What To Do After Being Injured On A Cruise Ship | Step By Step
Have you or a loved one been injured while on a cruise ship? If so, you're not alone. Accidents can happen even in the most controlled environments, and cruise ships are no exception. The good news is that you have legal rights and options to seek compensation for your injuries. Admiralty law, also known as maritime law, applies to accidents and injuries that occur on cruise ships, and our team of experienced attorneys is here to help you understand your rights and options for recovery.
Whether you need help filing a lawsuit or simply need guidance on how to proceed, we're here to provide the simple steps to follow after being injured to protect your rights to secure the compensation you deserve.
7 Steps To Do If You're Injured Aboard A Cruise Ship
Engaging a lawyer who specializes in pursuing legal claims against cruise lines would undoubtedly be the best course of action after being hurt while aboard a ship. However, before seeking assistance from an attorney, there are seven steps you can follow if you or a loved one is injured and are still aboard the vessel.
1. Report The Accident Immediately
In the event of an accident at sea, it is crucial to report the details of how and what caused your injury, and most importantly, that you were injured. Reporting your incident will generally trigger an investigation by the ship's authorities. According to United States Coast Guard Regulations, certain forms and investigations must be carried out if an injury requires medical treatment beyond first aid. Failure to report your injury or lack of reporting could potentially make it difficult, if not legally impossible, to prove your claim and the cruise liner's negligence.
To ensure your cruise ship accident injury claim is properly reported and investigated, it is recommended to report it to someone who works for the cruise line and holds investigating authority, such as the ship's safety or security officer. Be honest and provide clear information about how the accident occurred, the reasons you believe you were injured, and the cruise ship's failure that contributed to your injury. Take note of as many details as possible about the conditions you observed, but do not assign or accept blame for the incident. If possible, obtain copies of any reports and forms you are asked to sign and fill out.
2. Seek Medical Attention From The Onboard Medical Center
For passengers or crew members who sustain injuries while still on board and in navigable waters, this typically involves seeking medical treatment at the ship's medical center. This also presents an opportunity to document the incident and explain the mechanisms that contributed in causing the incident.
It is common for the ship's medical center to charge passengers in order to discourage them from seeking medical help, particularly as a defense against claims that the cruise ship was negligent. Do not be intimidated by the fees. If their negligence caused or contributed to your injuries, this expense is likely to be reimbursed in the future.
Neglecting to seek medical assistance on board is also a frequent defense raised by cruise lines to avoid paying for damages and losses when a claim for a cruise ship injury is made.
3. Get Copies of Your Medical Records and Reports
Following an incident and reporting your complaints to the cruise ship medical staff, it is highly advisable for both injured passengers and crew members to request copies of their medical records, forms, and other related documentation from the vessel. After receiving necessary medical care, it is crucial to take additional steps to safeguard your legal rights.
4. Get a Copy of The Incident Report
After an injury or accident ship employees are trained to investigate what transpired and draft a passenger injury statement forms called and "incident report". During the shipboard investigation, it is crucial to tell the investigating officer about what happened to the best of your ability and without exaggeration. If possible, record the conversation. If defective equipment was involved, explain to the officer how it contributed to the incident. If you slipped and fell on a wet floor, write that down in your passenger injury statement.
Be cautious about what you say because the ship safety or security officer will use the information to create an incident report similar to a police report, capturing the "who, what, where, when and how" of the incident. However, don't expect to receive a copy or for it to provide all the facts.
Many injured passengers are surprised to learn that federal maritime law does not require the disclosure of cruise ship written reports and internal investigative materials. However, injured passengers are legally entitled to a copy of their recorded statements, medical records, and incident report. You will likely need to formally request them from the cruise line, which can be done through an attorney representing passengers for cruise ship negligence. It is advisable to make this request before disembarking, and our law firm recommends contacting a cruise ship lawyer in Florida to assist in gathering these vital documents if you were injured.
5. Take Photographs and Video on The Scene
Nowadays, nearly everyone possesses a cell phone equipped with a camera. It is advisable to utilize this technology to capture photographs and videos of any shipboard accidents that occur. In case of injuries resulting from slips, trips, or falls, it is recommended that photos of the area's conditions be taken promptly. Such photographs should show the floor surface, evidence of wear and tear, ambient lighting conditions, weather conditions, traffic, caution signs, wet floor signs, or any other signage (or lack thereof), and any other factors that may be relevant to how the injury occurred.
