Have you been injured in a cruise ship accident, or have you suffered any loss at the hand of negligence on a cruise liner?
This page is dedicated to defining what constitutes negligence and to answering legal questions related to personal injury or wrongful death on cruise ships, to help you decide if seeking counsel is your best option for compensation.
Cruise Ship Negligence
Each year millions of people travel to Florida’s ports to set sail on cruise ships destined for exotic locations and relaxing vacation getaways. However, each year unsuspecting passengers have their travel plans derailed when they suffer serious injuries -- or in some cases, are killed -- as a result of cruise ship accidents or cruise line negligence.
However, cruise lines are not automatically at fault for any and all injuries on board their ships; it must be determined that they were in fact negligent, or acted willfully and with intent.
Cruise ship accident personal injury and wrongful death cases are governed by federal admiralty and maritime law, which states that a reasonably careful operator would need to have recognized that the injury in question was caused by a likely danger that should have been foreseen. Examples of this could be: faulty or dilapidated facilities, unsafe quarters, or reckless steering. An infamous case was the Costa Concordia incident, in which 32 people drowned, due to the gross negligence of the ship’s captain.
Maritime law can be much different from Florida law, and often can be considered challenging when filing a lawsuit, due to the difficult machinations of its processes. That said, cruise lines must adopt and employ reasonable measures to protect passengers from potentially dangerous conditions or accidents which might cause them to sustain serious physical injury or death.
Cruise lines can be held legally responsible for such injuries and wrongful death when they result from negligence. Accidents on cruise lines often occur due to poor maintenance, improperly trained crew members, inadequate safety equipment, inadequate security procedures or deficient emergency precautions. In such cases, in order to overcome the burden of proof, evidence in the form of witnesses, video footage, or evidence of noncompliance is needed by the plaintiff.
Where Are Cruise Ship Cases Filed?
Cruise lines typically provide what is called a forum selection clause on the cruise ship ticket which determines the location where any lawsuits must be filed. Many have chosen courts in Miami, Florida or Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Cruise lines, ship captains and crew are required to operate their vessels safely and provide a safe environment for passengers.
Types of Cruise Ship Accidents
It is all too common these days to read reports in the media of outbreaks of food poisoning, legionnaires disease, injuries, sexual assault, and even murder on board cruise ships.
Cruise ship accidents can include slip-and-falls on wet or uneven surfaces, assault and even rape by crew members and other passengers. Food contamination and medical negligence are other common types of cruise line accidents often resulting in serious illness and death. On-board activities can also lead to accidents occurring in swimming pools, wave pools, and water slides.
Cruise ship accidents may also occur when the captain and crew fail to navigate the waters safely or operate the vessel while under the influence of alcohol or medication. Finally, passengers may be surprised to learn that cruise lines can be liable for injuries resulting from accidents sustained while on day excursions to the shore.
When a passenger becomes injured, suffers illness or dies as a result of a cruise ship accident or cruise line negligence, a maritime personal injury or wrongful death claim may be filed by the injured party or a family member. Victims of cruise ship accidents may be entitled to substantial compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain, and suffering or for the loss of a loved one.
Important Considerations: Statute of Limitations and Forum
Cruise ship accident and cruise line negligence cases are unique among personal injury cases because a plaintiff may only have one year from the date of the accident to file a claim against the negligent party. Some cruise lines also require that you notify them within a specific amount of time after the accident has occurred.
Because most major cruise lines are based in South Florida, most limit the forum, or place where the cruise line can be sued, to the state of Florida. This is called a forum selection clause and it can usually be found in the fine print on the back of your cruise ticket.
This means that no matter what port you set sail from, even if the accident occurred in international waters, you are still required to file your lawsuit against the cruise line in Florida courts.
WARNING: The failure to sue a cruise line in the proper jurisdiction can result in dismissal of your case.
Examples of cruise lines that select Florida as the forum include: Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Costa Crociere, Royal Caribbean, and many others. Due to the unique filing requirements of cruise ship negligence cases and the amount of control that cruise lines exert over this process, it is imperative to contact an experienced Miami, Florida cruise ship accident attorney right away if you have been involved in a cruise ship accident or have been a victim of cruise line negligence.
The cruise line negligence lawyers at Hannon Legal Group have many years of experience handling cruise ship accident lawsuits. Our attorneys know how to file and litigate Florida cruise line negligence lawsuits and will vigorously fight the cruise lines to protect your legal rights and maximize your potential recovery. If you or a loved one has been a victim of cruise line negligence or have been involved in a cruise ship accident, contact us today for a free consultation or call (305) 358-3109 to speak with an attorney.