Cruise Ship Liability

U.S. cruise ships are required by law as common carriers to provide their employees and passengers with safe passage and take reasonable care to ensure that they are protected from harm. When a passenger is injured, they can seek compensation for their injuries provided they can prove the cruise line operator was negligent or created an unsafe situation on purpose or with intent.

To prove negligence or willful intent, the passenger would have to prove that the cruise line knew or should have known about the danger, or that the operator of the ship created a danger. While witnesses to the crime or accident can help a case, what is all boils down to is proof. That’s where a recent federal law comes in.

Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act was signed into law in 2010. This federal law defines general safety rules and how they are to be followed. Some of the rules include:

  • having peep holes in cabin doors so passengers can see who is knocking
  • installation and use of electronic video surveillance
  • providing passengers with a guide to their medical and security personnel and how that personnel should respond to situations
  • limiting crew access to passenger cabins

The law defines how the ship’s operator will respond to, report, and record criminal situations as well as how staff are to be trained, and the penalties that will be incurred for violations of the law. The Act requires “borderless reporting” of all crimes involving U.S. nationals to the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security.

Part of what makes this law so important is that before it was enacted, one of the biggest problems with cruise ship accidents, injuries, or crimes was finding evidence. If an assault occurred in a stairwell, there was nothing to prevent ship’s crew from entering and, for example, cleaning the scene of the crime. This is made it very hard to prove negligence or intent when an accident or crime occurred.

Be Aware of Your Contract

The cruise ticket itself can also make things difficult as it is essentially a legal contract that you agree to when you purchase and use the ticket. These contracts may limit the liability of the cruise line, limit your right to sue, and limit where you can even file a lawsuit. If you are seeking compensation for an injury or loss that occurred while on a cruise, it’s important that you hire a law firm that is deeply experienced in maritime law, cruise law, and the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

If you or a family member suffered an accident or injury aboard a ship, speak to us as soon as possible. We have decades of experience in fighting for the rights of passengers and employees in the commercial maritime industry, and we stand ready to fight for you. Fill out the form to learn more about your rights and legal options.

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