For some, a Caribbean cruise would be a dream vacation — unlimited food, drinks by the pool, watching the sunset from the deck of the ship. The adventure that awaits in a new vacation spot, with your loved ones in tow, can be very exciting. But not every vacation turns out to be a dream come true. In fact, it is not unheard of for cruise ship passengers to come away from their vacation experience with illnesses or injuries. If you have been the victim of a cruise gone wrong, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights.
Who can you sue for an injury on a cruise ship?
A cruise ship is considered a common carrier, much like a bus, taxi, airplane or train. A carrier is an entity whose business is to provide transportation for people or goods for a fee. These entities can be held responsible for injuries to their passengers if the injured party can prove some form of negligence.
Which laws apply to claims against a cruise ship?
Cases involving cruise ships are unique with regard to which laws apply. In most personal injury cases, the applicable law is the law in the state where the injury occurred. Cruise ships are different. Most cruise ships are not registered in the United States, but instead, belong to other countries, such as the Bahamas or Panama. In these cases, however, maritime law applies. Maritime law is a separate body of law that governs legal issues involving vessels on the ocean.
The standard of care required for a cruise line
A common carrier is expected to use reasonable care in safely transporting its passengers (customers) to their destination. Yet, the law does not impose a theory of strict liability in these cases. Instead, the passenger must establish negligence or intent on behalf of the common carrier, which led to the passenger’s injuries. More specifically, maritime law requires that an injured passenger show that the ship’s operator knew or should have known about an unsafe condition.
What does “reasonable care” mean for a cruise line?
The exact definition of the term “reasonable care” differs based on the type of common carrier involved. A ship captain is required to meet all licensing and training requirements. They must also be given sufficient time to rest, in order to remain alert while transporting their passengers. All cruise ships must undergo regular inspections, maintenance, and repair. If any of these requirements is not met, that can be evidence of a failure to use reasonable care. Additionally, because of the unique nature of a cruise ship (i.e. confinement), cruise lines are required to properly store and handle food in order to prevent an outbreak of food poisoning. Decks and floors of the ship must also be safely maintained, in light of the increased risk of slippery conditions.
Contractual claims against a cruise line for personal injury
A personal injury attorney with experience handling these cases should be familiar with another type of legal claim, stemming from the cruise ship ticket purchased by passengers. When you purchase a ticket for a cruise, that document constitutes a legal contract between the cruise line (or common carrier) and the passenger. Specifics regarding the liability of the ship operator can be found on the back of the ticket, in most cases. The ticket will also indicate where any legal claim against the ship operator should be filed.
Determining negligence for a cruise ship injury
Because a cruise ship operator cannot be held strictly liable for injuries to its passengers, you must be able to establish negligent or willful actions on the part of the cruise ship operator. The case will hinge on establishing that a “reasonably careful ship operator” likely would have known about the hazard that caused the injury. Remember, it is understood that even the most careful operator will not be able to foresee every possible dangerous condition.
Injuries caused by cruise ship employees
Another type of claim that may arise is an injury caused by a crew member or cruise ship employee. Most courts will hold a ship operator responsible for the negligent or willful actions of an employee that results in injury to a passenger. This is true even if the ship operator could not have reasonably foreseen its employee would have acted in that manner. Liability may be found even for actions occurring while onshore during a port of call. An exception is to this rule applies to the ship’s doctor and other health care providers, if they are independent contractors.
If you have questions regarding cruise ship injuries or any other personal injury concerns, contact us online or call the Cottrell Law Office at (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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