Cruises are enjoyable, leisurely forms of travel enjoyed by many across the country. However, these situations also come with hazards that could cause serious danger to passengers if not properly and responsibly managed by the cruise line.
If you sustained injury or illness while on board a cruise ship, you may have the ability to sue the cruise line for compensation. This will depend on several factors, including whether an individual crew member that caused the harm was an employee of the cruise line. You must also take action on your claim soon, as your ability to recover compensation does not last forever.
Common Causes of Cruise Ship Injuries
If you suffer injury or illness on a cruise ship, the cause of your condition can often be traced to human error. Cruise liners are massive operations with a number of moving parts, and if any of these are managed negligently, serious harm could arise.
Slip and Falls
Above all others, falls on decks and in cabins are the predominant cause of injuries on cruise ships. These incidents often occur in the first 48 hours that a passenger is aboard the vessel, while they are still getting acclimated to being on the water (or “getting their sea legs,” as the saying goes).
This risk is well-known to cruise lines, making them responsible for taking precautionary measures to prevent this foreseeable issue. This includes the installing handrails where necessary, making all areas of the ship accessible, and notifying passengers of particularly slippery or dangerous areas using signage.
As the COVID-19 pandemic made clear, cruise ships are ripe for the rapid spread of disease. Even for illnesses that are not airborne or spread through human contact, such as allergic reactions or food poisoning, cruise ships must be prepared to handle foreseeable medical concerns that may arise on the vessel.
This includes having the ability to provide immediate medical care for an ailing patient and providing them with the option to disembark and seek more thorough attention at a nearby hospital.
These days, the majority of major cruise lines boast a multitude of features on board the vessel, including swimming pools, rock climbing walls, rides, slides, and even skydiving. These features must be managed appropriately in order to avoid any unfortunate accidents that could leave a passenger with serious injury.
When a cruise ship makes port, the cruise line will often offer their passengers the ability to participate in promoted programs involving guided tours. These may feature activities such as hikes, bike rides, kayaking, or other forms of activity.
Depending on the nature of the relationship between the cruise line and the party offering the excursion, liability for an accident while disembarked may fall to one of a few different parties. Keep reading below for a discussion of how liability is determined for a cruise injury.
Can You Sue a Cruise Line for an Injury?
If you are contemplating a lawsuit after sustaining injuries on a cruise line, one of your first steps should be to determine who was actually responsible for causing the injury and who may be held liable. While some might think that a passenger can sue a cruise line company for any injury they sustain while on board the vessel, this is not always the case.
Any injury resulting from cruise operation negligence likely creates liability for the cruise liner. However, this becomes a little more complicated when the cause of the injury was the behavior of an individual crew member.
Under the legal doctrine known as “vicarious liability,” employers are liable for harms resulting from the negligence of their employees, but only if their negligent behavior occurs within the scope of their employment. In other words, if the employee does their job negligently and causes an injury, the employer will be liable. There are two complications to this formula that are particularly relevant for cruise ship injuries.
First, not every crew member is an “employee.” Some who work on cruise ships are technically classified as “independent contractors,” who do not create vicarious liability for the cruise ship, as they are technically self-employed. This is often the case for the physician on board, so you likely must sue the individual doctor, rather than the cruise line, for medical malpractice on board the vessel.
Second, the law is less clear about what happens when a crew member employee causes an injury intentionally, such as through physical or sexual assault. Whether such a situation would create liability for the cruise ship will depend on a number of factors, including the jurisdiction and recent developments in case law.
In any case, you should always discuss your potential ability to file a lawsuit against a cruise line or another party with an experienced cruise ship injury lawyer.
How to Sue a Cruise Line for Injuries
If you have valid grounds to pursue a lawsuit against a cruise line for causing your injury or illness, you must follow the instructions for litigation or arbitration featured on the back of your cruise ticket. These lay out not just where you can sue the cruise line, but how long you have to do so.
This is a critical issue for potential cruise ship injury plaintiffs. Cruise ship injuries often have the shortest applicable time frame for suing. Additionally, many cruise ships require that injury victims provide notice of their intention to pursue a legal claim. The means by which you provide notice and the length of time you have to do so vary depending on the cruise line.
If you are not sure what notice and time limit requirements your case is facing, you should seek out help from a cruise ship injury lawyer as soon as possible.