Cruise ships have become a popular vacation choice in recent years. People want to get away from the stresses of daily life for a vacation at sea. However, even though such vacations are intended to be carefree, passengers or crewmembers may still be injured aboard a cruise ship.
Most often, the ship's owners will be held legally responsible for any injuries that take place on their ship. Ship owners have a legal duty to protect persons on their ship from any known or likely dangers and to supply reasonably safe surroundings for ship patrons and staff. However, there are different laws and legal claims that may apply depending on the type of injury sustained, the circumstances surrounding the injury and the person who was injured.
Paying patrons aboard cruise ships may be injured in a variety of ways: a slip and fall; food poisoning due to tainted food served or prepared by cruise ship staff members; assault by another passenger or crew member; or and injury due to the action or inaction of a ship's medical staff member. If the passenger's injury was due to negligence, the injured party (or the injured party's loved ones) may have a claim against the owner of the cruise ship. In order to prove negligence, the injured party must prove the elements of negligence to the court: a duty running from the responsible party to the injured passenger, a breach of that duty, and an injury caused by that breach. While this may seem complex, a personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you may have grounds to file a negligence claim for your cruise ship injury.
If a crewmember was injured while working aboard a cruise ship, he or she may have a claim for damages against his or her employer - the cruise ship owner. Cruise ship staff members are protected by the Jones Act, which is a federal act that protects injured seamen and gives them a legal right to damages against their employer, if the employer's negligence has caused their injuries. An injured crewmember must prove the same elements of negligence to the court that an injured passenger must prove. If the injured party proves these elements and the cruise ship owner is held legally responsible by the court, the employer may be liable to the injured party for compensation for the damages sustained as a result of his or her injury.
What happens if a crewmember was not injured, but actually caused an injury to a fellow crewmember or passenger? This usually occurs in the context of medical negligence or battery. In some jurisdictions, if a cruise ship staff member injured another person, the owners of the cruise ship may be held liable for their employees' actions. In other jurisdictions, the cruise ship owners will not be held liable for the actions of crewmembers unless the injured party can show that the owner knew that the crewmember was violent or dangerous and did nothing to prevent the injury that occurred, or that the crewmember was negligently hired by the owner. Claims against the employer may differ depending on the facts of the case, applicable law and jurisdiction.
Contact an Attorney
Most personal injury lawsuits that stem from incidents that took place aboard cruise ships will rest on federal maritime law. However, there are some cases where state or foreign law may apply. The applicable law depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the injury. For this reason, it is important to seek a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your situation. An attorney will be able to answer any questions you may have, ascertain the applicable law in your case and help you determine which legal path is the most appropriate for you, based on your legal rights and the facts of your case.