Cruise Ship Passenger Injuries
Many people dream of a fun and luxurious cruise to exotic locations. That dream does not include the possibility of a life altering accident, injuries, medical treatment, lost wages, bills and worries. All too often the dream cruise turns into a nightmare, like something out of a horror film.
When cruise passengers are injured or killed due to the negligence and fault of cruise ship owners and operators, they and their families need experienced maritime attorneys. Passengers are devastated and confused about what to do and where to go for help. The cruise lines rarely make it easy after an accident.
Cruise Lines as Common Carriers
In a general sense cruise lines are considered common carriers. A common carrier is a person or company that transports passengers or goods on a regular basis at a set rate. Common carriers include cruise ships, as well as airplanes, buses, trains and ferries. All common carriers are expected to use a high degree of care when transporting their cargo, whether that cargo be people or goods.
The passenger ticket is a contract of carriage and imposes on the cruise line a duty to transport passengers safely, exercising reasonable care under the circumstances. The circumstances may require more diligence on the part of the shipowner with respect to risks that are not normally encountered by passengers in their shoreside lives.
Ticket as a Legal Contract
Determining the level of liability that is placed on the ship operator starts by examining the back of the cruise ship ticket. When a passenger purchases a ticket and boards the ship, the passenger is legally consenting to the terms printed on the back of that ticket. Most passengers do not even think to look at the back of the ticket. However, a liability waiver is likely printed on the back of that ticket, as well as a forum-selection clause and clause regarding notice-requirements. All of these provisions can affect what the passenger has the right to do if injured while on the ship and their contractual obligations following an accident.
Forum-Selection Clause (The place of the Suit)
A forum-selection clause is also known as a venue clause and indicates where the lawsuit may be filed. These lawsuits are normally filed in Florida where most major cruise liners are headquartered, regardless of whether the ship is registered in another country.
Many forum selection clauses designate Miami as the proper place for filing suit. At Clark & Zedella we file lawsuits across the State of Florida and can litigate a cruise case in Miami easily. Also, we have cruise ship law firms we associate with in South Florida, including Miami on a very regular basis. If the ticket contract requires suit in Miami we can litigate there or associate with Miami counsel.
Notice-Requirement Clause in the Ticket
A notice-requirement clause sets out what the passenger must do to file a claim for damages. Often it provides the time period required for filing claims. Usually, maritime law gives a three-year statute of limitations for any personal injury claims. However, the notice-requirement clause can potentially shorten this time period to 12 months for physical injuries or a shorter period of time for those injuries that are not physical.
The notice requirements and statute of limitations on filing claims can vary from case to case and thus it is crucial to examine the ticket in each case for limits on making or filing claims. If you have been injured on a cruise ship it is most important that you contact a maritime attorney immediately to protect your claim and rights under the law.
Determining Fault of the Cruise Ship Line
The cruise line has a duty to transport passengers safely, exercising reasonable care under the circumstances. Again, the circumstances may require more diligence on the part of the shipowner with respect to risks that are not normally encountered by passengers in their shoreside lives. The benchmark is ordinary reasonable care under the circumstances and the carriers in some instances must have actual or constructive notice of the risk creating condition, at least where the dangerous condition is not commonly encountered on land.
Cruise ships are not hotels and sometimes passengers encounter things and conditions that are foreign to them and which they cannot perceive as dangerous. Here the cruise line may have a heightened duty to protect the passenger. Also, cruise ship “crews” are often temporary workers who are not professional mariners and have limited training in protection of passengers. This can be problematic in emergency situations, including fires.
Cruise Ship Liability Situations
Cruise lines can have fault for injuries including: