Cruise Ship Catastrophes: What are Your Rights When You’re Injured on Board?

For most people, getting to relax and enjoy themselves aboard a cruise ship is the ultimate getaway. You barely have to lift a finger and someone is catering to your every desire, from serving you endless varieties of food to cleaning up your stateroom and leaving behind cute little animals made out of your towels. It’s a life of luxury for a short time, and you earned it.

But for some people, that luxurious vacation getaway turns into a nightmare.

With so many people on board one large, but compact, ship, hazards await everywhere. Slip and falls are one of the most common injuries for cruisers, but other accidents happen as well.

When your restful vacation turns into an ongoing hardship due to someone’s negligence on the ship, it’s hard to navigate the treacherous seas of your legal rights without the help of expert attorneys like those of us at Hershey Law.

The Legalities Behind Cruise Ship Injuries

Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists head to California’s popular cruise ports every year. Of these significant numbers, the majority of them enjoy their trip with barely a hiccup to distract them from their vacation.

When accidents happen, though, they tend to make headlines, such as the child who tragically fell from a window or the recent tragedy of the tourists caught in a volcanic eruption on a vacation excursion.

It’s impossible to predict every possible outcome and prevent them, unless the cruise directors lock everyone up in bubbles. Cruise ship passengers head out looking to have fun and adventure, and the cruise ship operators do their best to provide exciting opportunities that are as safe as possible.

Since it’s not feasible to do this without the possibility of an accident, cruise lines also have legal procedures in place in case of a passenger or employee injury.

If you were injured on a cruise ship, that does not automatically mean that you can hold the cruise line liable for your injuries. Like with any personal injury, the first criterion that has to be met in order to pursue a lawsuit is that negligence has to be established.

Injuries happen. People trip over their own luggage, other people’s feet, or up and down stairs when they’re rushing. It’s perfectly normal. But if you have reason to believe that your accident was caused by the negligence of a crew member or the cruise line itself, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim.

By claiming negligence, you are stating that the cruise line did not act with reasonable care to avoid a hazard, and therefore you were injured. It’s not always in the form of a slip and fall, although those are the most common. Some examples of this type of negligence include:

  • Slipping and falling on a wet deck, a particular hazard on pool decks
  • Tripping over a raised threshold, commonly used on cruise ships to prevent water from entering the ship
  • Whiplash or other injury caused by cruise ships crashing into another boat or a dock
  • Falling down staircases
  • Intentional actions by crew members
  • Food poisoning or other sicknesses

Acts of Negligence versus Accidents

Many people who fall down stairs attribute their accident to bad luck or just plain clumsiness. That’s not always the case, though.

Without hiring an attorney to do the research for you, you might never know that you were the tenth, or even hundredth, person to fall down those same stairs because of a flaw in the design of the staircase.

The same line of thinking applies to a simple slip in a puddle of water on the deck. While it may just have been poor timing on your part, it could also be that the surface of the deck was not sufficient to prevent water pooling or that there were no signs warning you of the wet deck before a crew member could get to it.

Raised thresholds are a typical preventative measure that cruise ships use to prevent water entrance into the interior. They are often even federally or internationally required. But this legality doesn’t let the cruise line off the hook for injuries if the threshold wasn’t properly labeled in a conspicuous, obvious way.

Intentional acts of violence, including physical and sexual assaults, by the crew members are occasionally brought to light, as well. When these incidents occur, the cruise line itself is responsible for the action of the crew member.

Getting ill happens to the best of us, but if there is a cross-ship contamination that results in many people getting food poisoning or a contagious illness, the ship line may be held responsible.

The Cruise Line is Not Always Legally Liable

There are some cases where negligence is obvious, but the cruise line has a degree of separation between it and the accident to prevent it from being held liable. In those incidents, it’s important to have a knowledgeable cruise ship attorney investigate other avenues of liability to help you recover compensation.

For instance, excursions are popular adventures that passengers choose to partake in when docked at a cruise’s destination. Those excursions are almost always passed over from the cruise ship to an independent company once you reach the shore.

You may have a cruise ship employee take you to your new representative, but chances are that when you head off for your adventure, you are in the capable hands of an independent guide. Accidents that happen due to negligence on the excursion are possibly excluded from the cruise ship’s liability, and you may have signed a waiver agreeing to this clause.

Cruise lines also commonly use independent contractors to cover certain aspects of daily operations. Spa personnel, medical staff, and other individuals may have been hired under the umbrella of an independent operator, which means that the cruise line is not responsible for negligence that was performed by these people.

Remember, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a leg to stand on – it just means that your attorney must be skilled enough to track down the at-fault party that is responsible.

Proving Negligence in a Cruise Ship Accident

Personal injury accidents, even when they look like open and shut cases, have a set of protocols that have to be adhered to and followed.

First, the at-fault party must be identified clearly. This party must be determined to have owed a duty of care to the injured victim. In the case of a cruise ship injury, the cruise line owes each passenger the basic duty of care to prevent harm from befalling them during their cruise.

Second, your attorney must show that the duty of care was breached. The cruise line was remiss in acting or did act in such a way that you became injured.

Finally, there must be a related link to prove causation between the injury and the breach of duty of care that can be shown. In other words, your attorney must be able to prove that your injury was directly caused by the cruise line or other at-fault party’s negligence in providing a duty of care to you.

What to Do if You Become Injured on a Cruise Ship

It’s very typical for people who are sick or injured on their vacation to try to play it off and force their way through it to enjoy their trip. But that’s not always healthy.

Instead, as soon as you are injured or feel sick beyond the normal aches and pains and coughs, head to the medical staff to document your problems. While you are there, you might be able to find out from the personnel if your case is isolated or if more people have been complaining of the same symptoms.

After an accident, when you are able to, gather documentation. Take pictures of the area as it was when you were injured and try to find signs warning of the hazard that caused your accident. Try to find witnesses and get their statements. Write down what happened as clearly as you can remember it. Talk to the cruise ship personnel in charge and make an official statement yourself.

Try to enjoy the rest of your trip as best as possible while still caring for your injury. As soon as you are able to, contact an attorney at Hershey Law to discuss your situation. Keep in mind that, like with all personal injuries, there is a statute of limitations that has to be followed when you file a lawsuit.

In most cruise ship cases the statute of limitations is one year. If you wait too long to contact an attorney, it may be too late for you to file a lawsuit and receive compensation for your injuries.

Whether you think you were significantly injured or not, call Hershey Law today to schedule a free consultation. Our expert personal injury attorneys will be able to walk through your accident with you and help you determine if you should file a lawsuit against the cruise line for your injuries.