Although vacationers may expect to soak up the sun and experience an oasis from any of their troubles, cruise ship passengers may face many of the hazards that people on land face such as vehicle wrecks, being assaulted, robbed or raped. There may also be additional external dangers such as pirates.
Though boat wrecks are less likely to occur than automobile accidents, widely-reported cruise ship disasters have made some people wary. A fire that broke out in the Triumph’s engine room disabled the vessel’s propulsion system, leaving more than 4,000 passengers stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico for about five days until the immobile ship was towed to a port in Mobile, Alabama.
Lawsuits have already been filed against the cruise line for a breach of maritime contract and negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraud and a lawsuit relating directly to physical injury from severe dehydration and bruising from long food lines.
While widely-reported cruise ship disasters may create some extra caution, they aren’t likely to stop the floating party. Many cruises leave through various ports throughout Florida and it is important for vacation-goers to know that there are avenues for recovery if they are injured while vacationing abroad.
Cruise disasters may leave you wondering what you can do to protect your rights on a cruise. To do so, it is important to pay close attention to your ticket and also be mindful of the applicable statute of limitations. While many passengers may only be looking at their tickets as a means to entry, they are also a legally binding “contract of carriage.” The tickets contain certain pre-conditions to file a suit, stipulations on where the suit may be filed, and usually a short period to provide notice of the injury to the cruise line. For example, some cruise lines may require that the injured party give notice six months before actually filing, and although the typical statute of limitations for personal injuries in Florida is four years, all lawsuits brought against a cruise line in Miami under Florida law, must be brought within one year.
Generally, a cruise ship owes its passengers a duty of safe transportation. Cruise passengers are protected from harm by maritime laws, federal regulations and state jurisdiction. A cruise ship departing from the U.S. is deemed a common carrier under the Shipping Act of 1984, 46 U.S.C. §1702(6). Common carriers owe their passengers a heightened duty of care in protecting them from physical harm and ensuring they arrive at their destinations safely. This special duty of care owed to passengers includes protection from crew members’ assaults, rapes and other criminal attacks.
The Jones Act Merchant Marine Act of 1920 – 46 U.S. Code § 30104 also provides medical assistance and living expenses to employees of cruise ships if they suffer personal injury while they are recovering. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard requires that each ship meet vessel inspection regulations under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which regulates things like crew competency, fire protection, navigation safety, environmental protection and safety management.
Florida Statute § 910.006 may offer state law enforcement special maritime jurisdiction when an offense is committed and the victim is a resident of Florida and the suspect on the ship is also a Florida resident.
If you have an injury due to neglect on a cruise, it is important to work with a law firm that is knowledgeable in maritime laws in order to help you to recover (financial compensation) for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering. To speak with an attorney about your case, please contact us.
- From 2005-2010, cruise lines carried nearly 100 million passengers with a total of 16 deaths related to marine casualties, according to Cruise Lines International Association, Inc., the world’s largest cruise association dedicated to promoting the cruise industry.
- The death toll from the Costa Concordia accident doubled that fatality number in early 2012.
- Reuters reported on Jan. 25, 2012 that “patchy safety date and poor accident reporting standards” including the lack a comprehensive, publicly available database of shipping accidents make it difficult to determine how safe the cruise industry really is.
- However, cruise passengers are more likely to get a stomach bug than getting into a shipwreck.
- In 2011, 14 outbreaks of norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness, were reported on 10 cruise ships affecting hundreds of passengers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to July 2012 issue of Travel and Leisure magazine, a few cruise safety tips include:
- Attend all safety briefings
- Study evacuation routes posted on the back of your cabin door
- Bring your own medication and supplies if you have special needs or allergies, and keep an “emergency kit” with prescriptions, cell phone, room key, glasses and copy of your passport.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often to prevent illnesses on board such as the norovirus.