Cruise Ship- Accidents and Injuries – Cruise Ship Overboard Accidents

Cruises are meant to be fun, relaxing and ultimately memorable. The last thing you expect is to suffer a gruesome injury while on board or even worse, fall overboard. Sadly, this is the reality for about 21 people every year, both travelers and crew members. Unfortunately, many of these people do not survive the harshness of the vast open waters.

No one boards a cruise ship expecting to fall overboard or lose a loved one in such a horrific way. Many times, when passengers or crew members fall overboard, it is because of a fault in the vessel or negligence on the part of the cruise operator.

Cruise Ship Operators Owe You a Duty of Care

Under maritime law, ship operators owe a duty of care to their passengers and crew to transport them safely to their destination. They are mandated to ensure the highest degree of care in the transportation of passengers. If the cruise operator failed to exercise due care, leading to an accident such as someone falling overboard, they are liable.

Take the case of a passenger who falls overboard, if such an unfortunate accident is because of the willful negligence of the cruise operator, liability is imposed. Here are a number of reasons passengers fall overboard and how cruise companies may be liable:

  • Defective Handrails

In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requiring cruise ships to keep handrails at least 42 inches above the cabin deck. If a vessel has inadequate or faulty handrails and during the course of a voyage, a passenger falls overboard, the cruise company is liable.

  • Criminal Activity

Passengers on cruise ships can be victims of criminal activity such as theft, robbery, assault or even murder.  To ensure the safety of passengers, cruise ships have a duty to install adequate security surveillance systems and even hire trained security personnel to man the ship at all times. If a passenger falls overboard in the course of criminal activity, whether perpetrated by a fellow passenger or a crew member, on a vessel without adequate safety and security measures, the ship is liable.

  • Intoxication

Crew members should not serve alcohol to passengers who are intoxicated. If a passenger is intoxicated because of being over-served, the ship operator has a duty to ensure the passenger is protected during the disability. If an over-served passenger falls overboard, the cruise company is liable.

  • Failure to Maintain Corridors

Cruise ships should be maintained so that they are seaworthy. This means they should be reasonably fit for the voyage at sea. Warnings should be placed where there are latent defects such as where a corridor is slippery or a staircase is narrow. Failure to maintain a seaworthy vessel is a breach of care. If this breach leads to someone falling overboard, the cruise operator is liable.

  • Failure to Warn of Harsh Weather

If there is a storm approaching while at sea, the captain and crew should inform passengers to keep away from the rails. Failure to do this is a breach of care.

Duty to Perform Search and Rescue

Once crew members are informed that someone is missing, the crew should conduct a thorough search of the vessel. If the passenger is not on the ship, the crew should immediately report the disappearance to the Coast Guard, and then turn the vessel around to the person’s last known location. Failure to do this is a breach of the duty of care.

Many overboard falls are related to the negligence of the cruise ship. The injured victim or, where the person died, the family of the deceased, have an actionable right against the cruise company.

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