Accidents of all types occur on cruise ships and if you are a passenger heading out of a South Florida port, it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards as well as your legal rights and remedies before you even board the vessel.
Lawsuits are based on the provisions contained within your passage ticket. Be sure to read your ticket contract. If you are injured on a ship leaving a Florida port, you should file a personal injury lawsuit within the Florida courts. Moreover, many ticket contracts have a notice of filing provisions which can be as short as six months post-injury. If you’ve suffered an injury while aboard a cruise ship, we recommend you file a lawsuit immediately to assure you are awarded compensation. Our Fort Lauderdale cruise ship injury lawyers have the experience to successfully handle your case and we can help your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Common Cruise Ship Accidents:
- Slip-and-falls, leading to significant injury
- Faulty equipment, including gym/exercise and recreational equipment
- Pool side accidents, including drowning
- Assault (sexual or other) by crew member or other passenger
- Food poisoning, Legionnaire’s disease, and other viruses caused by lack of cleaning/sterilization or sanitation
- Medical malpractice/delay in care – by ship’s doctor & medical staff
- Any injuries one might experience while on an excursion or other stops on land in ports of call, such as jet-ski or moped accidents.
All of these injuries, and the remedies to them, are governed by the passenger ticket, so make sure to review and preserve the ticket in case of any injury.
What Laws Protect Your Rights After a Cruise Ship Accident?
Before you step foot onto a cruise ship, know your legal rights as a passenger. Read your contract carefully before leaving any Florida port. Gain a firm understanding of how long you have to file a claim if you get injured on the ship, as well as where to file your claim (typically the cruise line’s headquarters). Find out when the contract makes the cruise line exempt from liability.
Remember that the contract will not protect the cruise line from all personal injury lawsuits. Any accident involving the ship, the cruise line, or staff member negligence is most likely fair game for a PI lawsuit. “Negligence” can describe any action or failure to act that does not fulfill standards of reasonable care for the situation, resulting in cruise passenger harm. Here is a brief overview of your rights as a passenger on a cruise ship:
- The right to a reasonably safe premises. A cruise ship must be free and clear from defects and environmental hazards. This includes faulty staircases, broken elevators, loose carpeting, missing guardrails, slippery floors, inadequate lighting, debris cluttering walkways, dangerous chemical substances, and other hazards that could foreseeably harm passengers.
- The right to safe and sanitary food and water. Cruise companies have the responsibility of keeping all food onboard properly stored, sanitized, and refrigerated throughout the duration of the voyage. Failure to adequately store food and potable water can result in serious food poisoning epidemics, and illnesses that can prove fatal without proper medical attention.
- The right to professional medical care. Every cruise ship must have a fully equipped medical office available with medical professional onboard. All passengers have the right to use the full-time onboard medical center for emergency care as needed until shoreside medical care becomes available. Lack of prompt medical care onboard can result in serious passenger harms and even death – along with a lawsuit against the company.
- The right to a properly trained ship crew. All crew members and staff of the cruise ship must undergo significant training in case of emergencies. Staff members should know emergency evacuation procedures and be able to assist passengers in the event of an emergency such as a fire or the boat capsizing. Anything less, causing passenger injury or death, is negligence.
- The right to be free from unwanted employee advances. Cruise ship staff members must not make any inappropriate or unwanted sexual advances to passengers, or harm them in any way. Cruise companies will be liable for the actions, behaviors, and criminal activities of their employees while they are on duty. Injured victims have the right to sue the company for employee misconduct.
Remember, you have the right to sue the cruise company. Purchasing a ticket (and therefore agreeing to the contract’s terms and conditions) does not mean you completely forfeit your right to sue the cruise company. You can and should look into suing the company after you injure yourself on a ship. To sue the company, you must provide written notice of your injury within six months of the accident, and bring your suit within one year. For professional help with filling a cruise ship injury claim, come see our personal injury attorneys at Kelley/Uustal in Fort Lauderdale.
What Is the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010?
Cruise companies obey federal laws, not state laws. They are common carriers and abide by maritime laws and others that the U.S. Code lays out. One such code is the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, found in U.S.C. Title 46, Section 3507. This Act came about as a means of protecting passengers via mandatory vessel design and construction requirements, regulations, and standards.
Based on the Act, all cruise vessels must obey certain standards to create a seamless and consistent cruising experience for passengers across different companies and lines. It is mandatory for all cruise vessels to obey the 2010 Act or face penalties. Some provisions of the act are as follows:
- Each vessel shall have ship rails located no less than 41 inches above the deck of the cabin.
- Every passenger stateroom and crew cabin shall have entry doors with peepholes or other means of visual identification.
- If workers lay a vessel’s keel after the effective date of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, the each passenger room and crew cabin must have security latches and time-sensitive key technology.
- Each vessel shall integrate technology (to the extent of availability) that captures images of passengers, as well as that detects passengers who fall overboard.
- Each vessel shall have a sufficient number of operable acoustic hailing devices or other warning devices to communicate throughout the entire vessel when navigating high-risk areas, as the U.S. Coast Guard defines.
