Cruise Ship Accidents
An injury that occurs on a cruise ship is suffered by either a crewmember or a passenger. Crew members may have claims for compensation under the Jones Act, while passengers may have claims for compensation against the vessel owners for negligence. Whether a ship is considered a vessel is to be determined in court. The vessel status affects which law applies and the damages that may be recoverable. Once the vessel determination has been made, jurisdiction must be determined. Federal law may be applicable if your injury occurred on a vessel while on navigable waters and the law protects cruise ship passengers against injuries caused by negligence. If you have suffered an injury while aboard a cruise ship, call a maritime law attorney to discuss your possible remedies under federal law.
Liability rests with the owner of the ship. The owner owes passengers or visitors a duty of reasonable care to protect them from injury or warn them of any dangerous circumstances aboard the vessel. The dangerous circumstances must be those that are known to the ship owner or should have been known.
If the passenger was injured by a crewmember the liability may vary based on the circumstances and the court. Some courts have held that the ship owner is strictly liable for actions of its employees. This theory may be based on the vessel as a common carrier or based on agency theory. Other courts have held that there must be negligence by the carrier (ship owner) before there can be liability for any action committed by a crewmember.
A medical negligence claim differs by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, cruise ship owners have the duty to hire competent medical doctors; however, they are not liable for the treatment given by these staff members. In other courts, the cruise ship owners may be liable for the actions of their medical staff; however, it must be shown that negligence occurred in the medical treatment administered. Contact an attorney knowledgeable in maritime law to determine the applicable medical negligence law in your jurisdiction.
Defenses by Cruise Ships
According to federal law, cruise ships may have a one-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This limitation must be in the contract of passage (ticket) and the passenger must be reasonably informed of the time limit and its affects on his or her rights. It is important to have a copy of your ticket or notification of this rule and the court must find that the notice was clear and legible. Cruise ships may also have contract provisions such as choice of law, choice of venue and other forum selection clauses. It is important to speak to an attorney about provisions in your contract to determine if you have a claim.
According to the United States Code, cruise ships may also include a provision in passengers tickets that limits their liability for emotional distress or physical injury. This disclaimer is not effective if the injury is caused by negligence of the ship owner or its employees, and that negligence caused the passengers physical injury. The disclaimer is also not applicable in cases of sexual assault or rape.
If you or a loved one has been injured while aboard a cruise ship, it is important to contact an attorney knowledgeable in cruise ship litigation to determine your possible personal injury claim.
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