Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer
Why You Need a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer
Each year literally millions of passengers will sail from ports in the
United States on cruise ships for what they assume will be a week or two
of quiet vacation time. In most cases the cruise line will provide every
service and amenity “as advertised” in their brochures and
their passengers will become “walking advertisements” that
will attract the next round of passengers a few years hence. Unfortunately,
there will be times when misunderstandings will result in conflicts and
sometimes those conflicts will lead to a lawsuit involving cruise ship
lines and their passengers.
Whose law applies on board a cruise ship?
Since a cruise ship is at sea for much of its time, or making a port call
at a location that is not subject to United States law, American courts
exercise their jurisdictions through their interpretation of “maritime”
or “admiralty” law. In fact, American courts have no jurisdiction
over a cruise ship unless that ship is either 1) registered in the United
States, 2) docked in a United States port, or 3) will be making a regularly
scheduled port of call at an American port.
Under maritime law, a cruise ship is allowed to list the “details”
or “conditions” that it is obligated to fulfill on the ticket
or ticket “package” that it issues to a passenger upon payment
of a fare. United States’ courts have always held that when a passenger
presents a ticket and is allowed to board a ship, the passenger is agreeing
to the terms and conditions set forth in that ticket. Thus, a ticket takes
on the role of a contract between a passenger and the ship’s operator.
As far as the cruise ship operator is concerned, if a service or an obligation
isn’t specified in the ticket or ticket package, the cruise operator
is “off the hook” if a dispute between passenger and the operator
should occur. If a dispute cannot be resolved and it becomes necessary
to file a lawsuit, the cruise operator will usually have the advantage
because the terms specified in the ticket and/or ticket package will be
in the operator’s favor.
Venue, the location of the court that will “hear” an accidental
injury lawsuit, is generally where the cruise line has its United States
corporate offices. For most cruise ship lines, the venue will be in the
greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. For cruise lines that operate primarily
in Pacific or Alaskan waters, the venue will usually be in Seattle, San
Francisco, or Los Angeles.
Courts in the United States have been reluctant to grant changes in venue
unless it can be shown that there is some question as to whether the interests
of justice would be better served if a change was granted. In the absence
of fraud or gross misrepresentation of fact, the venue will remain as
stated in the cruise ticket or on the cruise line’s web site.
The statute of limitations establishes a “time limit” on the
filing of a claim for damages against the operator of a cruise ship. Depending
on the cruise line’s policies, which the statute of limitations
for an injury occurring on board a cruise ship can be a short as one year
from the date of injury. The statute of limitations is a topic that must
be discussed with an experienced cruise ship accident attorney as soon
as possible after a cruise ship injury.
- Vicarious Liability of the Cruise Line
“Vicarious liability” refers to the legal doctrine that an
employer is liable for the actions of its employees. Many cruise lines
have been able to avoid such liability by classifying at least some of
its staff positions as “independent contractors” or “subcontractors,”
particularly in positions that are responsible for providing medical care
Vicarious liability can be applied in cases where a cruise ship crew member
assaults a passenger. There have been an increasing number of such assaults
reported in the traditional media and online. Anyone who is a victim of
an assault should report it immediately to the cruise ship’s onboard
security staff and then discuss the incident with a cruise ship accident
lawyer as soon as possible when in port.
How a cruise ship accident lawyer can help
From the brief review presented here, it should be apparent that the laws
pertaining to liability the of cruise ship operations can be radically
different in comparison to the laws that govern how liability cases are
decided in “dry land” courts.
Due to the complex nature of maritime law, anyone injured on a cruise ship
should contact an experienced cruise ship accident as soon as possible
after their return to their home port. Only a cruise ship accident lawyer
will have the knowledge of personal injury and maritime law necessary
to pursue a successful personal injury claim against a cruise ship operator.