If the injury resulted from tripping and falling, photographs of the tripping hazard should be taken. If the injury was caused by a mechanical malfunction on the vessel, photographs of the hazard or any equipment involved should be taken. If you believe that pictures alone are insufficient in capturing the layout of the ship's surface or conditions, it may be worthwhile to record a video of the area.
At Sneed & Mitchell, our personal injury lawyers specialize in cruise ship and regularly handle cases against all of the major cruise lines. We always advise victims of cruise ship injuries to take as many pictures as possible to protect their legal rights. However, if you or a loved one suffered a serious injury on a cruise and did not take these steps, there's no need to panic. We can still assist you, but don't delay and contact us today.
6. Take Pictures of Your Injuries
Ensure that you take high-resolution pictures of any cuts, bruises, or scrapes that you have sustained. If feasible, include a recognizable object in the photograph to provide a sense of scale. If necessary, ask a friend or companion to take the photographs for you. This evidence is critical and must be preserved. It may take days or even weeks before your cruise is complete, and any bruises, cuts, or swelling may have disappeared by the time you return home. These injuries are essential in documenting the severity of your injuries, which may not be immediately visible and can be used as evidence to counter some of the cruise lines' defenses that your injuries are unrelated.
7. Seek Legal Counsel
Finally, due to the complex nature of the law surrounding shipboard injuries, you should talk to an experience cruise ship attorney who is experienced in dealing with the myriad variables that surround cruise ship injury claims under federal maritime law. The cruise ship accident lawyers at Sneed & Mitchell have years of experience of dealing with injured clients in cruise ship accidents and serious personal injury claims. We assist injured passengers and crew members from all over the world too. For a free consultation with a lawyer who specializes in cruise ship accident claims call us toll free at (866) 434-0014.
What to Do in the Days Following an Accident on a Cruise Ship
When you have returned home and after seeking emergency medical care if is important to continue engaging in actions that help protect your rights and determine the viability of your claim. Following are some important actions potential plaintiffs should do in the days following the incident aboard the cruise ship.
1. Read your ticket
Upon purchasing a ticket and boarding a cruise ship, passengers are consenting to adhere to the terms and conditions outlined in the fine print. These provisions can include specifications regarding the jurisdiction in which injury claims must be filed, as well as the time limit within which a victim must file a claim.
2. Write a log of the events
Once you feel clear-headed, make sure to document all of your recollections regarding the circumstances leading up to the accident. Start by recalling your actions and destination, who you were with, as well as the time of day and weather conditions. Take note of every detail that you witnessed, heard, or felt, such as jolts, impacts, and vibrations to your body immediately prior to, during, and immediately following the accident. Additionally, document any comments made by those involved in the accident or any witnesses you may have heard discussing the event. Writing this log serves as a evidence of what transpired and also will refresh your recollection in the future of the conditions aboard.
4. Watch Out For Recorded Statements
While insurance adjusters may use a recorded statement to investigate a claim arising from an offshore accident, some may use it to deny a claim or reduce the amount of the insurance settlement. Even if you have nothing to hide and are cautious, it is possible to make statements that could harm your case. The adjuster is adept at conducting recorded statements and may use trick questions intended to elicit a particular response from you. Even if you listen carefully to the questions before answering, you could still end up saying something you do not mean or underestimating the extent of your injuries and the treatment required in the future. Instead, consult with an attorney before having conversation with an adjuster or third party administrator on behalf of the cruise line.
5. Do Not Post On Social Media
A crucial guideline to follow is to avoid posting any evidence that could be used against you. In other words, do not post any information about your cruise ship accident on any form of social media, because the defense attorney and insurance company can request access to your account. They also have the right to access your public accounts to collect evidence that may be relevant to their case against you. It is a best practice to avoid social media all-together while determining if you have a valid personal injury claim.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Sue a Cruise Ship for Falls or Injuries?
