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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

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.

  • Statute of Limitations

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 to passengers.

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.

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