Did you know that cruise ship incidents, like accidents and crimes, are handled by a different legal system than those that happen on dry land? This area of law is called admiralty law and impacts almost all vessels on waterways in the United States. Hundreds of incidents happen each year onboard cruise ships, many of which were heard in admiralty courts.

Cruise ships are governed by these laws and have particular guidelines when it comes to passengers and what they are responsible for providing. This is often referred to as Common Carrier Liability or cruise ship liability.

Cruise Ship Liability Defined

Cruise ship operators are responsible for caring and respecting passengers who are traveling with them and ensure each person arrives at their ports of call. While onboard, passengers should expect the operator to reasonably protect them from injury and crime, or anything else that could bring harm to them during their vacations.

Anyone who wishes to pursue legal action against a cruise operator will be tasked with proving negligence or how the operator demonstrated willful intent to cause harm. For example, if you were injured by a piece of metal that fell off the ceiling, you and your maritime attorney would have to provide evidence that the cruise operator failed to maintain that area of the ship properly.

Another example might be if you got sick onboard, you would need to provide evidence that crew members were negligent in their food preparations which resulted in your illness. As you might conclude, these legal cases are not easy, but an admiralty lawyer can guide you in this process and uncover the cruise ship’s liability in your particular case.

A Deeper Look at Negligence in Crusie Ship Liability Cases

It’s true, cruise operators are ready to fight lawsuits citing they can’t possibly be liable for unforeseen dangers to passengers. This is why having a maritime lawyer who is experienced in cruise ship liability cases is so critical. These legal professionals are knowledgeable about how operators use the maritime legal system in their favor, to avoid financial compensation to passengers. Some cases are simple accidents that can’t possibly be detected before they happen, but many others are a failure of proper maintenance, security or regulatory measures, and cruise operators should be held liable for these actions.   

Negligence is proven with careful consideration of the details of your case and discovering the small nuances that might be the difference between actionable legal claims or a dismissable. A maritime lawyer will find the facts, witnesses, and evidence to support your case in a cruise ship liability claim, to give you the best possible outcome.

Passenger Liability

Your ticket for a cruise is your contract with a cruise operator and often protects them more than it does you. In most cases, this will never be an issue, and you will have a fantastic vacation that you’ll likely want to repeat in the future. However, when an accident takes place, this “contract” can deter many from taking legal action.

You have your own set of responsibilities that you must adhere to, which might come as a surprise if you have landed in the ER. For example, a cruise operator might not be liable for injuries that you have incurred while on a shore excursion. Many cruise ships only work with shore excursion operators that carry their own liability insurance. Further, if you receive treatment onboard for an injury, the medical staff serving you might be independent contractors. These professionals are often not a part of your cruise contract and operate under their own liability. An admiralty lawyer can help you determine the details of your case and explain how these situations can be fought from a legal perspective.

Ticketed passengers have a statute of limitations in accordance with maritime law, this is usually about a 3-year window. Unfortunately, your cruise contract may state otherwise and require you to take legal action within a year, or less, if you find yourself injured.

Cruise Ship Liability and Employees

On the other side of the cruise ship equation are those who work for the operator. These individuals often have significant job duties, aside from ensuring passengers are cared for appropriately. When a crew member is injured onboard, they should feel confident that their employer has their best interests in mind without worry of losing their job. If you have been injured onboard while working, you are entitled to what’s called ‘maintenance and cure’ benefits by your employer.

Whether you are a passenger or a crew member, you have legal rights that should be pursued, but navigating them on your own might prove detrimental to your case. At Madalon Law, we are highly experienced in cruise ship liability and would be happy to listen to the details of your claim. Contact our offices today so we can start working immediately for you and pursue justice in your legal situation.