Cruise Ship- Accidents and Injuries – Cargo damage

When embarking on a cruise, it’s quite common for passengers to bring with them a great deal of baggage that will be handled and cared for by a number of the ship’s crew. In many cases, baggage can include precious heirlooms, expensive, often irreplaceable jewelry, clothing and even pets. Paying good money for these cruises, you expect to have your pets and possessions treated with care throughout your journey. We all know, this doesn’t always happen. What are your rights when it comes to damaged cargo on cruise ships?

Maritime Law Protects Your Things

Maritime laws, such as the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA) provide certain protections for cargo brought aboard a cruise ship. Under COGSA, your baggage is protected from the time it boards your ship to the time it leaves your ship. COGSA requires that a cruise ship owner/operator:

  • Ensure that the ship is seaworthy – including making sure that holds and temperature-controlled chambers are fit and safe for the receipt and preservation of cargo.
  • Handle cargo with care – by ensuring baggage is handled properly and carefully throughout the duration of the cruise.
  • Provide a bill of lading – essentially, a receipt acknowledging the receipt of your baggage.

If your cargo is lost or damaged during the course of your cruise, you must notify the carrier immediately, or within three days of noticing the loss or damage.

While some cruise companies may try to limit their liability by placing certain limitations on your ticket or in other terms and conditions, the law may render these limitations clauses null and void.

Other maritime laws protecting lost, stolen or damaged cargo may include the Carmack Amendment, the Montreal Convention of 1999, and other U.S., state or international laws or treaties.

Avoiding Disaster

When packing for a cruise, anticipating loss or damage can help you avoid serious issues, such as losing irreplaceable items or being without necessary medications. Here are some tips on how to avoid disasters that can occur when bags are damaged or go missing:

  • Pack all prescription medications in your carry-on that does not leave your person.
  • Pack high-value and priceless items in your carry-on that does not leave your sight.
  • Review the ship’s policies about prohibited items – there have been times when passenger’s bags have been retained by the crew because they contained prohibited items, such as irons or alcohol.

Making a Claim

If you determine that your baggage has been lost, stolen or damaged due to negligence on the part of a cruise line, you must make a written claim to the carrier within the allotted timeframe. If you wish to file a lawsuit against the cruise line for damages you experienced as a result of the loss or damage to your personal effects, you must generally do so in the location designated on the back of your ticket. These “forum selection clauses” bind you to file your lawsuit in this designated location and are typically honored by the courts.

If your baggage has been lost, stolen or damaged while you are on a cruise, it is critical that you notify the cruise line as soon as possible. If the cruise company does not respond to your satisfaction, you may need to talk with an experienced maritime attorney.

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