What Are Your Legal Rights if You are Injured or Get Sick Onboard a Cruise Ship?
Cruising is the ultimate “getaway.” You can immerse yourself in a variety of cultures and countries in one trip. Along the way, you may savor amazing and exotic food and enjoy the sun and the sea (or rivers) as you travel from one corner of the world to another.
However, like all forms of travel, sailing to ports of call onboard a cruise ship is not entirely without risk. Slips and falls, food poisoning, exposure to exotic illnesses, unwarranted assaults, even medical malpractice—these incidences of personal injury are no less likely to occur on board an ocean-liner than they are to occur in any other major tourist attraction. If you were to be the victim of such an incident, what happens? What are your legal rights, and what do you need to do to assert them?
Understanding Your Legal Rights After a Cruise Ship Accident
Fundamentally, your legal rights as a cruise ship passenger are the same as they are on land. If you are injured or get sick and someone else is to blame, you are entitled to recover “just compensation” for your medical expenses, loss of income, pain, suffering and other losses. However, the specific laws and procedures you need to follow in order to file a claim may vary from one country to the next; and, for this reason, it is important to seek representation from an attorney who has specific experience handling cruise accident claims in the country where you need to sue.
In most cases, cruise ship accident claims are based on the law of negligence. Cruise lines owe a duty of care to their passengers, and this duty extends all the way from the company’s executives down to the crewmembers on board. If one of these individuals makes a mistake that falls below the standard of care, then anyone who is injured or gets sick as a result can file a claim against the cruise line. This includes (but is by no means limited to) mistakes such as:
- Failing to follow appropriate safety protocols
- Failing to provide adequate lighting or security to prevent assaults
- Failing to repair hazardous conditions onboard the cruise ship
- Failing to rope off or clean up spills
- Serving contaminated food
In some cases, injured cruise ship passengers will also have claims based on the law of product liability. These claims arise from accidents involving dangerous and defective products. For example, if a flooring material used on the cruise ship is dangerously slippery, if an elevator or escalator is unsafe, or if a piece of furniture is unstable and tips over during travel on the sea, these are all examples of situations in which the product manufacturer may be liable for your injuries.
When you get sick or injured on a cruise ship, the cruise line does not have to provide you with free medical care. You cannot be denied access to the ship’s clinic, but you are not entitled to free treatment, either. If your claim for “just compensation” is successful, the amount you receive will include coverage for the costs of your treatment on board. If you have private health insurance (and your policy covers your illness or injury)–or if you purchased cruise insurance that covers medical costs–then you can use your insurance coverage for now, and your insurance company will be entitled to reimbursement if you receive compensation.
What Constitutes “Just Compensation” for a Cruise Ship Injury or Illness?
If you are injured or get sick onboard a cruise ship due to someone else’s negligence or a product defect, what constitutes “just compensation” for your losses? The answer depends on your unique personal circumstances.
As compensation, any money you receive for your injury or illness should make you whole—in other words, it should be sufficient to make it as though the accident never occurred. This means that it should cover all of your out-of-pocket expenses and lost wages, not just now but in the future. It should also provide monetary relief for the non-financial effects of your injuries.
Steps to Follow If Your Become Ill or Injured
While no amount of money may ever truly replace your physical health and the memories you weren’t able to make on your vacation, it is the best our legal system has to offer; and, if you were injured or got sick onboard a cruise ship, it will be important for you to file a claim to recover the compensation you deserve. In order to get started with your claim, you should:
- Collect any records you have relating to your cruise (i.e. your ticket and itinerary), as well as all records relating to the treatment you have received to date for your illness or injury;
- Avoid discussing your accident with anyone on board the cruise–this includes not only staff, but also other passengers and members of your family (you don’t want to unknowingly turn your family members into witnesses);
- Consult with an attorney before you do anything in relation to your claim (do not fill out any forms or other paperwork from the cruise line unless advised to do so by your attorney).