Brais Law Firm Represents Passengers Injured in Cruise Ship Accidents or Crimes
When planning a cruise most people are not expecting or planning for something to go terribly wrong. Cruise passengers expecting the vacation of a lifetime can sometimes end up with life altering injuries. Cruise ships owe a duty of reasonable care to all passengers and when an injury occurs, the cruise line may be responsible for compensating you for your suffering and injuries. Cruise lines may fail to meet the duty of reasonable care by:
- Failing to provide a sufficient number and properly trained security personnel
- Failing to provide a sufficient number and properly trained crew to maintain the vessel
- Failing to react when circumstances give rise to notice of a predator or likely assailant on board
- Service of excess alcohol
- Failing to maintain a reasonably safe environment
- Failing to timely react to serious incidents such as a passenger falling overboard
- Failing to remedy and/or warn passengers of non-obvious dangerous conditions on board or in an upcoming port of call, i.e., known criminal assaults/crimes
You May Have Only a Short Time to Act
Cruise operators usually try to avoid taking responsibility by including shortened statutes of limitations in their agreements, meaning that the time period an injured passenger has to file a claim can be as short as one year. In most instances, the failure to file a personal injury and/or wrongful death claim within a year of the incident can result in your lawsuit being dismissed. In addition, most cruise lines include within their ticket contract the requirement that an injured party notify the cruise line of the incident “in writing” within six months of the incident. If you fail to do so the cruise line will, again, argue the lawsuit should be dismissed.
Cruise Ship Accidents and Responsibilities
Common accidents that happen on cruises include:
- Falls due to rough seas
- Wet floors or shower slips
- Pool drownings or near drownings
- Food poisoning
- Accidents from zip lining, jet-skiing or other extreme activities
- Diving or snorkeling accidents
- Tender accidents (occurring during tender boat transport between the ship and shore)
- Injuries from disasters such as ship fires and hurricanes or tropical storms
These accidents are often preventable if the ship’s operator is exercising reasonable care and properly maintaining the vessel. Reasonable care is the duty that requires the ship operator to act as a reasonably prudent operator would act to ensure passenger safety.
If you are injured in an accident that could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care, you could be entitled to recover for your suffering and injuries.
Crimes On The High Seas and at Ports
Cruise passengers are mistakenly under the impression that there exists essentially little to no risk of being injured while sailing aboard a cruise vessel, much less being the victim of crime whether that be an assault, sexual assault, rape or victim of other criminal activity. In recent years as many as 165 people have gone missing from cruise ships.
In fact, most cruise ship operators brag about how little crime occurs on their ships. Upon closer examination and at complete odds with “promotional marketing literature”, one cruise line just recently filed papers with a Federal Court in Miami, seeking to preclude a jury from learning that there were, in fact, 59 sexual assaults fleet wide for the three year period leading up to the fall of 2014.
There are no police aboard cruise ships and generally a limited number of cruise staff actually assigned to work within the “security” department. Some cruise ships now carry 5,000 or more passengers and alcohol is liberally served. In some instances, the service of alcohol amounts to the second highest revenue generator.
Cruise ship operators that embark or disembark from U.S. ports are required to report crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). The United States Coast Guard (USCG) publishes quarterly reports of crime statistics of six leading cruise lines relating to suspicious deaths, assaults with serious bodily injury, thefts of over $10,000 value, and sexual assault among others. While statistics show that crime does happen aboard cruise ships, the reports are misleading because only crimes that are no longer under FBI investigation are counted in the USCG reports.
According to 2015 cruise line crime statistics, sexual assault was the most common crime with 14 cases reported. The next most common was theft in excess of $10,000 with seven reported cases, followed by four suspicious deaths and three assaults resulting in serious bodily injury.
Other incidents that can happen on cruises that passengers should be aware of include sexual harassment, rape, child molestation, child pornography and even adults exposing themselves to children in common areas. Fortunately, some cruise lines do a better job than others.
Cruise Operators Owe You a Legal Duty
Cruise operators owe a duty of reasonable care in maintaining a safe environment for guests and crewmembers. When a sexual assault or another type of crime causes injury and lifelong mental anguish to a victim, it is often discovered that necessary minimal preventative measures were lacking:
- Insufficient security personnel
- Excess service of alcohol to either or both the perpetrator or victim
- Insufficient numbers of Close Circuit Television Cameras (“CCTV”)
- Insufficient analysis of previous crimes to identify shipboard locations necessity additional security measures, and more
If you suffered a serious personal injury or were a victim of a sexual assault or crime while sailing on a cruise, the cruise line may be responsible for compensating you for your injuries and suffering.
What to Do if You or a Loved One are Injured by Cruise Ship Crime
What should you do if you or a loved one are affected by crime? The first thing you should do is immediately report the incident to shipboard security. Insist the security officer write an incident report and get a copy (or some type of confirmation) of the report.
We recommended you be as detailed as possible in your statement. Rest assured the cruise line will argue that each and every additional detail recalled at a later time is “fabrication” on your part no matter how distraught you were when originally asked what happened.
It is also imperative that you locate all witnesses and retain all evidence, i.e., clothing, though these may be confiscated by the cruise line. Call the FBI, U.S. Coast Guard and a qualified maritime attorney for help. Afterwards, seek counseling even if you initially believe it will not help. We recommend you at least try to seek out professional help.
You should also seek medical care immediately for any injuries and to help preserve any evidence of an assault. If a sexual assault has occurred, have the ship’s infirmary do a forensic medical examination. It is law now that the cruise lines must offer post incident medical care. You should take photographs of injuries or any other evidence and write down phone numbers and addresses of any other passengers or crew who witnessed any part of the event.