Rise in Popularity of Cruising Brings Rise in Accidents, Incidents, and Assaults

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

The days of only the elite being able to vacation on board cruise ships are over. Cruising has gone from a quaint business to a burgeoning industry with international reach, and is offered today at a price point that makes a cruise possible for virtually anyone. The evolution of the cruise ship industry has been fascinating to watch. It has also been very troubling to watch the problems that have arisen as the industry has become a well funded machine with considerable lobbying power and political clout. That is one of the reasons they do not have to pay United States income tax.

The roots of the modern industry can be traced to 1900. That’s when the first vessel was built whose primary purpose was not point A to point B ocean transport, but leisure travel.
The cruise ship industry was relatively obscure until the 1980’s, and had, at that time, been given a considerable boost by the television program “Loveboat.”

The early days of cruising featured much smaller ships. With a limited number of people aboard, there were only so many possible suspects for crimes. Nowadays, cruise ships are floating cities in which you can do just about anything– including some activities you can’t do in many land jurisdictions– like gambling.

Now, Carnival cruise lines, headquartered in Doral, Florida, holds just over a fifth of the worldwide market share and reported yearly revenue of $10.9 billion in 2011. There may not be another industry in the world where a company can achieve such revenue and pay so little in taxes. The massive growth of cruising has exposed a number of the dangers associated with vacationing at sea: Sexual assaults, accidents, armed robberies, inadequate medical care in the event of an emergency, accidents during shore excursions, pirates, norovirus, and food poisoning.

Despite the all the bad publicity, the public has not been greatly dissuaded from cruising, according to a very interesting Harris poll. It would appear that most people believe “it can’t happen to me” when it comes to cruise accidents, incidents, crimes and sickness. The laws are changing and our clients have better recourse in righting the ship– so to speak– when bad events happen. The cases are difficult due to the advantages the cruise ship companies have historically tried to gain with fine print on the ticket, the arguments that American courts have no jurisdiction, and the general denial of any responsibility to provide care for the sick and injured. The legal standard is that the cruise lines must exercise reasonable care to furnish aid and assistance as ordinarily prudent persons would render under similar circumstances.

In many ways, the laws are based upon antiquated legal concepts that were established to regulate a very different industry, but they are changing. Our cruise injury law firm has helped shape the laws, and we have tried a number of landmark cases that have set precedent. The $50 billion+ industry has tremendous lobbying power and has constantly tried to curb passengers’ rights. They have argued against us in court that our clients had no right to sue in the United States for an accident that happened, for example, at sea or in a foreign port or on a ship that flies a foreign flag. We have been successful in these cases.

Don’t assume that cruise accidents, injuries, or crimes can’t happen to you. Take steps to keep yourself safe on vacation, and consult our cruise injury lawyers to protect your legal rights.