Over 5 million cruise ship passengers cruise out of the port of Miami each year. Many sail on cruise ships like the Carnival Destiny, pictured below as its leaves Miami Beach and heads south to the Caribbean.
The majority of our articles here at Cruise Law News address current issues which occur all too often on cruise ships – like outbreaks of norovirus, shipboard sexual assaults, or passenger and crew members overboards.
But this article addresses the most common incident on a cruise ship – when a passenger slips and falls on a deck on the ship. These incidents occur literally on every single cruise. Fractured hips, broken kneecaps, displaced ankle-fractures requiring surgery . . and so forth. The accidents occur by the buffets, by the pools, in the dining rooms, on the exterior decks – everywhere.
Here are few things to keep in mind if you are a passenger injured during a cruise:
If possible, don’t let the cruise line dump you off in a port in Mexico or a Caribbean port. Its often better to tough it out a day or two and get back to a U.S. port or fly back to the U.S. as soon as reasonably possible. The surgical skills of the doctors in Mexico or the Caribbean islands are about 30 years behind U.S. standards. Hopefully, you have trip insurance and your air ambulance back to the U.S. is covered – otherwise you are looking at $30,000 out of your pocket to fly back to the States.
Obtain the names and contact information of witnesses who can verify the conditions surrounding your accident. The cruise line will never provide you with the accident report or statements of witnesses. Never. The cruise line’s lawyers will blame you. It does not matter that you sailed with Royal Caribbean 25 times and are a Diamond Club member. Once you are a liability to the cruise lines, you have not seen a worse enemy. Protect yourself.
Read the terms of your passenger ticket. There is some important information in there. Like, you have to notify the cruise line of your intention to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and disability within six months of your accident. And if you need to file a claim, there is only a one (1) year limitations period to file the claim. This is a much shorter limitations period – most states have a statute of limitations of up to four (4) years. If you snooze, you lose!
Be ready to travel to Miami for your lawsuit. All of the cruise lines have “forum selection” clauses, whereby the cruise lines require to travel to a particular location to file your claim. The cruise line is betting that you will not read the terms of the ticket and will file suit in the wrong courthouse – hopefully more than one year after your accident!. The following cruise lines require that you file suit in Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Cape Canaveral):
Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Disney (Magical Cruise Company), MSC Cruises, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, SeaDream, SilverSea, and Star Clipper.
If you file suit untimely and in the wrong jurisdiction, you will lose your rights!
For additional information, please read my interview about passenger rights – now ten years old!
Photographs Jim Walker