Cruises are a popular vacation option any time of year, but especially during the warm summer months when families tend to get away and escape for a few days during the summer before school resumes. When embarking on a cruise, people look forward to a worry-free, relaxing time and hope the trip creates memories that will last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, though, not all cruise experiences create the right kind of memories. There might be things like having to reschedule part of the cruise or getting sea sick that makes a stress-free vacation turn into a source of frustration. What if something even more drastic happens while you are away on your dream vacation? That may be when you need the help of an attorney to determine what your rights really are.
Types of Injuries
Passengers on a cruise are not typically prepared for any health issues or injuries that may arise while traveling. Injuries that happen on a cruise may include, but are not limited to:
- Slip and Fall Accidents: A property owner has a duty to protect, or at least warn, you from defects that could cause injury. As a cruise ship ages, wear and tear can lead to a variety of dangerous conditions. These hazards may increase your risk of a slip/trip and fall accident. Things such as exposed electrical cords, damaged flooring, and poor lighting could also be responsible for an injury. Property owners are also responsible for minimizing risks that could be weather-related, such as wet, slippery surfaces.
- Food-Related Illnesses: A personal injury claim based on food poisoning may involve several different parties ranging from manufacturers to retailers. There are several different things that can cause food-related illnesses, including bacteria and viruses, toxic substances leaking into food, toxins that develop when food is expired or spoiled, and foreign objects in the food that should not be there. There is great potential for people to get hurt or sick from food, especially if it is produced in mass quantities like a cruise ship setting.
- Problems Resulting from Emergencies, Such as Fires: There have been several cases in which people have filed legal suits against cruise lines for fire emergencies. Any time the ship malfunctions and puts the passengers at risk creates the potential for a personal injury lawsuit.
- Drowning and Other Water-Related Accidents: While this situation may seem obvious when it comes to a cruise line, that is not always the case. It can involve a passenger going overboard and drowning at sea, but it can also include swimming pools and the surrounding premises. The property owner has a legal duty of responsible care to protect you from injuries. If the owner fails to fully perform that legal duty and someone is injured or drowns, then the owner is liable for the accident.
- Sexual Assault: In general, this may be any sexual act that intends to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse the sexual desire of any person. The law varies as to whether the victim is an adult or a minor. The act may have also been at the hands of a crew member or other passenger.
- Medical Malpractice: This is a specific type of injury that involves the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional. Proving this usually requires that the victim suffered due to the medical professional’s breach of professional duty. These cases may include things such as prescribing the wrong medications, providing improper treatment, reckless handling of the patient’s body, or giving the wrong medical advice.
- While these injuries can result from a variety of circumstances, they may also occur while aboard the ship or even an on a shore excursion. Whether minor or serious and life-threatening, you need an attorney who is experienced in the area to help you get the compensation you deserve for your dream trip turning into a nightmare.
Can You Sue the Cruise Line?
Because the ticket you purchased from the cruise line acts as a contract, you may be bound to certain conditions and terms listed on your ticket or supporting documents. Some of those conditions include things like:
- Whether there are any specific limits (time or jurisdiction) on your right to sue.
- Whether there are disclaimers.
- Whether you are required to alert the cruise line of your plans to sue.
Some cruise lines, for example, prohibit class-action lawsuits and claim that they are not responsible for emotional distress, mental suffering, anguish, or psychological injury under any circumstances. A lawsuit must also be able to prove negligence. That means that you must be able to prove that the cruise line did not exercise reasonable care to prevent your injury or illness.
It is also important not to wait too long to file a legal claim after you have been injured, or you may not be able to be compensated for your injuries. Each state has its own statute of limitations, which are limits as to how long you can wait before filing a lawsuit, but where you must file may be determined by the conditions and terms on your ticket or supplemental documents. The statute of limitations in Florida is four years from the date of your injury.
What Should You do if You Feel Like You Have Been Injured?
- Seek Medical Attention: Your first priority is your health. Whether you are seriously injured or not, make sure that you receive prompt medical attention. This is also an opportunity to document what happened. Even if the ship wants to charge you for this medical treatment, it will likely be reimbursed later on.
- Get Copies of Your Medical Records: After receiving treatment, be sure you get copies of any medical records, forms, and documentation that the cruise line completed.
- Report Your Accident Personal Injury Claim Immediately: After reporting an accident, this typically will result in a shipboard investigation. Your report should be made to someone with authority, usually the ship’s safety or security officer. The U.S. Coast Guard requires that certain forms and investigations are undertaken in the event of an accident or injury.
- Get a Copy of Your Passenger Injury Statement: After reporting your claim, be sure to get a copy of the statement forms and incident reports that were completed regarding your injury or accident. If there is a way to record your conversation during the reporting session with the cruise line authority, do so.
- Be Careful What You Say: An investigation will be performed, and it is important that you convey an accurate and consistent recollection of what happened. Anything you say will likely be recorded and be used against you in any claim you may bring against the cruise line.
- Be Careful What You Write: Cruise lines will typically attempt to get a statement in writing regarding what happened. Be sure you feel well enough to prepare a written statement, and do not allow a family member to write the statement on your behalf. You want to be sure that everything written is accurate because, again, the statement may be used against you in litigation.
The most important thing to do once you return home is to contact an experienced attorney like those at Brill & Rinaldi. They specialize in personal injury cases just like what you may have experienced while on your dream cruise. With offices in Miami, Daytona Beach, and Weston, Florida, they will be sure that you get the justice and compensation that you deserve.