Yes, it is possible to sue a cruise ship for falls or injuries. Cruise ships have a legal obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment for their passengers and crew. If you have been injured due to the negligence of the cruise ship staff or the unsafe conditions on the ship, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the cruise ship company.
To sue a cruise ship, you will need to establish that the cruise ship company breached its duty of care to you, and that this breach was the direct cause of your injuries. Examples of negligence on the part of a cruise ship company can include failing to maintain safe conditions on the ship, failing to warn passengers of potential hazards, or failing to properly train staff members.
It is important to note that filing a lawsuit against a cruise ship company can be a complex and challenging process. Cruise ship companies often have teams of lawyers dedicated to defending against these types of claims. Additionally, cruise ship contracts typically include clauses that limit the amount of time you have to file a claim and may require you to take certain steps before filing a lawsuit, such as submitting to arbitration.
If you have been injured on a cruise ship, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer who has experience with maritime law. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal process and determine whether you have a strong case against the cruise ship company.
What Are The Common Cruise Ship Passenger Accidents?
Cruise ships carry millions of passengers annually, and accidents are not uncommon. One study analyzed over 700 passengers on a cruise ship and found 663 injuries over three years, ranging from ages one to 97. The leading cause of injuries onboard were slips and falls, which accounted for 45% of injuries, with 69% of accidents occurring on land. Open wounds were the most common injury from slips and falls.
These incidents can occur due to hazards such as
Onboard or gangway surfaces that are slippery
Unsafe deck conditions such as insufficient lighting or pool overflow
Poor ship architectural design features
Lack of lifeguard staff or no lifeguard on duty
Poor maintenance of elevators, escalators, and handrails
Excursions involving parasailing, diving, snorkeling, or ziplining
Failure to take safety precautions in inclement weather
Shipboard fires or fires in cramped cabins
Negligence or misconduct by the cruise ship crew
Poorly maintained decks, floors, or amenities
Improper sanitation and hygiene practices by the crew
Medical malpractice onboard
Recreational activities such as parasailing, diving, snorkeling, or ziplining also pose risks to passengers. Fires on board, medical malpractice, and poor sanitation and hygiene by the crew can also result in injuries or illness.
Injuries on cruise ships can include
Onboard or docking slips, trips, and falls
Illness caused by unsafe pool and drinking water
Falling overboard, swimming pool accidents, and drowning
Accidents involving elevators, escalators, and handrails
Dinghy, tender boat, and automatic door accidents
Accidents during recreational activities
Spinal injuries, back injuries, and broken bones due to poorly maintained facilities
Traumatic brain injury or organ damage
Assaults by crew members or other passengers
When accidents occur due to negligence, such as a cruise line's failure to implement proper safety protocols or inadequate hiring practices without background checks, those responsible should be held accountable for the harm they caused.
What can injured crewmembers recover?
Once a crew member establishes themselves as a seaman, they gain access to all the rights of recovery and remedies provided by the Jones Act and U.S. general maritime law. This includes the vital benefits of maintenance and cure for injured crew members. Maintenance is the per diem living allowance provided to the worker, while cure covers the cost of medical care. Sick wages refer to the lost wages of the crew member. Maintenance payments are required until the crew member reaches maximum medical improvement or is capable of returning to work.
"Maintenance" and "cure" are absolute rights under the Jones Act and U.S. federal law, which cannot be waived or diminished. If a cruise ship or vessel operator fails to provide these benefits, the crew member may be entitled to additional compensation without having to prove fault. It is the owner's legal obligation to pay maintenance, cure, and sick wages whenever a crew member becomes sick or injured on the job. If an employer intentionally or arbitrarily fails to pay maintenance, cure, and sick wages, injured crew members may also be entitled to punitive damages. Attorneys' fees and punitive damages may be awarded in certain cases.
Our maritime lawyers specialize in handling these cases and are experienced in helping crew members receive the compensation they deserve.
To qualify for "maintenance" and "cure", a crew member must meet the definition of a "seaman" under the Jones Act. According to 46 USC Appx. § 688, a crew member is considered a "seaman" if they contribute to the function of the vessel, have a substantial connection with a vessel in navigation in terms of both duration and nature, and perform work activities that demonstrate they are a member of the vessel's crew. A crew member who spends 30% or more of their time "on the clock" on a vessel in navigation qualifies as a seaman.
