Going on a cruise is supposed to be an opportunity to get away from the humdrum of everyday life and leave your worries behind.
Of course, no one wants to get hurt on vacation. Unfortunately, the Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns have seen serious injuries occur when individuals are just looking to relax and get away from the stresses of everyday life. What can make the whole ordeal more troubling for people injured on cruise ships is navigating through maritime law and wondering if there is any legal help for them.
If you have been injured on a cruise ship or plan to take a cruise in the near future, it is important to know a little bit about the legal options available to you concerning injuries and accidents on a cruise. It is the duty of the operator of the ship you were/are on to exercise care during the cruise to ensure the safety of everyone on board. Should they fail to do so, they can be held liable for injuries and accidents if it is proven the accident occurred through negligence or their actions.
Filing a Claim for Damages
As a general rule, the ticket you purchased will have the majority of the information you need regarding the liability of the operator. The ticket acts as a legal contract in these scenarios and buying it equates to legally consenting to the terms it lays out.
Some of the items you may find outlined on the back of your ticket include a limited liability waiver, a notice-requirement clause, and a forum-selection clause.
The forum-selection clause indicates the state where a lawsuit will be filed, which will usually be Florida, as this is where many cruise ship companies have their headquarters. Many injured passengers think the location of an incident or their state of residence determines the site of any legal proceedings but that is not the case.
A notice-requirement clause creates a time window to start the process of filing claims for damages. Maritime law gives three years for these types of claim. However, a notice-requirement can greatly reduce the amount of time passengers have to pursue the matter, with 180 days a common cutoff for putting a company on notice concerning physical injuries. For non-physical injuries, the window is often much shorter to notify a company; sometimes you are only provided a few days to do so.
Finding an Operator Negligent or Acting with Intent
As mentioned above, it will be necessary to prove that an unsafe environment led to the injury/accident and that the ship’s operator knew or should have known about the situation.
Finding a ship operator negligent in maritime law comes down to whether a “reasonably careful” operator should have been aware of the conditions or hazard that led to a passenger being injured. The law is structured with the understanding that even the best and most diligent of operators cannot possibly account for every potential danger to those on board their ships.
One commonly cited example of a situation that the captain of a cruise ship would be responsible for would be a passenger falling overboard while leaning on a rusted railing. The integrity of the ship falls under their responsibility and must be maintained.
But if the ship ran into rough weather conditions or other natural events, the liability for any injuries arising from proper emergency procedures would not fall on the ship’s operator.
As a plaintiff, you will need to gather the right evidence and people to support your claim. This includes witnesses from the day of the accident, expert witness, or anything that specifically highlights the failure of the operator to address the situation. One thing that is simple to look for and can prove negligence is finding that a ship’s operator was not in compliance with a regulation.
No matter what the circumstances of your injury on a cruise ship, do not give up hope. There is a legal path to recovering damages. If a cruise ship captain did not look out for your safety, you are entitled to justice.