When you consider that risks on a ship are as common as daily entertainment activities, cruise ship accidents are more common than people think. In 2015, MarketWatch reported on research firm G.P. Wild’s astonishing findings:
- “Operational incidents.” This is what cruise lines call major malfunctions, like explosions, collisions, and groundings. Every year, an average of 10 people die and more than 60 people are injured as a result of these serious incidents.
- Gastrointestinal outbreaks. If seasickness doesn’t sound bad enough, what about the 2,100 people per year who come down with GI bugs? Even then, the CDC relies on cruise vessels themselves to report the outbreaks, which is only required once a certain number of passengers and crew are ill.
- Overboard jumps or falls. Tragically, an average of 16 people per year die from going overboard. Only a quarter of these result in a rescue.
- Sexual assault. Under the United States Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act (CVSSA), the Department of Transportation collects and publishes annual data on criminal activities. By far, the most common serious crime reported is sexual assault, with approximately 25 assaults reported by CVSSA per quarter. Overall, only 31 percent of sexual assaults are reported to police.
In addition to these serious incidents, many passengers are injured in more common accidents, many of which require substantial medical attention and even life-long care.
- Slips, trips, and falls. Nearly 50 percent of all cruise ship injuries are from slips, trips, and falls aboard the ship itself. From luggage stored improperly in hallways by cruise ship employees to defective stairs or damaged walkways, there are a number of reasons why these incidents happen.
- Pools and water slides. Some of the most exciting and refreshing features of a cruise ship can also be the most hazardous to guests. Poor maintenance, defective equipment, and negligent supervision or security in water features can all cause serious injury, including improper water quality care.
- Legionnaires’ disease: Bacteria spread quickly in close quarters. While outbreaks are not common, legionella, a potentially devastating pneumonia-causing organism, lives in aerosolized water and has been known to spread quickly through contact with cruise ship whirlpool spas.
- Fires. Fires on cruise ships are a terrifying reminder of just how limited your range of movement on a cruise ship can be. Even small fires can easily result in burns and smoke inhalation injuries, as well as other injuries suffered while trying to escape the flames or smoke.
- Tender boats. Some cruises transport guests from ship to harbor on tender boats for shore excursions. In other cases, tender boats may be used during an emergency or medical evacuation.
- Activities and excursions. Part of the appeal of cruise ships is the on-ship amusements and recreational opportunities and off-shore excursions. Rock climbing, parasailing, scuba diving and snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking are just some of the riskier activities guests are encouraged to enjoy. Even if you are injured off-shore, the cruise ship may be liable.
You may not know right away how your injury will impact you in the immediate aftermath or even in the long term, but an experienced injury lawyer and qualified health care professional can help you fight to recover the cost of damages.
The cruise ship industry is a multibillion-dollar industry, and the prospect of filing suit against such mammoth defendants might be intimidating to some, especially 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 helps injured passengers and their families understand their legal rights and options and then decide if legal action is a good fit for their case.
When you have been injured on a cruise ship, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible in order to determine if the cruise line may be at fault. If it is ─ even if you are partially legally liable ─ a cruise ship accident claim can help you seek recovery for the damages you suffered as a result:
- Hospital and doctor bills
- Lost pay and wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of future earnings
- Long-term or lifelong disability
Many health insurance policies will not cover health care costs associated with injuries sustained in another country or in international waters, even if the care is provided on the ship itself. Even if your medical treatment is covered, it may be at the higher out-of-network rate, which ends up costing you more out of pocket.
The very first step is to call an injury attorney who understands the legal complexities of these kinds of cases. Because of the specificity of the laws that surround these cases, it’s crucial to have a legal team who is equipped to provide the support you need without risking your case on a technicality. Once your attorney determines you have a valid claim, they will work with you to build and fight for your recovery.
- Who is responsible for your injuries? Depending on the cause of the injury, injured passengers may have a case against equipment manufacturers or providers of services that are not even the cruise line. The cruise line can still be held responsible, as well, for contracting with these providers. Having multiple defendants can complicate the case and even open up the case for different lawsuits in different jurisdictions.
- Where will your lawsuit be filed? The fine print of cruise ship agreements contains something called forum selection clauses, which name the state in which a passenger may sue the cruise line. For example, lawsuits against Royal Caribbean Cruises may be filed only in Florida. Because passengers often travel to their port of departure, this results in some people being put off by filing a lawsuit in a state they do not live in. With a strong, supportive legal team, forum selection clauses do not have to be a reason to settle for a lowball offer.
- How was the cruise line negligent? As with any personal injury case, establishing negligence — and the specific harms and damages that resulted — is key to maximizing your settlement.
- What are potential obstacles? Like forum selection clauses, choice of law clauses are contained in the cruise ship contract. These clauses often result in confusion for injury victims and less experienced attorneys, and they can put your entire case at risk.
- What is the statute of limitations? Your cruise ticket’s designated jurisdiction may mean that, for cruise ship injury cases, the state’s statute of limitations apply. In the case of Florida jurisdiction, this means injured passengers have only one year in which to file suit when they have been injured. The cruise ticket’s clauses 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.
Establishing negligence can require substantial digging into the events that led up to the injury or accident. Experienced attorneys know which indicators might show that the injury was preventable if not for the cruise line’s negligence, such as passengers who are overserved alcoholic drinks or a ship galley (kitchen) with a history of unsafe food handling.
FVF’s experienced injury attorneys represent clients who are seeking recovery to help them navigate their new reality after being injured. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit settlements vary vastly depending on the circumstances of the case, but there are several types of damages you may be able to recover.
- Medical costs. Serious accidents often result in medical bills. In the case of a permanent or catastrophic injury, those costs can be quite high over a long time, even forever.
- Lost wages and earnings. Victims can recover damages if an injury caused them to lose work or reduced their potential for future earnings. In the event of wrongful death, survivors can sue for the victims’ lost wages that would have contributed to supporting the family.
- Loss of quality of life. A serious accident can temporarily or permanently alter a victim’s quality of life. In some cases, plaintiffs may be able to sue for their pain, emotional trauma, and general inability to live their life to the fullest.
- Other expenses. Living with an injury often results in additional costs. You may need to pay others to assist you with day-to-day tasks, such as a grocery delivery service, cleaning service, or transportation provider. If you have lost a loved one to wrongful death, you may need additional support caring for your household or children.
- Pain and suffering. The law recognizes that your emotional and physical well-being are of value, too. Even though it can be difficult to put a price tag on your pain and suffering, experienced injury attorneys know how to calculate a fair and appropriate amount of compensation to seek in your lawsuit.
FVF’s case consultations are always driven by the goal of educating you about your options at no cost to you. We accept 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 FVF today to schedule your free consultation.