Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries: Understanding Passengers’ and Families’ Legal Rights

Jul 1, 2023 | Boating Accidents

Going on a cruise is supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime. Unfortunately, too often, passengers are forced to remember their cruises for all the wrong reasons. Accidents on cruise ships and during shore excursions are alarmingly common, and many passengers and families need to take legal action to recover their losses.

If you or a loved one has been injured on a cruise, there is a lot you need to know. For now, though, the most important thing you need to know is that you can—and should—hire a lawyer to help. Cruise lines can be held liable for passengers’ injuries in various circumstances, and an experienced maritime negligence lawyer can help you seek the total compensation you and your family deserve.

10 Important Facts About Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries

Here are ten more important facts passengers and their families need to know about cruise ship accidents and injuries:

1. Cruise Lines Can (and Should) Be Held Liable for Passengers’ Injuries in Many Cases

Like all companies, cruise lines have a legal duty to ensure their business premises are safe for their customers. Not only do they have a legal duty to ensure that their cruise ships are designed and constructed safely, but they must also conduct adequate maintenance, security, and supervision.

Despite these legal duties, safety hazards on cruise ships are common. Cruise lines also recommend unreasonably dangerous shore excursions. If a cruise line is indirectly responsible for a passenger’s injuries, the cruise line may be liable under maritime law.  

2. Cruise Passengers Regularly Suffer Injuries in a Wide Range of Circumstances

Cruise lines’ negligence can lead to various safety hazards onboard, on the water, and onshore. As a result, passengers can (and do) suffer injuries in a wide range of circumstances. Some common examples of accidents for which cruise lines can often be held liable include:

  • Slips and trips on deck, in cabins and staterooms, and restaurants and other common areas
  • Falls from height (including falls overboard)
  • Swimming pool, wave pool, and water slide accidents
  • Roller coaster, climbing wall, and other on-deck activity accidents
  • Physical and sexual assaults by crew members and other passengers
  • Embarking, disembarking, and tender accidents
  • Accidents during shore excursions

Again, these are just examples. If you or a loved one has been injured on a cruise, it will be worth speaking with a lawyer about your legal rights.

3. Medical Malpractice in the Cruise Ship’s Infirmary is a Concern As Well

When you get injured during a cruise, you may have no option but to seek treatment in the ship’s infirmary. Unfortunately, medical malpractice in cruise ship infirmaries is also a real concern. If you seek treatment on a cruise ship and do not get the medical care you need, this can also potentially give rise to a claim. Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, delayed treatment, and improper treatment are all forms of medical malpractice that can put cruise passengers at risk for unnecessary complications.

4. Cruise Ticket Waivers Don’t Protect the Cruise Lines in All Cases

When you purchase a cruise ticket, you sign a contract that waives your rights. This is true whether you realize it or not. But, your cruise ticket contract does not waive all of your rights—and cruise lines cannot insulate themselves from liability for their negligence.

Many cruise passengers assume that their ticket waiver prevents them from filing a claim for an injury onboard. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Even if your ticket purports to waive your rights, you may still be entitled to file a claim under maritime law. As a result, regardless of what your ticket waiver says about suing the cruise line, you should still talk to a lawyer about filing a claim.

5. There Are Several Ways to Prove a Cruise Line’s Liability

If you have a claim against a cruise line, you must be able to prove liability to recover just compensation. Fortunately, there are several ways to prove a cruise line’s liability—whether an accident happens onboard, on the water, or land.

From surveillance camera footage to other passengers’ cell phone footage, many accidents (and their aftermath) will be caught on video. Passenger testimony can also serve as key evidence in lawsuits against cruise lines. If your lawyer can investigate the accident scene, this investigation may uncover additional evidence of liability as well. Maintenance records, crew records, medical records, and various other forms of documentation can also be used to establish cruise line liability in many cases.

6. You Should Do What You Can to Document the Accident

While several forms of evidence may be available to prove your claim, it is a good idea to do what you can to document the accident as well. For example, if you still have access to the accident site, you should take many photos and videos with your phone. If you can’t, that’s okay. But, if you can, this could help your lawyer assess your legal rights and determine other evidence sources.

