Maritime Law Overview
Seaman's Information Regarding Maritime Injury
While on the water, people find themselves in situations that could end in accident or injury.
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In order to make your next cruise vacation the relaxing experience that you intend it to be it is important that you understand the potential risk of injury and what your recourse may be if you are injured on the ship.
Many of the same injuries that occur on land can also occur on a cruise ship. Below, is a list of the most common types of injuries to cruise ship passengers:
Head and Spinal Injuries: these types of injuries can occur if the seas become rough due to a storm or if the boat runs into mechanical or navigational problem. They can also occur if there is an assault on board the ship.
Contagious Diseases: Cruise ships, for better or worse, bring together people from different states and countries and enclose them on a ship. Disease can spread quickly in this environment. Sanitation programs and good hygiene techniques such as hand washing can help reduce the risk.
Food Poisoning: despite the large buffets and dining options on board a cruise, passengers are eating essentially the same food from the same source. So, if the meat or vegetables are contaminated then the chances are good that many passengers ate the contaminated food and will become sick. The CDC has a Vessel Sanitation Program that is meant to help cruise ships avoid food poisoning problems and inform the public of the record of different cruise lines on compliance with the program.
Medical Malpractice: While most cruise ships have at least one doctor and nurse on board, their qualifications vary widely. Only some cruise lines require their doctors to be certified in the United States. Some jurisdictions allow the cruise ship company to be sued for a doctor's malpractice. What constitutes malpractice is determined by the state law governing the cruise ship agreement.
Sexual Assault by a Passenger or Crew Member: A cruise ship is a relatively easy place for assault to occur. The ship is often large and often without security cameras or other safety precautions in many areas of the vessel. The police are not present and it is difficult to properly investigate any allegations.
Drowning: Drowning is always a risk at sea. An assault, a ship grounding, a storm or a slip and fall can cause a person to go overboard and drown. While cruise ships rarely capsize, an accident is always a risk that could result in passenger drowning.
Slip and Fall: There is a significant risk of slip and fall accidents on cruise ships. A large wave could come on shore, making the deck slippery or the wind could blow equipment around unexpectedly, for example. Therefore, passengers always need to be aware of the risk.
If you are hurt in a resort then it is clear which state laws apply to your claim and which courts may hear your case. However, the legal jurisdiction is not so clear when you are on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean.
That does not mean that you are without remedy, however. Most often, your cruise ticket has a jurisdiction and choice of law clause on it. Typically, the jurisdiction and law are the state in which the cruise line is based and most often leaves port.
A cruise should be a relaxing and fun vacation. When illness or injury occurs, passengers often feel that they spent a lot of money without any reward. If the cruise ship staff was negligent or deliberate in its actions that caused the illness or injury then the passenger may be entitled to legal relief.