highly specialized and peculiar to these cruise ships and the individual cruise line.  

Third, the attorney you choose should know and have the manpower in the firm to handle cases in Federal Court. Not all maritime cases are filed in Federal Court. But almost all cases brought by cruise passengers are required to be filed in Federal Court. Because of the added work required by Federal Court under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and under the Local Rules of each District and the particular rules of each District Court Judge and each Magistrate Judge, not all attorneys are equipped to take these cases.  

Booking a cruise provides the opportunity to relax with friends and family, swim, take in various performances, and simply enjoy yourself. Depending on the cruise line you select, you might get to dock and explore various countries. Unfortunately, an accident can derail your fun. If you sustain an injury on a cruise ship for any reason, you are probably wondering what your legal options are. To help you determine whether you can sue, review the following guide. 

Establishing fault in a personal injury case involving cruise ships 

Cruise lines owe their passengers a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. The circumstances are that the cruise line advertises that it is top notch and luxurious, that you do not need to worry but to leave all of the details to the cruise line. And the circumstances include the fact that the cruise lines serve alcohol to everyone onboard, often excessively, and passengers are walking and moving about the ship at all times. This makes it imperative that the cruise lines keep the floors of the ship clean and dry at all times.  

Further, cruise ships are often in isolated seas and distant lands which are in or near only developing countries. This makes it imperative that the ship provide excellent medical care onboard or that the ship transport the sick or injured passenger to the best medical care possible.  

Examples of incidents on cruise ships which cause injury   

A cruise ship is liable in a personal injury claim when they fail to provide to the passenger a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. Some of the common scenarios onboard cruise ships where that happens and the passengers are injured include:  

  • Slip and fall on water or other substance;
  • Trip and fall on stairs, architectural elements, or other unsafe areas; 
  • Medical malpractice onboard the ship, including failure to diagnose;  
  • Injuries by the direct action of a cruise line employee 
  • Collapsing booths and chairs which were improperly repaired by the cruise line or which were never or infrequently inspected by the cruise line;  
  • Excursion accidents; 
  • Injuries from food allergies; 
  • Escalator and elevator accidents; 
  • Negligent event planning of events on and off the ship; 
  • Safety drill accidents; 
  • Overservice of alcohol, leading to slips, trips, fall, and even acts of violence; 
  • Fire/ burn injuries; and 
  • Swimming pool accidents including drownings.  

What 5 things should you do as a cruise passenger who gets injured?  

  1. Take photos of the wet floor (from multiple angles, including at eye level and from above) or have someone take those photos right away. You cannot rely on the cruise line investigator for this. They are not obligated to provide their photos to you and usually they refuse to provide them.  
  2. Get the full names and contact information (email, street addresses, and cell numbers) of all people who were witness to the wetness of the floor at the time. 
  3. Report all conditions and injuries immediately at the ship’s infirmary. Remember, the infirmary personnel are hired by and work for the cruise line. And they are trained on how to complete forms with information favorable to the cruise line. Then, insist on getting a copy of the infirmary medical records before you leave the ship. Tell them you need that to show to the next doctor.  

Also, be careful when completing your statement in the infirmary. They will ask how it happened. Tell them all of the things that the cruise line did wrong. If there was water everywhere, say so. These forms typically ask what you the passenger could have done differently to prevent the accident. This is a sneaky question. When you are in pain from your injuries, you are asked to describe your own fault. Do not fall for this. If the truth is you could not have reasonably done anything differently, say so. Then insist on getting a copy of the statement right then and there. Also, ask the safety officer for a copy of the video of the incident.  They have one most likely. Often, they refuse this. Make a note of the full name of the Safety Officer who refuses this request. Ask why they are depriving you of this.  

  1. Get medical attention immediately when you get off of the ship.  
  2. Call an attorney for a free consultation.  

What kinds of damages are available in cruise ship injury cases? 

Damages which cruise passengers can recover under the maritime law include economic damages (medical expenses and lost compensation) and non-economic damages. These are more fully described as follows:  

  • Medical and psychological treatment expenses
  • Lost wages and other compensation
  • Pain 
  • Suffering 
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Physical injury and impairment
  • Scarring and disfigurement  

Each and every one of these damages are recoverable for the past and the future  The past is from the date of the accident through the present. The future is from now through the end of your life expectancy or work life expectancy.  

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