You book a cruise and expect to experience the time of your life – a combination of luxury, adventure, fun and relaxation. But something goes terribly wrong. You suffer food poisoning, get assaulted on board the ship, or slip on some poorly maintained stairs. If these are the result of the negligence of a cruise line owner, or one of its employees or agents, the cruise line can be found liable and the injured party, or his or her loved ones are entitled to compensation.
One need not even be injured while actually on the boat. Passengers may recover when they are injured during a cruise-sponsored shore excursion, as was the case this past summer when a 36 passenger tour bus on Royal Caribbean-sponsored excursion plunged into a ditch, injuring six of its passengers.
In general, here are some things to keep in mind when you book your trip:
- Cruise Ship Liability. Cruise ship companies are obligated to protect you and the other passengers from harm and to bring you safely to your destination. They are strictly liable for foreseeable and preventable passenger injuries such as those caused by lack of security, poor medical facilities or inadequate ship maintenance. They are also vicariously liable for the acts or negligence of their crew and staff.
- Hiring Independent Contractors. By making the operators of their shore excursions independent contractors, cruise companies may often attempt to shield themselves from liability. However, cruise lines are obligated to retain competent, fully insured and properly trained contractors, and may be liable for negligence if they fail to conduct adequate background checks and ongoing assessments of their contractors’ operations. The cruise line also has a duty to warn you and the other passengers of any dangers you may encounter during your excursions.
- Onboard Activities Waivers. Federal law prohibits the use of liability waivers by cruise lines transporting passengers between U.S. ports or between a U.S. port and a port in a foreign country, regardless of whether the activity you are engaging in is inherently dangerous or not.
- Time Limits. If your passenger ticket states that lawsuits against the cruise line must be brought within one year, you will need to move quickly with your claim.
Our office has extensive experience with negotiated settlements and lawsuits against cruise ship companies for injuries and assaults sustained onboard and during shore excursions.