Filing a Cruise Ship Liability Claim
Hire an experienced cruise ship lawyer from The Doan Law Firm to help with
your liability claim
Under United States law any cruise ship that sails from a port in United
States-controlled waters, or from a “foreign” port to a US
port, is considered a “common carrier.” Since the cruise ship
is considered a common carrier, the company that is operating the ship
will be held to an ordinary duty of care with respect to the passengers
onboard the vessel in the same manner that employees of an airline are
expected to protect its passengers from any reasonably-foreseeable physical
danger or injury.
Many incidents occurring on cruise ships are similar to accidents that
could occur at a typical “landlocked” resort or hotel. Among
the more commonly-reported accidents occurring on cruise ships are:
- “Slip and fall” and “Trip and fall”
Given that a cruise ship is designed to spend most of its time at sea,
“slip and fall” accidents are not all that common. A more
common event is the “trip and fall” accident, where a passenger
will trip over a raised bulkhead whose primary purpose is to keep water
out of a cabin or passageway. If there are no clearly posted and easily
readable signs warning passengers of a potential danger, the cruise ship’s
operator may be held liable for any injuries that might occur.
“Over-serving” of alcoholic beverages
It is no great secret that cruise ships derive a substantial part of their
revenues from the sale of alcoholic beverages to their passengers. Since
there is no requirement in maritime law that a bartender or server of
such beverages should refuse to serve an obviously intoxicated passenger,
accidents that are linked to alcohol consumption are relatively common
on cruise ships.
- Accidental drowning or near-drowning
Practically all drowning and near-drowning accidents on a cruise ship occur
in onboard swimming pools and “miniature” water parks that
are frequently attached to these pools. If a cruise ship operator fails
to have lifeguards on duty or a medical facility that is staffed by personnel
who are qualified in the emergency management of drowning accidents, the
lack of personnel could be taken as negligence on the part of the ship’s operator.
- Missing persons or “man overboard”
Modern cruise ships are constructed in a manner that makes it difficult,
but not impossible, for a passenger to be swept overboard. However, particularly
in the presence of rough weather, it is still possible for passengers
to lose their footing and then slide under railings or other devices that
were installed to prevent such accidents.
Under international maritime law, the cruise ship is required to make every
effort to locate and rescue anyone who may have been swept overboard,
including contacting any other ships in the general area to request assistance.
A failure to mount a diligent search and rescue operation can be considered
a breach of that duty and could lead to a claim of liability of the part
of the cruise ship’s operator.
A fire on board any ship, be it a merchant vessel or a passenger liner,
is considered to be one of the gravest threats to the safety of the passengers
and crew. In fact, a fire on board a cruise ship is sufficient to invoke
the legal doctrine of
res ipsa loquitur (“it speaks for itself”). This doctrine holds that the mere
fact that an incident occurred is sufficient to justify a claim of negligence
on the part of the ship’s operator without further proof of a specific
act of negligence.
Liability and international law
Although the cruise ship industry is regulated in much the same manner
as is an airline or an international freight shipping company, most of
the laws providing such regulation are contained in international treaties
which any given country is free to ratify or reject as they see fit. Thus,
most cruise lines are governed by international maritime laws in general
and specific treaties that limit their liability in case of an accident.
The most frequently cited of such treaties is the “Athens Convention
relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974”
or simply the “Athens Convention.”
Why you need an experienced Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer
The Athens Convention of 1974 and its later modifications places a limit
or “cap” on the maximum amount that can be awarded if a cruise
ship operator is found to have been negligent and a passenger was injured
as a direct result of that negligence. The United States is not a signatory
to the Athens Convention and, further, the courts in the United States
have held that any cruise ship that makes a port of call in United States
territory is subject to US laws rather than to an international treaty.
Due to the issues of jurisdiction over maritime law and liability, any
passenger experiencing a cruise ship injury should contact a cruise ship
injury lawyer as soon as they return home in order to protect their legal
right to recover damages for their injury.