Cruise Ship Accidents and Liability

A forum-selection (or venue)clause indicates the state in which a lawsuit may be filed, typically Florida, where most major cruise lines are headquartered (even if the ship itself is registered in another country). And despite its obvious inconvenience to plaintiffs living in other parts of the country, most courts have upheld these clauses as reasonable.

A notice-requirement clause requires the injured passenger to file a claim for damages within the time period stated in the contract. Maritime law allows a relatively generous three-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This notice-requirement clause may shorten the window to 12 months for physical injuries, and even shorter (potentially just days after the incident) for non-physical injuries.

This just goes to show that it's a good idea to read the back of your cruise ship ticket before boarding.

Cruise Ship Accidents: Determining Negligence

Again, cruise ship operators are not strictly liable for passenger injuries and must be found to have been negligent or acting with willful intent. The determination of negligence, under maritime law, primarily hinges on whether a "reasonably careful ship operator" likely would not have known about the hazard that caused the injury. The law allows for the understanding that is not possible for even the most careful ship operator to foresee every dangerous condition.

For example, a reasonably careful ship operator should have known a railing was rusted and cracked before a passenger plunged into the water after leaning on the rail. But the same operator probably would not have been able to predict the earthquake-triggered tsunami that forced the captain to make an emergency maneuver, causing minor injuries to passengers and crew as a result of rough conditions.

In order to prevail, the plaintiff will want to find witnesses, use an expert witness, or present some kind of evidence pointing to the operator's negligence. Sometimes, proving negligence is as simple as proving noncompliance with a given regulation.

Injuries Caused by Cruise Ship Employees

When a passenger suffers a cruise ship accident or injury caused by a crew member's negligence or willful intent, even if a "reasonably careful ship operator" could not have foreseen the employee's actions, most courts hold the operator liable for these acts. This rule also applies when crew and passengers are onshore during a port of call, in many cases. One exception is the ship's doctor and associated health care providers, as long as they are classified as independent contractors (not employees of the cruise line) who are properly trained and licensed.

Discuss Your Cruise Ship Injury with an Attorney

A cruise ship injury can not only ruin your vacation, but can lead to a long recovery process and time away from work. In order to receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, it may be in your best interests to file an injury claim against the company responsible. Contact a local personal attorney to discuss your claim.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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