One significant benefit of a Jones Act case is the application of strict liability in certain circumstances. If a crew member is injured due to the employer's failure to comply with a federal statute or regulation targeting crew member safety, they may recover the full amount of their damages, regardless of their own fault in the accident. For instance, if a crew member proves that they suffered $2 million in damages, but the jury found them 90% at fault in a negligence case, they would typically only recover $200,000. However, if the crew member can demonstrate that the employer violated a federal crew safety regulation, they are entitled to the full $2 million under the strict liability provisions of the Jones Act.
What damages can you get in a cruise ship accident lawsuit?
There are several types of damages that can be recovered through a lawsuit related to injuries sustained while aboard a cruise ship. These damages include:
This includes all medical expenses related to the injury, such as emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgery, medications, rehabilitation, and ongoing medical care. The injured party can recover the cost of past medical expenses as well as future expenses they are likely to incur.
Lost income and earning capacity
If the injury prevents the injured party from working or causes them to miss time from work, they can recover the wages they would have earned during that time. Additionally, if the injury results in a permanent disability that affects their ability to earn income in the future, they can recover damages for the loss of future earning capacity.
Pain and suffering
This includes compensation for physical pain and emotional distress caused by the injury. Factors that may be considered in determining the amount of damages for pain and suffering include the severity and duration of the injury, the impact it has on the injured party's daily life, and any emotional trauma resulting from the injury.
Victims of cruise ship accidents can be awarded compensation for the emotional trauma that the plaintiff has experienced as a result of the injury. Emotional distress damages can be awarded for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other emotional or psychological conditions.
Loss of enjoyment of life
This form non-economic damage is awarded to compensate the plaintiff for the loss of ability to participate in activities and hobbies that they previously enjoyed as a result of the injury.
Disfigurement and scarring
Disfigurement and scarring damage is awarded to compensate the plaintiff for any has a scars, burns, skin texture changes, amputations or a differently shaped body part that affects that person's appearance and is the direct result of the accidents. The amount of damages awarded will depend on the severity and visibility of the disfigurement or scarring. Disfigurement and scarring often results in psychological distress due to the impact victims often feel emotionally that are dealing with these complications.
This type of non-economic damage is awarded to compensate the plaintiff for any inconvenience they have experienced as a result of the injury, such as having to attend medical appointments or modify their daily routine.
Loss of consortium
If the injury affects the injured party's relationship with their spouse or partner, damages may be awarded for loss of consortium. This can include loss of companionship, affection, and sexual intimacy.
In cases where the cruise ship company acted recklessly or with intentional disregard for the safety of its passengers, punitive damages may be awarded. These damages are meant to punish the company and deter similar behavior in the future.
It is important to note that the types of damages that can be recovered may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the laws of the jurisdiction where the lawsuit is filed. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help the injured party determine what damages they may be entitled to and pursue appropriate compensation.
What Is Venue Clause and How does it effect Cruise Injury Lawsuits?
A venue clause is a provision in a contract that specifies the jurisdiction or location where any legal disputes arising from the contract will be resolved. In the context of cruise ship injuries, a venue clause typically designates a specific state or country where any legal action must be filed.
Florida is a common venue for cruise ship injury cases, as many major cruise lines are headquartered in the state and the ports of Miami and Fort Lauderdale are major embarkation points for cruises. Therefore, many cruise ship injury contracts may include a venue clause specifying that any legal disputes must be resolved in Florida.
This can have an impact on cruise ship injury cases because the laws and regulations governing personal injury claims can vary from state to state or country to country. In some cases, Florida's laws may be more favorable to injured passengers than the laws of other jurisdictions. However, it's important to note that venue clauses are not always enforceable, and a court may allow a case to be heard in a different jurisdiction if it determines that the venue clause is unfair or unreasonable.
What Are Some Of The Noteworthy Cruise Ship Incidents?
There have been several noteworthy cruise ship incidents that have occurred in the last few years, some of which have resulted in injuries, deaths, and significant property damage.
