What Happens If You Get Injured on a Cruise Ship?


The last thing you want to happen on vacation is to get injured. Cruise ships are supposed to be safe for vacationers of all ages, but passenger injuries often keep the medical staff busy.

With cruise ships constantly providing new and extreme attractions and entertainment, passengers face numerous dangers aboard. Plus, cruise lines often allow their passengers to overindulge in alcohol. In some cases, accidents and injuries happen out on the open ocean. In a worst-case scenario, an injured passenger may be unable to get the proper treatment they need because of the remote location of the cruise ship.

An even greater danger lies in falling overboard. Because cruise ships often operate in international waters, accurate passenger injury information is hard to come by. But overboard accidents and deaths are common. So, what happens if you get hurt on a cruise ship? What if negligent operation by the cruise line is to blame for your injuries? Who do you hold responsible and how?

A personal injury lawyer who handles maritime cases can help you investigate and prove the cause of your injury. A personal injury lawsuit can get you compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. If you’ve lost a loved one on a cruise ship, you may have a claim for wrongful death.

Most Common Cruise Ship Passenger Accidents

Millions of passengers sail on cruise ships every year. One study followed a cruise ship carrying over 700 passengers and reported 663 injuries over 3 years, with victims ranging from 1-97 years old. Slips and fall incidents caused 45% of injuries aboard and 69% of accidents on land. The most common injuries from slips and falls involved open wounds.

Additionally, over 300 people have fallen overboard from cruise ships between 2000 and 2018.

Hazards on a cruise ship can result from:

  •       Slippery surfaces onboard or on the gangway
  •       Unsafe conditions on deck such as pool overflow or insufficient lighting
  •       Poorly designed architectural features on the ship
  •       A lack of lifeguard staff or no lifeguard on duty
  •       Poorly maintained elevators, escalators, and handrails
  •       Excursions like parasailing, diving, snorkeling, or ziplining
  •       Failing to take safety precautions in rough weather
  •       Fires onboard the ship or in cramped cabins
  •       Cruise ship crew misconduct or negligence
  •       Poorly maintained decks, floors, or amenities
  •       Improper sanitation and hygiene by the crew
  •       Medical malpractice on board

Most cruise ships have medical staff and facilities on board. However, even with state-of-the-art amenities, a cruise ship infirmary is no replacement for the treatment and care you can get at a hospital. This can cause complications if you’re far from land.

Getting hurt can mean thousands of dollars in medical bills or years of treatment to recover. If your injury was caused by someone else – such as the cruise liner’s negligent operating protocols or poor hiring practices without background checks – whoever is responsible should also pay for the harm they’ve caused.

Injuries on cruise liners can result from and include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls, whether onboard or while docking
  • Water-borne illness from unsafe pool and drinking water
  • Falling overboard, swimming pool accidents, and drownings
  • Elevator, escalator, and handrail accidents
  • Dinghy, tender boat, and automatic door accidents
  • Accidents while participating in recreational activities
  • Spinal injuries, back injuries, and broken bones poorly maintained facilities
  • Traumatic brain injury or organ damage
  • Assaults by crewmembers or other passengers

Can You Sue a Cruise Ship for Falls or Injuries?

Even if your accident or injury happens in international waters or a foreign country, you could have a legitimate claim for suing a cruise line operator. However, cruise ship lawsuits are unique since incidents often happen outside of U.S. soil. Which law applies then?

If you’ve suffered an injury, you must act quickly. Cruise ship injury claims have a short statute of limitations – often no more than a year and sometimes even less. That means you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against a cruise ship company before you lose the chance forever.

Where you file your lawsuit depends on:

  • How maritime law applies to the facts of your case
  • The departure and destination ports of the cruise
  • Where the cruise line or operator is incorporated
  • The language of the cruise ticket you bought
  • Any international treaties that apply

For example, Holland America, Seabourn Cruise Lines, and Winstar Cruise Lines have a choice of jurisdiction clause included in the terms of passenger tickets. According to their terms, you must file your lawsuit in Seattle, Washington by a lawyer admitted to practice in that federal circuit court. Many other cruise lines have similar conditions in other locations.

International treaties like the Athens Convention can limit cruise ship liability. However, the Athens Convention does not apply to any cruise voyages to or from a U.S. port.

What Damages Can You Get in a Cruise Ship Lawsuit?

A cruise ship injury lawsuit allows you to get compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. The law “makes you whole” by covering any medical costs or income lost because of your injury. When you file a maritime lawsuit against a cruise ship company, you can get damages for:

  • Your current and future medical bills
  • The cost of long-term rehabilitation or care
  • Wages you lost because you were unable to work
  • A loss of earning capacity because of permanent disability
  • Emotional distress, physical pain, and mental suffering

If you’ve lost a loved one as a result of a ship accident, you could have a claim for wrongful death. While nothing can undo the tragedy of losing a family member, a lawsuit can help cover the emotional pain as well as the future income your family has lost as a result.

If you’ve been injured in a cruise ship accident, you should talk to a maritime lawyer about your case. The maritime attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm have helped victims of cruise ship accidents across the United States and even internationally. Our maritime lawyers work on a contingency fee basis which means you don’t pay unless we win your case. Call our offices 24/7 for a FREE consultation of your case at (800) 501-3011 or use our online form now.

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