Who is Liable for Cruise Ship Injuries?
Who is Liable for Cruise Ship Injuries?

If you are injured on a cruise ship, determining who is liable and whether or not you can pursue a personal injury case can be tricky. Because these ships sail in open water to various destinations, victims are often confused about who is liable for their injuries. This can cause cruise ship injuries to go unreported and negligent parties to go unpunished.

Cruise Ship Negligence

It is important to understand that simply getting injured or sick while on a cruise ship does not equate to negligence on the part of the cruise ship company. In order to hold someone else liable for your injury, you must prove that the other party was negligent. In this case, you would need to show that the company or its employees failed to act reasonably. Thus, they breached the standard of care required for a particular situation, which led to your illness or injury.

Some examples of negligence that can lead to illness or injury on a cruise ship include:

  • Dangerous staircases
  • Slippery decks
  • Exposure to bacteria from food poisoning or other unsanitary conditions
  • Failure to properly warn passengers of thresholds and other hazards
  • Improper conduct by crew members
  • Inadequate security

Read Your Cruise Ship Ticket

In purchasing your cruise, you very likely consented to several terms of the cruise company. That is why it is crucial to thoroughly read over your cruise ship ticket so you understand exactly what you are agreeing to. Tickets will often include a forum selection clause. This specifies the state where a lawsuit can be filed, usually where the cruise line is headquartered. The cruise line might also limit the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim. Whereas maritime law allows three years, clauses on cruise ship tickets can shorten the window.

Maritime Law and Strict Liability

Most cruise ships that serve U.S. passengers are not registered in the U.S. They are usually registered in countries like Panama and the Bahamas. In these cases, maritime law applies, meaning that carriers are only liable for injuries on cruise ships if the ship’s operator knew or should reasonably have known about an unsafe condition.

Because cruise ships fall into the category of “common carriers” and because they are usually not subject to U.S. regulations, strict liability does not apply when an illness or injury occurs. Thus, the plaintiff would have to prove the cruise ship operators were negligent or acting with willful intent. Essentially, you must prove that a “reasonably careful” ship operator would have known about the hazard that resulted in injury.

However, strict liability does not apply if the injury suffered was caused by a cruise ship employee. Acts of negligence or willful intent by employees can be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, regardless of whether a reasonably careful ship operator could have foreseen the problem.

Independent Contractors

The cruise line is responsible for its own negligence and that of its employees. However, it might not be responsible for the negligence of independent contractors associated with the cruise. For instance, shore excursions might be conducted by a company separate from the cruise line. If you are injured during a shore excursion, the cruise line might not be liable for that. Likewise, the medical staff on the cruise ship might be independent contractors. In this case, the cruise line might not be liable for injuries caused by the medical staff, and you would have to sue the negligent staff member directly.

Damages from a Cruise Ship Lawsuit

When you file a personal injury claim for a cruise ship injury, there are several types of damages you will likely be seeking. Of course, there are the direct injuries from your accidents, which have resulted in medical expenses, pain and suffering and emotional damages. You might also have suffered lost wages either from your injury or from a delayed cruise ship. Additionally, you might have extra monetary damages incurred from missed flights, extra travel or extra nights in hotels.

What to Do if You Have Been Injured on a Cruise Ship

If you have been injured while on a cruise ship, do your best to collect evidence. If you’ve suffered an illness like food poisoning, get the names and information of other passengers who also contracted it. Try to determine what activities, areas of the ship, or food you all had in common to determine how you became ill. Or if you suffered an injury, document the scene of the injury. Take photos and take down any witness statements, along with their names and contact information. Also take note of any warning signs the cruise ship has posted.

As soon as you are off the ship, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your case. Because the cruise line might have limited the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, do not wait to take action.

“Nobody expects to be injured or suffer an illness while on a cruise. Nevertheless, cruise ship injuries do happen. When they are caused by negligence, the victim deserves to be appropriately compensated,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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