Who do I sue if I was injured on a cruise ship?

Q:

Who do I sue if I was injured on a cruise ship?

A:

Taking a cruise can be an exciting adventure. Unfortunately, like any vacation, there are risks and the chance of possible injury. Common injuries on a cruise ship can include slipping and falling on a wet floor, falling down poorly constructed stairs, getting injured by a fellow passenger or getting sick by consuming improperly cooked food. Whether you can sue and determining who to sue after an injury depends on a variety of factors.

Who do I sue if I was injured on a cruise ship?

To determine who to sue after a cruise ship injury, you must first determine who is responsible for your injuries. It’s important to note that not all injuries are the result of another person's or company’s negligence. In fact, in some cases, if you are solely responsible for your own injuries, there may not be anyone for you to sue.

If, however, you are injured due to the negligence of an employee of the cruise ship or because the cruise ship failed to eliminate potential hazards from their ship, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the cruise company.

However, exceptions may exist if your injuries were caused by workers who are not employees but who are considered independent contractors. For example, medical staff on the ship may be considered independent contractors. In this case, if you are injured, you may be required to file a personal injury claim against the individual(s).

What if your accident occurred off the ship while you were engaged in an excursion? In some cases, you may be able to file a claim against multiple defendants: the cruise ship company and the excursion company.

Determining whether you have the legal right to sue the cruise ship operators when you are injured during an excursion can be complicated. For example, it may depend on any number of factors: whether the cruise ship had actual or constructive knowledge of the operations or quality of the excursion, whether there was actual agency between the cruise line and the excursion operator, or whether the cruise line allowed the operator of the excursion to refer to itself as the agent of the cruise line.

Winning a Cruise Ship Claim

Unfortunately, determining who to sue does not mean that you will automatically win your injury claim. In fact, there are several elements that you must prove to win your injury claim after a cruise ship injury.

  1. First, you will have to prove the cruise ship had a duty of care toward you. The U.S. Supreme Court in Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale established that the cruise ship does have a duty of care toward its passengers. What does this duty include? Much like a store owner must take steps to ensure that their property is free from hazards, a cruise line must also maintain its ship. For example, stairs must be repaired, lights must be working and wet floors must be cleaned. The cruise line must also take reasonable care to ensure that they hire and train their employees, and that they prepare food according to industry standards.
  2. Next, you will have to prove that the cruise line breached their duty of care toward you through their negligence. The negligence does not have to be intentional, but if the cruise lines fails to exercise the appropriate level of care, they can be held liable. Specifically, they can be held liable if they created or allowed an unsafe or foreseeable hazardous condition. (Lynn Baker v. Carnival Corp)
  3. Next, you will need to prove that their breach was the proximate cause of your injuries. For example, did you fall and hit your head on the ground because the floor was wet or because you had five margaritas and ignored safety warnings from employees?
  4. Finally, you must prove that you actually suffered loss or injury. If you are not injured, regardless of whether or not the cruise ship was negligent, you do not have a personal injury claim.

Other Considerations Before Filing an Injury Claim

Before filing an injury claim for a cruise ship injury, you not only need to consider your legal right to sue and who to sue, but you also need to review maritime laws and your Passenger Ticket Contract, which can generally be found on the cruise line’s website.

Your Passenger Ticket Contract outlines the terms and conditions of passage, including the venue in which a lawsuit must be brought, notice requirements (which are generally six months from the date of the accident), and the statute of limitations for filing an injury claim. Note that the statute of limitations as outlined by the Passenger Ticket Contract may be less than the amount of time outlined under maritime law.

Given the complexity of determining who to sue and the requirements for proving your injury claim, it’s always a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer if you have questions about who you can sue after a cruise ship injury.

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Whether you're facing a legal issue or just seeking information, Justipedia aims to be your most trusted resource for legal information on the Web. With the help of legal professionals across the country, we put the law in plain language to help answer your top legal questions.

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