Injury Claims for Passengers of Cruise Ships

1 person found this useful

(1 Votes)

Found this useful?

TweetThis

Print

The idea of a long-awaited vacation on a cruise ship may bring to mind glitzy images of the rich and famous. However, cruise ships are like small cities, carrying passengers of all walks of life from around the world. Thus, every form of crime, including assault, burglary, rape and even murder has been reported aboard cruise ships. Moreover, passengers are prone to many onboard accidents, including slipping on wet or poorly maintained decks, getting hit by falling objects, being exposed to food poisoning or even falling overboard. Indeed, one passenger recently drowned because a cruise ship took too long to decide whether to turn around after it was alerted of a passenger overboard.

Common Claims Aboard Cruise Ships

  • injuries from head trauma
  • soft tissue and disk-related back injuries
  • fractures resulting from slips and falls
  • dismemberment
  • drowning
  • disfigurement and scaring owing to severe burns
  • food poisoning
  • exposure to the noro virus or pathogens

Cruise Ship Injury Claims

While the liability of shipowners traditionally has been limited under maritime law, passengers who are injured owing to the negligence of a shipowner or its employees may bring suit the same as if they had been injured on land. While the Jones Act does not cover passengers, general maritime law establishes that shipowners owe a duty of “reasonable care” to passengers. For example, in Kermarec v. Campagnie General Transatlantique 358 U.S. 625 (1958), the U.S. Supreme Court held that “the owner of a ship in navigable waters owes to all who are on board for purposes not inimical to his interests the duty of exercising reasonable care under the circumstances of each case.”  

Thus, the settlement of many personal injury and wrongful death claims rests on the question of “reasonable care.” Given the growth of the leisure travel industry, many plaintiffs have argued for a high standard, especially for common carriers that accommodate hundreds or thousands of passengers each year. Recent maritime lawsuits, such as Beard v. Norwegian Caribbean Lines, Inc., 900 F2d 71 (6th Cir.1990) have determined that “reasonable care” does not imply the highest standard or the greatest possible care. For example, a cruise ship cannot be held responsible for routine dangers a passenger might meet daily in his home or office. However, other cases, like Keefe v. Baham Cruise Line, Inc., 867 F2d 1318 (11th Cir. 1989), have shown that cruise ship owners do need to provide a reasonably safe environment, and they have a duty to warn passengers of dangers that may not be readily apparent. This duty of care begins from the point of embarkation to the point of debarkation and includes pre-boarding areas, such as docks and gangplanks. However, in these cases, the passenger bears the burden of proving that the shipowner was negligent.  

Your Passenger Ticket has Legal Liability Information

Although many people are not aware of it, their passenger ticket is a legally binding "contract of carriage" with the cruise line. The text on the back of most tickets includes important provisions concerning their legal rights in relation to the cruise line. These conditions include certain pre-conditions that must be met in filing suit for personal injury or wrongful death. For example, most cruise ship owners require passengers to notify the cruise line in writing of an intention to file a claim. Furthermore, the statute of limitations for such notification, which will also be specified on the ticket, may be very short. It is usually six months for personal maritime injury claims. Passenger tickets also set very short limitations, usually one year, on the period in which a lawsuit must be filed. Often, cruise lines will also require passengers to file claims only in a certain state or city, and this location may be far from where the passenger purchased a ticket or the port of embarkation.  

Because the contractual terms set forth on the back of passenger tickers are usually considered by the courts to be valid, it is very important to be sure you carefully read and understand all the “fine print.”

Talk to a Maritime Injury Lawyer

If you or anyone you know is injured on a cruise ship, you should contact a cruise ship injury lawyer immediately. Also, it is very important to avoid making any taped or written statement before you consult with a maritime attorney who can advise you of your rights. Cruise lines and their insurers often try to meet with injured passengers and obtain statements or waivers from them. In many cases, these representatives are simply interested in reducing their companies’ liability. Only a qualified maritime personal injury lawyer has the skills and expertise needed to help you protect your rights.

1 person found this useful

(1 Votes)
Found this useful?

Print

TweetThis

Contact A Lawyer

Related Links

LA-WS1:0.7.14.100803.9563