Injured on a Cruise Ship? Here’s What You Need to Know

When you purchase a ticket as a cruise ship passenger, you’re already entering a contract. Although most passengers never read it or even see it, the ticket serves as a contract where the cruise line accepts a duty of care for your safety on the ship.

Causes of Injuries

Cruise passengers are injured in many different ways. For passengers that need wheelchair assistance, the wheelchair attendant is often untrained. Even more, this attendant is not actually employed by the cruise line. The attendant usually only gets a two-minute safety lecture and is then entrusted to the passenger in the wheelchair. Often there are ridges, seams, and/or uneven surfaces that can cause accidents. We have had clients who were tossed out of wheelchairs with a catastrophic injury after flying through the air.

Therefore, when your attorney files a suit, he has a limited time to identify the employer of the person who failed to use adequate care for your safety. We know this from experience.

Wheelchair Injuries

In recent years, there have been injuries suffered from wheelchair attendants’ inability or lack of training or negligence in the operation of the passenger’s wheelchair. There are many types of wheelchairs, which each have special purposes for special needs.

The most common wheelchair accident occurs when the passenger is tipped from the wheelchair upon reaching a rough surface or a ridge or ledge. The cruise line and cruise ship have the duty to provide safe ingress and egress and to eliminate areas where the tipping of a wheelchair could occur. Often these areas are not easily identifiable. However, the wheelchair attendant must be familiar with the area and conditions likely to tip a wheelchair.  

When this occurs, the passenger may be tipped or catapulted when the wheels are stuck and the top and back of the wheelchair flies forward. The impact is increased by physics when the top of the wheelchair is thrown forward at a greater velocity than the seat of the wheelchair. The velocity with which the passenger hits the floor causes serious injury.

Standards for Cruise Ship Safety

The cruise lines themselves adopt worldwide standards. The violation of one or more of these standards does not translate to a successful claim in each incident. The cruise line counsel will argue it is your fault or that someone else or some other corporation was at fault. The American National Safety Institute has standards for product labels in A.N.S.I. Z 535. OSHA has standards which apply in many instances even though they are not cruise ship oriented.

The cruise line is required to use caution and diligence, free from negligence, for your safety. A passenger who has slipped on a wet floor may not have a claim unless the floor surface was known to be dangerous when intrusion of water could be expected. There is an effective process for calculation of the slippery nature of the floor through measurement of the coefficient of friction. This should be calculated as soon as possible after the fall.

Sutton Law Group is experienced with these claims and diligently works with its nurse and medical experts so as to explain the impact of the failure of the cruise line wheelchair attendant to use due care in the operation of the wheelchair.

What is a Venue Selection Clause?

Most cruise lines have a venue selection condition in the contract. More than one well-known cruise line insists that the venue for a claim be in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Most often the passenger is from another jurisdiction and is a citizen of another state and can allege “diversity of citizenship” and a claim for more than $75,000 to create jurisdiction and venue in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

It is a bad decision to file suit in a venue or court which is not identified in the passenger cruise contract, which many passengers do not read. Nearly all cruise lines insist the claim be reported in writing within 60 days from the date of the accident or incident and that suit be filed in the proper jurisdiction within one year. The local statute of limitations is far longer but does not apply. Passengers who have a serious claim, or any claim, must not wait until the last minute.  Although Sutton law Group has moved quickly enough to file such a claim in the right jurisdiction within five days before the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations, this is not a preferred approach.

What You Need to Know About Excursion Claims

Each cruise line contract comes with excursion providers to take cruise passengers on an excursion. These excursions are graded with a level of difficulty. These excursions may range from low-level of risk or exertion to a high level of risk or exertion. The cruise line will promote the excursions but will disavow liability for the excursion operator.

The cruise line benefits from the sale of excursion tickets. Therefore there are rarely warnings of the known dangers of certain excursions. Needless to say, there is a variation in difficulty and exertion and certain excursions are quite dangerous. The excursions are sold on the cruise line website or sometimes on the ship. The most important word is “caution” for the passenger.

Important Things to Be Aware of:

The ticket, sometimes called by different names, includes restrictions, such as:

  • You must usually put the cruise line on notice of your claim in writing within sixty (60) days. The ticket shortens the time within which you must file a claim.  
  • All claims must be filed in the proper Court with the proper case number before one year.  
  • The cruise line commonly restricts the venue for claims. This is most usually in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Some cruise lines require suit to be filed in Los Angeles, i.e. United States District Court for the Middle District of California.
  • If you have a claim as a passenger and do not file it within one year, with the assurance of a case number, your claim will likely be barred.

Seek Legal Assistance

Have you been injured on a cruise ship? It’s important to act now to preserve your claim. If you have any questions and seeking legal help, Sutton Law Group is here to assist you. Please contact us at (305) 667-4481.

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Sutton Law Group

Sutton Law Group is a full-service, multidisciplinary law office serving clients in and around Miami, Florida. Established in 1985, we are trusted legal advisors and advocates in complex and even life-changing legal actions.

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