Like their counterpart businesses on shore, cruise line companies are legally liable for negligent acts of their employees and the company itself if they lead to the injury of individuals on their premises. Because of their nature, a cruise ship has most of the same risks an entertainment venue on land does, as well as a number of potential hazards that are specific to the ship environment and the sorts of medical care that is available to passengers. Personal injuries like slips, trips, and falls are common occurrences, along with issues caused by the maintenance of the ships, and illnesses that can become prevalent in an enclosed environment with a high population. And, for several reasons, litigation against a cruise line is inevitably a complicated and difficult route to recovery.
Issues With Jurisdiction
Cruise ships travel between countries on the ocean. Because of this, if an accident occurs the location where an injured party can bring a lawsuit, and the type of law that will be controlling to the procedures involved, is not always straightforward. Accidents that occur in a home port in the United States, such as cruises based out of the Miami area in Florida, will probably be able to be litigated under the laws of the state where it occurred, making it a much simpler issue.
If, however, a passenger is injured while the cruise ship is docked in another country, or an incident occurs while the passenger has debarked on foreign soil, they may have to locate an attorney with the knowledge, experience, and necessary legal admissions to pursue the case in a foreign court under foreign laws.
And, if the injury occurs while at sea, the injured party may have to seek recovery under Maritime or Admiralty law, yet another set of rules and regulations largely established and controlled by the International Maritime Organization.
Another difficulty in bringing suit against a cruise line operator is the terms of the boarding pass contract. Cruise lines have figured out that by including a variety of agreements in their sales contracts they can greatly limit a potential plaintiff’s abilities to successfully pursue legal recourse against the cruise line company.
There are a number of rights that a passenger agrees to limit or waive outright when purchasing a ticket on a cruise ship. These usually include clauses such as:
- Specifying the court and set of laws that will be used in the event of a lawsuit. (Usually it will be a court in Florida, likely in Miami.)
- Reducing the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit against the company, sometimes to as little as six months to a year.
- Requiring passengers to give the cruise line company notification of the intent to file a lawsuit, sometimes as much as six months in advance.
- Allowing the cruise company to change or cancel routes and ports of call, or even substitute alternate cruise ships for a given trip.
- Severely limiting the maximum financial liability in the event of property damage, personal injury, or even the deaths of passengers.
- Waiving or severely limiting a passenger’s right to sue for mental distress, discomfort, and other punitive damages that often make up the majority of a recovery in a personal injury case.
Experienced Cruise Line Litigators
Due to both potential jurisdictional issues and boarding pass contracts written to severely stack the deck against passengers in legal proceedings, personal injury litigation against a cruise line company is a very specialized area of practice. If you have been injured while on a cruise, it is in your best interests to seek representation by a law firm that has the knowledge and experience to successfully recover for your damages in this difficult field. Contact an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer today.