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Cruise Ships: The Perfect Vacation or an Accident Waiting to Happen?

November 29, 2021
Colson Hicks Eidson

Cruises are advertised as the perfect all-inclusive family vacation – all the fun, all the food, all the time. Cruise ships are a floating paradise – right? As long as everything goes according to plan, cruises can be a great way to vacation. But keeping all those wonderful amenities going and looking out for the welfare of thousands of people contained in a vessel surrounded by the ocean is quite a large responsibility.

Because it is such a challenging undertaking, cruise ships can fall short of doing all they should ensure the safety of passengers. Passenger incidents and accidents have occurred that range from relatively minor to extremely serious – including death.

Located in the city with the busiest cruise port in the world, the Miami law firm of Colson Hicks Eidson has represented many clients injured during cruise ship voyages. Our Florida cruise ship accident attorneys hold cruise ship companies accountable for injuries caused by failure to adequately provide for passenger and crew safety.

What Can Go Wrong on a Cruise Ship

Cruise ships are self-contained floating communities with thousands of people depending on them to provide the necessities they expect and the amenities they were promised. When things go wrong a lot of people can be negatively affected.

Incidents and accidents that happen on cruise ships include:

  • Mechanical issues: Sometimes equipment is not well maintained or inadequate for current use. Fires are not uncommon and can result in power outages. Unexpected bad weather at sea or collisions with underwater objects can damage systems and shut down operations.
  • Illness breakouts: Cruise ships carry and serve a lot of food and gastrointestinal illness breakouts can occur.
  • Crashes/collisions: Cruise ships don’t often sink but when they do it’s usually because they hit something large under the water – like a reef or an iceberg. Cruise ships have also collided with piers and other vessels.
  • Encountering bad weather: When a cruise ship is at sea, unexpected storms can create hazardous circumstances on board.
  • Falls: Slip and fall accidents are the most common cause of personal injuries on a cruise ship. Overboard falls occur but are rare – though often deadly.
  • Drowning: Most cruise ships have multiple onboard swimming pools. But few cruise ship companies have lifeguards on duty at their pools.
  • Crime: Although the incidence of crime on a cruise ship is far less than on land, sexual assault accounts for over 50% of the cruise ship crimes reported to the FBI. Theft is the second most reported crime.

How the Laws Apply to Cruise Ship Accident Injury Claims?

When injuries occur onboard a cruise ship, there are a number of different laws that may govern the determination of responsibility and how those injured can be compensated. The applicable laws depend on where a cruise ship is located when an accident takes place. Cruise ship tickets also govern responsibility in certain situations and how injury claims can be made.

A cruise ship’s distance from land when an accident occurs typically determines the law that will apply to a personal injury claim.

  • When accidents occur within 24 miles of a country’s coastline, that country’s law typically applies.
  • When accidents occur further than 24 miles from any coastline, the law of the country that the cruise ship is registered in applies.

In addition, cruise ship tickets modify otherwise applicable laws in the following ways:

  • Forum selection: Cruise ship companies specify which court and what state passenger lawsuits must be filed in. Many major cruise lines specify lawsuits must be filed in federal court in Miami.
  • Notice requirement: Cruise ships specify the time period that passengers have to file a claim for damages. This period may be different – usually shorter – than allowed by other applicable laws.
  • Liability waiver: Cruise companies attempt to limit their responsibility for injuries that may occur during certain activities available during the cruise.

Resolving the issues in personal injury claims that arise from cruise ship accidents can be a complex process involving the overlap and interplay of many kinds of laws. Knowing international law and how to integrate differing laws to a client’s advantage is crucial to a successful recovery in a cruise ship accident case.

The Florida cruise ship accident lawyers at Colson Hicks Eidson have achieved successful results for clients in cruise ship accident cases. We are a nationally recognized personal injury law firm with over 50 years of litigation experience in national and international matters. Call us at 305-476-7400 to schedule a free consultation or contact us here to discuss your cruise ship accident claim.