- The owner of the vessel must maintain a video surveillance system onboard to assist in documenting crimes and providing evidence for prosecution.
- The owner of the vessel must provide upon request a copy of all video surveillance records to any law enforcement official performing official duties of an investigation.
- Each vessel owner must make a security guide available to passengers, who provides a description of medical and security personnel, jurisdictional authority, and law enforcement processes available in the event of a crime.
- Owners of vessels must provide copies of the security guide to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for comment, and publicize the security guide on the vessel owner’s website.
- The owner of a vessel must maintain on the boat adequate supplies of anti-retroviral medications; equipment and materials for performing sexual assault medical exams; and medical staff with current licensure, at least three years of post-graduate clinical practice, and board certification in emergency medicine or family practice medicine.
- The individual in charge of a vessel must keep logbooks and records of complaints of crimes, theft in excess of $1,000, and all complaints of other crimes committed on any voyage. The logbook must be available to the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, and law enforcement officers upon request.
Failing to adhere to any of the provisions of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, resulting in passenger injury or death, could open the cruise company to a lawsuit. Our attorneys understand this act and all other laws relating to cruise ship accidents and injuries. We can help you navigate the law, protect your rights as a passenger, and pursue compensation.
How Can I Sue for a Cruise Ship Injury?
If you find yourself in a hospital with painful or serious injuries, hefty medical bills, a temporary disability, lost wages, or emotional suffering after a cruise ship accident, ask yourself, “Can I sue?” Suing the cruise company and/or another party is your right as an injured passenger in many situations. It may be the best or only means of recovering your extensive personal and financial losses after sustaining an injury on a cruise.
A lawsuit can hold a negligent party accountable for its actions and even change the laws to prevent similar accidents from injuring other passengers in the future. The question of whether you can sue a cruise company comes down to questions of negligence, the duty the cruise company owed you, the contract you agreed to when you stepped onto the ship, and the circumstances surrounding your accident and injuries.
Cruise ship claims are typically complex. Retaining an attorney can help you sort through the elements of a case, as well as file the right paperwork with the right people at the right time (and place). It can ensure you don’t make a mistake that harms your chances of securing compensation. Injury lawyers at Kelley/Uustal can answer the question of whether you can sue during a free consultation in Fort Lauderdale.
4 Elements of a Cruise Ship Injury Claim
Despite abiding by maritime and common carrier laws, cruise ship claims have a lot in common with other types of personal injury lawsuits. The four main elements an injured party needs to bring a suit are the same as other personal injury claims:
- Duty. The cruise company (or other defendant) owed you a duty of care. The Kermarec rule, created from the 1959 U.S. Supreme Court case Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale, states that cruise lines have a duty to provide passengers with reasonable care. This duty encompasses a great many duties, from avoiding food poisoning to providing staircase railings to prevent falls.
- Breach. The cruise line breached its duty of reasonable care. You must prove the defendant breached its duty of reasonable care to you through some act of negligence, recklessness, carelessness, or wanton disregard for your safety. A breach of duty could be anything that a “reasonable and prudent” cruise line would or would not have done in similar circumstances.
- Causation. The breach of duty caused your injuries. You must prove a connection between the defendant’s breach of duty of care and your injuries or damages. The cruise company’s act of negligence must be the proximate, or main, cause of your injuries. It does not have to be the only factor that led to your accident, but it must have at least significantly contributed.
- Damages. You must have suffered “real” damages in the cruise ship accident, such as an injury or emotional distress. Almost getting injured does not qualify as compensable damages, even if you have proof of the cruise ship’s negligence. Damages can also include lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical bills.
Working with a lawyer can help you successfully navigate the intricacies and nuances of cruise ship law while fulfilling the four main elements required for any negligence-based personal injury claim. Contact the cruise ship attorneys at Kelley/Uustal for more information.
Contact our Fort Lauderdale Cruise Ship Injury Lawyers
In a cruise ship slip and fall accident or any other accident causing a severe injury, it is important to document the condition. Take photographs of the area where the incident occurred and get the names of witnesses and crew personnel that may have observed the accident. Evidence is especially critical in cruise ship injuries because once passengers or crew members leave the ship, it may be difficult to find or locate them as they are often from many different countries. Be sure to keep a copy of all incident forms your sign or complete.
The next step is to contact Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney as soon as possible upon your return home. The experienced lawyers at Kelley/Uustal we have experience with cruise ship claims and we know exactly how to deal with cruise lines and insurance companies as well as how to file a lawsuit should it become necessary. If you live out of state, have your local attorney contact us. We will be happy to act as local counsel.
Remember, your ticket provisions will govern the timing and venue for filing a lawsuit. Make sure you know when those deadlines are and to file accordingly. No matter what they say, cruise lines and insurance companies may act as if they are interested in your welfare, but they are usually interested in their bottom lines. A skilled cruise ship injury attorney can hold the negligent party or parties responsible and ensure you are compensated for your injuries or the unfortunate wrongful death of a loved one. Speak with one of our injury attorneys in Fort Lauderdale about your case. Contact Kelley/Uustal for a free case evaluation and pay no fees until we win your case!