7. You Should Also Document the Costs of Your (or Your Loved One’s) Injuries

Along with documenting the accident (if possible), you should also start taking steps to document the costs of your (or your loved one’s) injuries. Under maritime law, cruise ship accident victims and their families can recover just compensation for all of their financial and non-financial costs—both current and future. With this in mind, you should start collecting all medical and employment records related to your (or your loved one’s) injury, and you should keep track of how the accident impacts not only your vacation but also your everyday life back on land.

8. You Should Not Let the Cruise Line Tell You What to Do

The cruise line usually tries to intervene after an accident during a cruise. If representatives from the cruise line contact you, you should not let them tell you what to do. They have the cruise line’s best interests in mind—not yours—and if you follow their advice, you could make it harder for yourself to recover the financial compensation you deserve.

9. Maritime Cases Are Very Different from “Ordinary” Personal Injury cases

While there are some similarities, there are also many differences between maritime injury cases and personal injury cases involving “ordinary” accidents on land. As a result, you must hire a lawyer with specific experience handling cruise ship accident cases. You need a lawyer who understands the maritime laws that apply, knows how to investigate cruise accidents, and can use his or her experience to help maximize your chances of a full financial recovery.

10. You Can Hire a Lawyer to Handle Your Claim at No Out-of-Pocket Cost

Hiring a lawyer to handle your claim against a cruise line costs nothing out-of-pocket. Our firm (like others) handles cruise ship accident cases on a contingency-fee basis. This means that you pay nothing upfront while your claim is pending and nothing at all unless we help you recover just compensation. If your claim is successful (whether you accept a settlement or win a verdict in court), our legal fees will be calculated as a percentage of your award. We will fully disclose our fee structure to you at the outset of our representation.

What You Should Do After an Accident During a Cruise

While we’ve discussed some of the steps you can take to help your lawyer prove your claim above, there are some additional steps that you should try to take as soon as possible. For example, to protect your legal rights after a cruise ship accident, you should:

  • Prioritize Your (or Your Loved One’s) Medical Care – Any time you deal with a traumatic injury, obtaining medical care should be your top priority while you may have no choice but to see one of the ship’s doctors while at sea, you should see your doctor as soon as you get back to land.
  • Take Detailed Notes – Along with taking photos and videos of the accident site (if possible). It would be best if you also took detailed notes. Write down everything you can remember about the accident. Where and when did it happen? Why did it happen (if you know)? Were any crew members or other passengers present? What did the cruise line do after the accident? These are all details that could be important for determining your legal rights.
  • Locate Your Cruise Ticket Contract – Now is an excellent time to locate your cruise ticket contract. If you purchased your ticket online, you most likely have a copy of the terms and conditions in your inbox. If you can’t find it, that’s okay—your lawyer will be able to track it down later. But, it can be helpful to have it available for your free initial consultation.
  • Avoid Discussing the Accident – At this point, you should avoid discussing the accident with anyone. Don’t discuss it with the cruise line’s representatives, don’t discuss it with other passengers, and don’t post about it on social media. Keep the details to yourself. That way, the cruise line won’t have an opportunity to try to use your own words, photos, and videos against you.
  • Talk to a Maritime Negligence Lawyer – Whether you are still on the cruise or back on land, you should promptly talk to a maritime negligence lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to guide you through all of the steps you need to take and explain additional actions you need to avoid. By contacting a lawyer promptly, you will also give your lawyer the best chance to preserve any physical evidence of liability. Along with seeing a doctor, talking to a lawyer is one of the most important steps to protect yourself and your family after a cruise ship accident.

While dealing with the aftermath of an accident can be stressful, taking action promptly can help make the recovery process as straightforward as possible. When you choose Silva & Silva, we will deal with the cruise line while you focus on your (or your loved one’s) recovery, and we will do everything we can to help you recover maximum compensation as quickly as possible.

Speak with a Maritime Negligence Lawyer at Silva & Silva for Free

Were you or a loved one injured during a cruise? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact us right away. To speak with a lawyer at Silva & Silva in confidence as soon as possible, call 305-445-0011 or tell us how we can reach you online now.