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Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

For vacationers of all walks of life, boarding a cruise ship means setting foot into a world where little but leisure matters. From the hustle and bustle of top-deck dance parties to the tranquility of top-tier spa services, cruising can be one of the most fulfilling vacations for singles, couples, and families alike. 

Unfortunately, cruise ship accidents and injuries sometimes disrupt the escapism of an on-board adventure — and cruise ship accident claims can be some of the more complex personal injury cases. 

What Are Common Cruise Ship Accidents?

Most cruise ship excursions depart and dock without a hitch, aside from perhaps a regrettable sunburn. However, in spite of — and sometimes because of — the variety of activities and amenities they offer, cruise ships can also be hazardous.

Some common occurrences that may result in needing a cruise ship accident attorney are:

  1. Slip and fall accidents. Accounting for nearly 50 percent of all cruise injuries are slips and falls aboard the cruise ship itself. Sometimes, these injuries result from luggage left stored in hallways by cruise ship employees, wet and slippery floors, defective stairs or damaged walkways, or improperly marked changes of elevation in the ship. 
  2. Elevator and escalator accidents. If the equipment used to get passengers from floor to floor is not properly maintained, passengers can slip, fall, or otherwise be injured, resulting in a multitude of injuries or even death.
  3. Pool and water slide accidents. Some of the most attractive features aboard a cruise ship can also be the most dangerous, with injuries resulting from a range of causes from poor maintenance, defective equipment, and negligent supervision or security.
  4. Recreational activity injuries. Aside from pools and water slides, today’s cruise ships have a variety of amusements and recreational opportunities right on the ship as well as during off-shore excursions. Rock climbing, parasailing, scuba diving and snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking are just some of the riskier activities offered to cruisers. 
  5. Food poisoning. If cruise ship staff does not store, handle, or prepare food properly, passengers may become ill. While most food poisoning cases are short-lived and only mildly inconvenient, other cases can result in serious, long-term medical consequences.
  6. Bacterial infections. In close quarters, bacteria spreads quickly, such as legionella. While outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are not common, this potentially devastating pneumonia-causing organism lives in aerosolized water and has been known to spread quickly through contact with cruise ship whirlpool spas
  7. Fires. Fires aboard cruise ships can result in burns and smoke inhalation injuries, as well as injuries suffered while trying to escape the flames or smoke. Significant fire damage can also limit the ship’s ability to deal with injuries or other issues in the event that medical, hygienic, or other facilities are damaged, resulting in cumulative injuries or illnesses.
  8. Tender boat accidents. On some cruises, the passengers are shuttled from ship to harbor on tender boats for shore excursions, or tender boats may be used in the event of an emergency. Negligence on the part of the crew or the tender boat captain could result in injury to passengers at any point in the journey. 
  9. Violent crimes. Violent crimes, such as physical and sexual assault, are statistically rare on a cruise, with some studies suggesting that cruise ships are exponentially safer than most US cities. That said, for the victims of violent crimes — whether perpetrated by crew members or other passengers — the physical injuries and potentially life-long emotional trauma are devastating. In some cases, the cruise ship may be held negligent for the behavior or its crew or passengers. 

What Legal Recourse Is Available to a Passenger Injured in a Cruise Ship Accident?

The cruise ship industry is a multibillion-dollar industry, and the prospect of filing suit against such mammoth defendants might be intimidating to some. This is especially true in cases where negligence may not seem as obvious to nonlegal eyes. 

However, it is precisely because of the importance of holding corporate actors responsible for their negligence that passengers who have been injured should speak to an experienced cruise ship attorney. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the case means that injured passengers and their families can understand their legal rights and options and then decide if legal action is a good fit for their case.

In the event that people who have been hurt on a cruise ship decide to file suit, a cruise ship accident claim can help them and their families seek recovery for:

  • Hospital and doctor bills
  • Lost pay and wages
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Long-term or lifelong disability 

While even luxury cruises are often considered more economical forms of travel, the costs associated with being injured on a cruise ship can be astronomical — from being treated on the ship, hospitalized in port, or even medically evacuated.

Many standard health insurance policies do not cover health care costs associated with cruise ship injuries, even if the care is provided on the ship itself. When care is covered, it may be at the higher out-of-network rate, resulting in an increase in the out-of-pocket health care costs for the injured passenger.

What Makes Cruise Ship Accident Cases So Complicated?

Cruise ship accident settlements and judgments can be complicated by a number of complex legal factors. Because of the specificity of the laws that surround these cases, it’s crucial to have a legal team who is equipped to:

  1. Determine the defendants. Depending on the cause of the injury, injured passengers may have a case against manufacturers or providers of equipment or services that are not the cruise line. This can complicate the proceedings and even open up the case for different lawsuits in different jurisdictions
  2. File suit in the correct jurisdiction. The fine print of cruise ship agreements contains forum selection clauses, which specify the state in which a passenger may sue the cruise line. For example, lawsuits against Royal Caribbean Cruises may be filed only in Miami, generally in federal court. 
  3. Establish sufficient negligence. As with any personal injury case, establishing negligence — and the specific harm that resulted — is key to holding defendants responsible for accidents. Especially when suing for a cruise ship excursion accident, determining whose actions were ultimately legally responsible for the injury can be difficult. Often, these cases rely on a thorough knowledge of precedent and a willingness to keep fighting on appeal when necessary.
  4. Navigate choice of law clauses. Like forum selection clauses, choice of law clauses contained in the cruise ship contract specify, even before any accident occurs, which law will be applied in such cases. For US-headquartered companies, passengers should expect this to be the General Maritime Law of the United States of America and — when applicable — DOHSA, or the Death on the High Seas Act.

Although the typical statute of limitations for maritime matters is three years, the cruise ticket’s designation of jurisdiction may mean states’ statutes of limitations apply. In the case of Florida jurisdiction, this means injured passengers have only one year to file suit. The cruise ticket may also require injured passengers to provide notice of their injury to the company within a certain amount of time, usually within six months of the injury. 

Failure to be prepared for the legal complexities of the lawsuit or adhere to the clauses on the ticket, which acts as a contract between the passenger and the cruise line, may result in a court refusing to hear the lawsuit.

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How to Select a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

When you make the decision to file a lawsuit in your cruise ship accident case, you will need to choose an attorney who is licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which the suit will be filed.

Generally, the lawsuit will be filed in the location of the cruise line’s headquarters — in most cases, this is Miami, Florida. Unfortunately, this means that you may be in the position to have to file a lawsuit in a faraway state that you may never have visited if your port of call was in another location, such as Galveston. 

When choosing a maritime accident lawyer to represent you, you will want to be sure that you ask questions about how the firm will keep an open line of communication with you during the process, especially if you live in a state other than Florida.

Regardless of where you live, FVF’s Orlando team is committed to educating you about your options before filing and advocating for you, including advice on:

  • Pursuing medical care and documenting your case
  • Interacting with insurance providers and other parties
  • The types of compensation you may be entitled to
  • Estimating the future costs of your injury, such as future medical care
  • The full extent of the harms and losses associated with your cruise ship accident, such as your lost earning potential, when applicable, and estimating the lifetime cost of those losses
  • Estimating non-financial harms and losses, such as pain and suffering
  • Negotiating bills and liens with medical providers and hospitals

Our case consultations are always free, and we want you to walk away from the conversation informed enough to make a decision about whether to proceed with your case — whether you hire us or not. FVF accepts cases only when we believe we can add substantial value to your claim, and we work on a contingency fee basis, so you always know what to expect. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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