Cruises are big business. And just like with any big business, things happen and people get hurt. If you are injured due to a cruise line’s negligence while aboard a cruise, there are several important things you need to know about your cruise ship injury claim.
First of all, read your ticket.
The Cruise Line ticket contracts contain important information limiting your rights in personal injury cases. Some common limitations include:
- Requiring you to provide written notice of your intent to file a claim within 185 days of the incident. These notice provisions are legally enforceable, but there can be ways around it if you miss that deadline.
- Most tickets also require injured passengers to file suit within one year, rather than the three years usually afforded under General Maritime Law. There is virtually no way around this provision if you miss this deadline. Minors and the mentally incompetent usually have 3 years.
- Regardless of where you purchase your ticket, where you get hurt, the ship’s home port, or where you live, your ticket dictates where you can sue. Most of the large cruise lines require suit to be filed in federal court in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami). (Princess requires suit to be filed in the Central District of California (Los Angeles); Holland America requires the Western District of Washington (Seattle)).
- Cruises that don’t touch a U.S. port are subject to the Athens Convention which sets limits on the amount of money recoverable in a personal injury case.
- Deaths that occur more than a marine league (roughly three nautical miles) from shore may be subject to the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) which also significantly limits what can be recovered.
So, what cruise ship injuries can you sue for?
Pretty much anything that can happen to you in a hotel, restaurant, or amusement park can happen to you on a ship. A cruise ship is essentially an enormous hotel packed with restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, bars, nightclubs, gyms, medical facilities, water parks, and daycare centers, all rolled into one massive, single, mobile structure.
The biggest differences on cruise ships are that the ground is constantly moving, floors are often wet, and there are thousands of people packed tightly together—many of whom are spending much of their time drinking.
Cruise ship injuries include the same variety of personal injuries you can sue for if they occur on American soil:
- Sexual and physical assaults (by employees or by other passengers);
- Slip and falls / trip and falls;
- Door crush injuries;
- Accidents involving customer attractions on the ships, including water slides, zip lines, wave pools, rock walls, ropes courses, skating rinks, driving ranges—even go-karts;
- Medical Malpractice.
There are other unique issues involved in handling cruise line cases.
For one, being in federal court means things move much more quickly. Deadlines are shorter, there are a lot more things to file, and there are more pitfalls to fall into that can hurt your case if not carefully navigated. The cases are also often difficult and more expensive than an injury on land because in cruise ship cases, witnesses are spread out all over the world, and the ships are always moving. You should also expect a formidable defense. Because most cruise ship cases have to be filed in Miami, the cruise lines have a stable of law firms that do nothing but defend cruise line cases.
If you or a friend or family member has been injured while riding as a passenger on a cruise ship, time is of the essence. Call Rafi Law Firm to speak with an Atlanta cruise ship attorney today.