Cruise ships are an incredibly popular vacation choice for many people. Over 20 million people embark on a cruise each year, and over half of those people are Americans. Despite the popularity of cruise ships, the cruise ship industry only really garners the attention of the media when something goes horribly wrong, such as when the Costa Concordia sank in 2012 and when the Carnival Triumph was left floating in the Gulf of Mexico following an engine fire in 2013.
Although major cruise ship accidents like the Costa Concordia accident are not an everyday occurrence, cruise ships do present numerous dangerous circumstances. Since a cruise ship is essentially a floating city, nearly any kind of incident that can happen on land can happen on a cruise ship, from food poisoning to an incident of assault and battery. In fact, slip and fall accidents, which can happen anywhere, account for nearly half of all passenger accidents annually.
Since cruise ships are on the water, and are frequently out in the open ocean, there are an additional number of potential sources for accidents. Passengers may fall overboard or they may be injured if a high wave hits the side of the boat. Additionally, the close-quartered nature of the ship means that diseases, including the dreaded norovirus, can spread rapidly throughout the ship if the ship’s crew does not take proper precautions to contain the disease.
A cruise ship is a common carrier, and a common carrier owes a duty to all of its passengers to keep them reasonably safe from harm. This means that a cruise ship must take reasonable steps to make sure that everything on the ship is safe for passengers. Thus, while a cruise ship may not be required to absolutely prevent an unforeseeable storm from happening where the ship is, it is required to make sure that the passengers do not face any severe harm during the storm like ensuring that the furniture in the cabins will not slide around the room and slam into a passenger.
Cruise ships may attempt to limit their liability through the contracts that they have formed with each passenger as part of the ticket that the passenger purchases for the cruise. Although it may seem unfair, cruise ships can, and often do, limit their personal liability for things such as lost or damaged luggage. Cruise ships may also impose other limits on a passenger’s ability to seek compensation for the harm that they have suffered while onboard, including placing limits on where the cruise ship may be sued or whether the case must be submitted to arbitration first. Of course, if someone dies while on a cruise ship, the cruise line may be liable for their death under the Death on the High Seas Act.
Suing a cruise ship may be much more complex than suing another person. For example, the lawsuit may involve a number of different areas of law including tort and maritime law. Also, limiting clauses contained within your contract with the cruise ship may hinder your ability to sue the cruise ship.
A lawyer will be able to advise you of all of your rights in the situation, and help you navigate the process of actually filing a case against the cruise ship and other responsible parties.
Last Modified: 10-27-2015 04:02 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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