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Injured On A Cruise - The Rules Have Changed

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If you have booked a cruise as a part of your summer vacation plans, you are probably thinking about all of the fun you are going to have. The last thing you are probably considering is what will happen if you are injured while you are on the ship. Unfortunately, as large as the ships are, and as many people as they hold, accidents do happen. While some minor accidents may only require a simple band-aid, others may be far more serious. Before you pack your bags, stop and ask yourself what options will you have for treatment if you happen to be the one who is involved. What you find out may surprise you.

Accidents Happen

There are many combinations of events which take place on a cruise ship every day that makes this venue the perfect place for an accident. Wet decks combined with alcohol, make this location the perfect place for an unintentional slip and fall. While this is probably one of the most common accidents seen by medical personnel aboard a cruise ship, it is by far not the only one. Common cruise ship injuries include:

  • Broken bones
  • Food borne illnesses
  • Injuries caused by improper maintenance
  • Injuries caused by water
  • Injuries caused by fire
  • Sexual assaults
  • Physical assaults from other passengers, as well as from cruise employees, and more

While you may be thinking these things could not possibly happen to you, think again. Knowing your rights if you find yourself injured could make the difference in you getting the treatment you need, without having to incur an expense to do so.

What The Law Says

When you pay for a cruise you enter into a contract with the cruise line. As a result of this contract, there may be certain stipulations you must abide by if you are injured, or if you want to file a lawsuit against the cruise line pertaining to your injury. For years, cruise lines have fallen under Federal General Maritime Law, or Admiralty Law. Cruise lines often hid behind the Barbetta rule, which gave shipowners immunity to being sued for medical malpractice.

Even under these laws, as well as contract laws, cruise lines have been permitted to create their own rules within their contracts such as requiring you to file under certain jurisdictions, such as Florida, even though you may live in, as well as cruised out of a port in New York. The cruise lines may also have limited the window of time you may file a suit, as well as requiring that they be notified prior to your filing. These additional guidelines often discourage many passengers from pursuing a lawsuit against the cruise line, but it does not mean they cannot be successfully sued.

This proven in the case of Patricia Franza v RCCL (Franza). In this case the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling and found that medical personnel aboard the cruise ship did have an agency relationship, and were members of the ship's crew. This made the cruise line liable for the actions of their medical personnel. This ruling has opened the door for passengers to pursue the cruise line directly for allegations of medical malpractice. 

What Do You Need To Do?

If you are injured while you are aboard a cruise ship, or even on a shore excursion, it is important that you go to sites and take steps to ensure you are protected.

  • Report any injury incurred to the appropriate personnel on board as soon as possible.
  • Document your injuries by filling out any accident and injury report form you may be given.
  • Take pictures of the injury, as well as any conditions which may have caused your injury.
  • Gather the name, address, and contact information of any witnesses to your accident.
  • Record the name of any cruise personnel who are involved with the reporting, and treatment of your injuries.
  • Report your injury to your travel agent upon returning home.
  • Maintain copies of your tickets, contracts, and all correspondence that take place between you and the cruise lines.

One of the most important steps you will need to take is contacting a personal injury attorney as soon as you return. They will be well versed in the statute of limitations you are working under, and will ensure that all steps have been taken to preserve your claim.