Maritime Law

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Maritime Law and Cruise Ships

Cruise ships have been a popular vacation option for decades. However, there always exists the potential that injuries and accidents can occur anywhere, including over international waters jurisdiction. Generally, most tourists, vacationers, and passengers enjoy their cruise ship excursion without any major injury. However, injuries and accidents sustained during cruise ship travel do frequently occur, and as such, oftentimes can result in resolution by way of a cruise ship lawsuit.

For over two centuries, maritime law or admiralty law’s focal point was the safety of seamen and crewmembers. Yet over the years with increasing interest in relatively popular cruise travel, regulatory and legal frameworks for resolving non-employment related maritime claims of passengers began to emerge in the US. To date, the largest and most common grounds for filing a lawsuit against cruise ship or cruise liner company includes:

  • Preventable and known risks associated with highly infectious diseases and their propensity to spread rapidly on cruise ships is ignored or left unaddressed by cruise company, leading to micro-epidemic onboard vessel
  • Food poisoning and other food-borne illness related illness outbreaks
  • Criminal acts committed by passengers or staff members upon passengers, including sexual assault and battery
  • Slip and fall accidents resulting in new or aggravation of old medical injuries

In all these cases, cruise ship lawsuits are further complicated by the generally understood notion that passengers are generally entering the cruise contract with the opposite expectation, or with the desire for relaxation and enjoyment, yet ultimately sustain damages as the result of their travel.

Injuries and Accidents Frequently Found in Cruise Ship Lawsuits

The most frequently sustained form of physical injury abroad cruise ships remains slip and fall type accidents in areas and during contexts that showed a clearly negligent disregard for the maintenance and safety of public walkways or failure to post proper signage of walking hazards. The second most commonly cited claim in cruise ship lawsuits pertains to incidents, often highly publicized, of mass food poisonings or rampant viral infections ruining passenger’s vacations.

New Laws on Cruise Ship Maltreatment of Injured or Victimized Passengers

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act was signed into law in 2011 to specifically handle and address quickly serious injuries, such as wrongful death, sexual crimes, or property crimes that occur on cruise ships in navigable waters. This Act requires that any missing persons or incident of sexual assault need to be reported immediately to ship authorities or to the nearest US law enforcement agency, most likely the Coast Guard.

Filing a Cruise Ship Lawsuit

If you or your loved one has been injured while on a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. It’s important that plaintiffs and passengers take note of the Forum Selection Clause that is standard for virtually all major cruise ships. Basically, the forum selection clause is an innocuous agreement in any cruise ship ticket in which the jurisdiction of a given dispute arising from the period covered under the ticket must be resolved in a given jurisdiction, per the terms of the passenger contract. Due to this clause, passengers often must file their cruise ship lawsuit in the appropriate state or federal jurisdiction per the contact clause.

Additionally, there are specific statute of limitations that will apply to any maritime law cruise ship lawsuit. Depending on the legal and factual basis for an individual cruise ship lawsuit, the time frame in which plaintiffs can bring viable claims varies, but generally for passengers stands at not more than three years from the date of injury.

Thus, if you or your family member believe you are entitled to compensation due to the negligence of a cruise ship, you should contact a lawyer immediately to properly notify the cruise line of your injury and to protect your claim from being barred. Furthermore, employees of cruises lines are also entitled to file a cruise ship lawsuit for any injury sustained during employment as a result of the cruise line’s failure to uphold the federal safety regulations required for all vessel operating in navigable waters.