Accidents and injuries can occur anywhere at any time. That includes during vacations and cruises. When you are injured on a cruise ship, your Joplin personal injury attorney can help you sort through the potential claims. Unlike most injuries that occur on land, injury claims that arise from cruise ship accidents are usually handled differently.
The duty of reasonable care
A cruise ship operator is required to exercise reasonable care with regards to the safety of its passengers. The operator must also act within the boundaries of applicable maritime law, and will be held liable for passenger injuries that are the result of negligence or willful actions, regardless of fault or intent.
Where should the personal injury claims be filed?
Injured cruise ship passengers are usually required to file claims for damages in the state indicated on the back of their ticket, regardless of the location of the incident or where the passenger resides. Injured passengers can typically sue the cruise ship operators for injuries caused by employees of the cruise line, although some courts have different opinions on this issue.
Maritime law and common carriers
A common carrier is a company, or even an individual, that transports passengers or goods on regular routes at set rates. Common carriers include cruise ships, airplanes, buses, ferries, and trains. A common carrier that transports passengers is expected to use the highest degree of care to safely transport those passengers to their destination. Passengers on common carriers are required to prove negligence or intent on behalf of the carrier, as opposed to strict liability, in which proving fault is not required. Your Joplin personal injury attorney can explain these legal theories to you.
Joplin personal injury attorney can explain the legal issues with cruise ship liability
Surprisingly, most cruise ships that serve U.S. customers are not registered in the United States. Instead, those cruise ships are registered in countries such as Panama or the Bahamas, locations where safety and labor regulations are not always as strict as the U.S. would require. Legal issues involving cruise ships are resolved under maritime law. Under maritime law, a common carrier is only held liable for cruise ship accidents if it can be shown that the ship’s operator knew or should have known of the unsafe condition.
Your cruise ship ticket is actually a legal contract
If you have questions about the extent of your ship operator’s liability and how and where to file a legal claim, that information is typically printed on the back of your ticket. When you purchase that ticket and board the ship, you have legally consented to the terms of the contract contained on the ticket. In many cases there will be a limited liability waiver of some type, usually releasing the ship operator from liability for certain types of claims. That is why it is very important to read the back of your cruise ship ticket before boarding.
Determining negligence following a cruise ship injury
Because cruise ship operators are not held strictly liable for injuries to their passengers, you must prove negligence or willful intent in order to recover for those injuries. The determination of negligence under maritime law depends primarily on whether a “reasonably careful ship operator” would not have known about the hazard that caused your injuries. It is assumed that even the most careful ship operator cannot foresee every dangerous condition.
Expert witnesses may be necessary in this unique area of the law
In order to recovery for your injuries sustained during a cruise, your Joplin personal injury attorney will likely need to find an expert witness to establish the cruise ship operator’s negligence. In many cases, knowledge regarding how a cruise ship is operated and which safety precautions are generally used, as well as whether the operator complied with applicable regulations, is necessary to make a successful claim.
Injuries caused by cruise ship employees
When passengers become victims of the negligence of a crew member or other ship employee, a different type of claim may arise. It will be necessary to prove not only the negligence or willful intent of the employee, but also that a “reasonably careful ship operator” should have foreseen the employee’s actions. Liability may also apply when the crew and passengers are onshore during a port of call.
On the other hand, the ship’s physician and other health care providers, usually classified as independent contractors, not employees of the cruise line, therefore the ship operator may not be liable for the actions of those individuals.
If you have questions regarding cruise ship accidents or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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