Cruise Ship Crimes – Assault with Serious Bodily Injury
Many cruise ships are like small floating cities. They are large, self-contained vessels that have everything necessary to keep passengers and crew comfortably housed for the entire length of a trip. Like any small city, a cruise ship is not impervious to crime. In some cases, crimes may even be easier to perpetrate and harder to prosecute than when committed on land. Assaults are serious crimes and victims are entitled to seek a resolution which may include taking legal action to obtain compensation for damages.
Understanding Physical Assault
Assault is an intentional act of harm or imminent harm against another person. A threat alone is not an assault. In order to be considered assault, the person must have made an action that shows the intent to carry through with a threat. Generally, it includes physical harm of some type. For example, punching someone is a physical assault. When the injury is severe, the crime may be called criminal assault with serious bodily harm.
Aggravated assault is a felony and occurs when the person intends to carry through more than frightening the other person. An assault with a deadly weapon might be considered aggravated when the intent is to cause serious harm. For instance, if there is intent to commit a robbery or rape or to kill the victim it is aggravated.
Injuries Caused by Assault
Assaults can cause severe and sometimes life-threatening injuries. A victim of assault may have broken bones, lacerations, contusions, head or neck trauma, internal injuries, back injuries or injuries to any part of the body. If the injuries are serious, they could result in the need for extensive medical care and long-term rehabilitation. Severe head trauma could leave someone disabled. In addition to immediate medical needs, victims may require reconstructive or cosmetic surgeries after the initial wounds have healed.
Crimes Perpetrated by Crew Members
Cruise ship crimes may be committed by crew members. The cruise line is responsible for ensuring that their employees are properly vetted before they are allowed to work. However, the cruise companies could be lax in this area. To complicate matters, crew members are sometimes foreign nationals. This can make prosecution more difficult. Additionally, the crew member could leave the ship and return home, making it almost impossible to take further action.
Crimes by Other Passengers
Some assaults are committed by passengers to other passengers or crew members. These crimes are punishable as such. Those who are in charge of ship operations must ensure the safety of passengers at all times. If another passenger is becoming threatening, the ship security team should act. Further, a passenger should not be allowed to be over-served alcohol to the point that they become dangerous to others. This might be considered negligence on the part of the cruise company.
Reporting Cruise Ship Crimes
Cruise ship crimes that occur on U.S. based ships must be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The victim should report the crime to the ship security or manager, and the ship is responsible for reporting it to the FBI. The U.S. Coast Guard is also involved in the process. The U.S. Department of Transportation gathers data on all crimes reported by U.S. cruise line companies. Reports are published quarterly and detail the number of crimes that were reported by type and by the cruise line.
Reporting Period Assault with Serious Bodily Injury
April 1, 2017, through June 30, 2017 6 passengers
January 1, 2017, through March 31, 2017 2 passengers
October 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016 1 passenger, one crew
July 1, 2016, through September 30, 2016 3 passengers
It is important to note that not all assaults may be reported. Thus, the data in the report could vary from the actual number of assaults that occurred.
Duty of Care
The cruise company has a duty to provide a safe environment for passengers and employees. This is required per the Shipping Act of 1984. This includes the right to expect a safe and secure trip for the entire duration of the cruise. The company must have safety measures in place to prevent crimes from occurring as well as plans for how to properly handle criminal activity that has taken place aboard a ship. Additionally, the Jones Act provides legal protections for those who work at sea. The cruise company could be negligent by allowing a crime to occur, by improperly handling it or failing to report it.
Jurisdiction in Cruise Ship Crimes
Every ship has a home port and flies the flag of that country. Flying a flag means that the ship is registered to that country and must follow those laws and regulations. Cruise ships that take passengers on in the United States are required to meet the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The ship must also meet the safety and other requirements that are regulated internationally. U.S. ships are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard and must comply with the strict standards set forth therein.
U.S. maritime and other laws protect passengers and crew members aboard U.S. ships. Jurisdiction generally covers passengers when they are in a U.S. port or U.S. territorial waters. Additionally, local law enforcement may also have some jurisdiction over crimes that occur when the ship is located in their port. When a crime occurs in another country or foreign waters, jurisdiction issues become trickier. The FBI has the right to investigate and prosecute any crime that occurs to a U.S. citizen, regardless of where it occurs. However, in practice, the situation may become more difficult and complex.
What to Do After an Assault
After an assault occurs on a cruise ship, it is important to take some immediate steps to protect your rights.
- Report the Assault
The assault must be reported to the ship’s security as soon after the incident as possible. It is necessary to make a full report so that the ship’s security officers can investigate it before anyone has a chance to leave the vessel.
- Seek Medical Treatment
The ship’s medical team should provide care for any injuries that were sustained in an assault. If the injuries require treatment that is beyond the scope of what can be provided on board, arrangements must be made for the victim to be brought ashore to a hospital as quickly as possible.
- Get Legal Assistance
Cruise ship crime litigation can be complex and difficult. There may be time limits that apply to any legal action that can be taken. Therefore, it is best to speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible after the incident.
It is essential that any evidence of the assault be gathered and preserved while it is still available. For instance, there could be surveillance footage of the assault. The cruise line company should review the video as soon as possible and preserve it for future use in the case. Additionally, any witnesses to the crime should be interviewed immediately. Once the ship docks and people go home, it can be extremely difficult to obtain reliable witness statements.
Medical information should also be retained. Records and documentation of the injuries need to be kept to prove the date of the occurrence and the extent of injuries. Take photos of the injuries as part of your records.
Legal action could be taken against the cruise line company if they were negligent in allowing a crime to occur or in improperly acting once it did. Cruise companies generally have disclaimers in their contracts including a forum selection clause that requires passengers to file legal action in specific courts, generally where the cruise ship is located. Another possible limit is the amount of time in which a person must take legal action. Your attorney will assist in reviewing these requirements and will work to protect your rights to get you the compensation you deserve.