Liability on a Cruise Ship.

  • By:Rex Daines
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There’s nothing like a cruise ship vacation. Sailing away into the sunset, sea gulls wheeling overhead, the roll of the ocean, the salty wind in your face…. not a care in the world.

That is, until you fall down the deck stairs, or slip in the shower in your cabin. Then its all hands on deck! to try and figure out whether the cruise ship is liable for your injuries.

Proving Cruise Ship Liability. Not Such Smooth Sailing.

Unfortunately, cruise ships have recently been attracting more attention for violent illnesses suffered by passengers and crew member assaults than their luxurious accommodations. If you are injured on a cruise ship, you have the right to recover for your injuries from the responsible party, just as you would if you were on land.

Cruise ships are common carriers (like airplanes, passenger trains or the bus). But they are also virtually floating cities. Despite their size and fancy amenities, many cruise ships unfortunately lack basic safety policies, procedures and protocols needed to protect their passengers from harm. Making matters worse, antiquated laws and contractual language that limits a passenger’s rights and remedies (your ticket), add to the flotsam and jetsam of cruise ship liability.

Proving personal injury cases that occurred on cruise ships are fraught with complexities — including choice of law issues, forum issues, disclaimers and limitations of liability etc. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that cruise ships are common carriers and are held to a “reasonable standard of care under the circumstances.” To hold a cruise ship liable for personal injuries, then, injured passengers must prove that the cruise ship was negligent in some way. It’s not enough to simply prove that you were injured while on board ship. You must prove that the cruise line was negligent or at fault.

This is very often quite difficult to do. Not surprisingly, many cruise ship injuries are caused when a passenger slips and falls; on deck, down the stairway, over a threshold, in the cabins. To hold a cruise ship liable for your injuries, you will have to do more than just prove you slipped and fell. For example, because federal and international shipping law mandates that cruise lines have thresholds in certain locations to keep the ship watertight, a cruise ship is not negligent for having thresholds as a design feature in the vessel. That means that if your injury was caused by tripping over a threshold, the cruise line will not be liable unless you can prove that they failed to put up necessary warning signs.

Cruise Ships Not Liable for Injuries Caused by Independent Contractors.

While cases have held that cruise lines are liable for the acts of their crew — even intentional acts, like assaults, the courts have frequently refused to hold cruise lines liable for injuries caused by independent contractors. For example, although a large part of any cruise involves on-land excursions, which may cruise lines arrange, many cases hold that cruise ships are not liable for injuries caused to passengers while they are taking part in on-land excursions. Similarly, it  has been held that cruise lines are not responsible for the acts of doctors or nurses, where the medical staff are  not cruise ship employees but are independent contractors.

Before You Go on Your Next Cruise, Contact Us. 

We can help you navigate your rights and the pitfalls of proving cruise ship liability if you have been injured. Take advantage of our free consultation and talk to one of our experienced attorneys today. Call us at 1-800-682-9568 or visit our website.

Posted in: Personal Injury, Slip and Fall

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