One such incident took place in September 2019, when the Norwegian Escape cruise ship was struck by a strong gust of wind as it was departing from the port of New York City. The ship was forced to return to port for repairs, and several passengers were injured during the incident. In January 2020, another Norwegian cruise ship, the Norwegian Spirit, was also damaged by high winds and rough seas while sailing off the coast of South Africa.
In February 2020, the Diamond Princess cruise ship gained international attention after it was quarantined off the coast of Japan due to an outbreak of COVID-19 on board. Over 700 passengers and crew members ultimately tested positive for the virus, and several passengers died as a result of the outbreak. The incident raised concerns about the potential for the virus to spread rapidly in the close quarters of a cruise ship.
In July 2021, the MSC Orchestra cruise ship collided with a dock in Venice, Italy, causing damage to both the ship and the dock. The incident was caught on video and quickly went viral, drawing attention to the issue of cruise ships in Venice's historic canals. The incident sparked renewed calls for restrictions on cruise ship traffic in the city.
In addition to these incidents, there have been several other high-profile cruise ship accidents and incidents in recent years, including fires, mechanical failures, and other incidents resulting in injuries and deaths. These incidents highlight the importance of proper safety protocols and emergency procedures on board cruise ships, as well as the potential risks associated with cruising.
What Dangers Do Vacationers Face On a Cruise?
While cruise vacations offer a fun and exciting way to travel, it's important to keep in mind that they come with inherent risks and potential dangers. Unfortunately, injuries, illnesses, and even deaths can occur while cruising. Some of the most common dangers that cause these issues among cruisers include:
Negligence by cruise ship staff or company representatives
Slip and fall accidents
Swimming pool accidents, including drownings and incidents involving diving boards
Elevator and escalator accidents
Toxic chemical injuries
Accidents while participating in activities sponsored by the cruise line
Broken railings and ladders that are not properly maintained
Unsecured objects falling from overhead compartments or upper decks
Cruise ship fires
If you or a loved one are injured while aboard a cruise ship, it's important to know that you have legal rights and may be able to seek damages. For more information on this topic, we encourage you to read our articles on the Death on High Seas Act and Jones Act Lawyer.
What Are The Common Injuries Aboard A Ship?
Medical injuries that can occur aboard a cruise ship can range from minor to serious and can include:
Seasickness and motion sickness
Food poisoning or gastrointestinal illness
Sunburn or heat stroke
Slip, trip, and fall injuries
Cuts and lacerations
Sprains and strains
Back and neck injuries
Cardiac events or heart attacks
Drowning or near-drowning incidents
Respiratory problems or asthma attacks
Allergic reactions or anaphylaxis
Infections or contagious diseases
Cruise ships are required to have medical facilities and trained medical staff on board to handle medical emergencies or injuries that may occur during the voyage. These facilities are typically equipped with basic medical equipment and supplies, including medication, diagnostic tools, and first aid equipment. If a passenger or crew member suffers a serious injury the ship may arrange for medical evacuation that involves using a helicopter to airlift the patient to a hospital or medical facility on shore.
Who Pays For A Passenger's Damages?
Cruise ship operators typically carry general liability insurance to cover any damages that may be incurred by passengers while on board that are the result of the company's negligence. This insurance is similar to the commercial liability insurance that businesses carry to cover accidents that occur on their premises. If a passenger suffers damages due to the negligence of the cruise ship operator, the general liability insurance will typically cover the cost of those damages.
Contact the Experienced Cruise Ship Accident Attorneys at the Law Offices of Sneed & Mitchell
At Sneed & Mitchell, a qualified cruise ship accident attorney can help you obtain the compensation you deserve following a passenger ship incident. We possess extensive knowledge and experience to determine the value of your case and will review the details carefully to provide your case with the personal attention it deserves.
When hiring a maritime lawyer from our firm, you can be assured of having an ethical and dedicated legal professional by your side. We ensure to keep you informed throughout the duration of your case and provide you with the necessary advice and support whenever needed.
Our team of award-winning team of attorneys with a proven track record of over $100 million in gross recoveries for our clients, several landmark cases that we have successfully represented, and numerous recognitions by Super lawyers, The National Bar Association, and other legal publications and review companies. Consultations with our firm are always free and we also handle each case on a contingency basis, so you pay nothing until we win your case!