Cruise Ship Accidents And The Liability of Common Carriers

Some of the same accidents and injuries that happen to individuals who have their feet firmly planted on dry land can also happen to those who are onboard cruise ships. Such accidents can be devastating and result in severe, life-changing injuries or even loss of life. That being the case, cruise-goers should be aware of the fact that cruise lines are governed by a specific area of law, and any passenger who has been involved in an accident while on a cruise should seek legal assistance from a knowledgeable maritime attorney as soon as possible.

Common Carriers and Their Legal Liability

Under the law, cruises that leave from U.S. waters are also known as common carriers. As a common carrier, the individual or entity that is controlling the ship will be held to an ordinary duty of care with respect to the passengers on the vessel. What this means is that cruise operators must work to reasonably ensure that all vacationing passengers arrive at their ports of call safe and sound. Simply put, the cruise liner is required and expected to reasonably protect its cruisers from physical harm and injury.

Any passenger who is seeking to make a claim against a cruise liner will have to demonstrate willful intent or negligence on the cruise liner’s behalf. Your maritime attorney will tell you that under applicable maritime law, cruise operators can only be held liable for the accidents that occur onboard the ship if the injured party can effectively demonstrate that the operator should have known or actually knew that an unsafe condition existed onboard or that the ship operators actually created the unsafe condition.

Negligence in Cruise Ship Accidents

A finding of negligence will ultimately depend on whether or not a “reasonably careful ship operator” would have known or should have known about the dangers that brought about the injury at issue or the ship operator created the dangerous condition. Unlike the legal theory of strict liability, the law provides allowances for the fact that it would be virtually impossible for cruise ship operators to foresee all hazardous conditions. In order to successfully prove one’s case, the injured party will likely need to locate any witnesses to the occurrence, as well as use expert witnesses and/or be able to provide adequate proof of the cruise operator’s negligence.

The Ticket is Essentially a Legal Contract

Information with respect to where a lawsuit may be brought and who may be sued is typically contained in the cruise ticket. Once a traveler purchases a ticket, he or she is, in essence, consenting to the terms and conditions contained therein. For instance, the ticket will likely include a requirement that injured passengers file their claims for damages within a certain period of time after the occurrence. In general, maritime law provides for a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims; however, the notice requirement clause of the ticket might actually shorten the time to one year for injuries.

If you or someone you love has experienced an accident on a cruise ship and you have questions or concerns about your options under the law, contact a maritime attorney at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. as soon as possible.