How Does a Cruise Ship Illness or Injury Case Proceed?

A cruise ship accident shouldn’t be cause for alarm, provided you know how to proceed afterward. Consider checking this page for assistance with your case and advice on the appropriate course of action. All the same, an illness or injury case resulting from a cruise ship accident typically takes the following route:

Gathering Evidence

Sickness while on board a cruise ship may warrant taking legal action against the respective cruise line. Likewise, an injury due to a slippery deck or faulty equipment may call for similar action. 

If you’re in either predicament, you must collect evidence about your case. Nonetheless, evidence gathering is best left to a professional experienced with maritime law. They can do so by:

  • Talking to witnesses
  • Reviewing the cruise ship’s log
  • Checking related documents
  • Evaluating photographs of the accident scene

Contact a maritime lawyer to help you navigate the process. With their service, you stand a better chance of a successful resolution.

Identifying the Defendant

Before pursuing legal action, the attorney will need to determine the right defendant. In some cases, only one party is liable. Other times, there may be multiple parties involved. Still, the circumstances surrounding your injury may complicate matters, making it difficult to identify the responsible party.

Your passage contract of the ticket contract may help clarify who is responsible for the injury. Usually, you’ll sue the cruise line’s owner or operator. Sometimes, the ‘carrier’ isn’t identified outrightly, meaning your lawyer may have to review booking records to get their name.

Filing the Complaint

Your lawyer will then help you file a complaint against the cruise line, depending on the jurisdiction where the incident occurred. You must file within a year of the accident to stand a chance of receiving compensation. In case of minors, the timeline may extend to three years. Generally, the complaint outlines the cruise line’s failure in its duty of care, resulting in injury or illness.

Negotiating with The Cruise Line

Depending on the circumstances, negotiations with the cruise line may begin. This process can be lengthy and tedious, and it’s advisable to have a lawyer in your corner.

That said, filing a complaint doesn’t mean the cruise liner must compensate you for damages. The law recognizes that cruise ships must adhere to reasonable care and standards. Still, it also allows them leeway if the incident is caused by weather or other uncontrollable forces.

Likewise, stipulations in your ticket contract may limit the cruise liner’s responsibility. So, before filing a complaint, understand your rights and the details of the passage contract you signed.

Going to Court

If you have a solid case, the cruise ship’s lawyer may approach you and offer an out-of-court settlement to avoid litigation. But you can pursue the case in court if the cruise ship operator isn’t open to negotiation. Given the complexities of maritime law and the federal statutes govern such cases, you need a lawyer experienced in maritime litigation.

For starters, you’ll need to review the forum selection clause. The clause determines which court will hear the case. You can’t simply sue the cruise line in any court. Mostly, cruise liners choose their home court to hear such cases. That means you may have to travel to the court’s location and make necessary arrangements.

Federal district courts are the preferred choice for maritime cases. In most cases, the U.S District Court of Appeals will have jurisdiction over cases filed in a district court. Even so, for clauses to be enforceable, they must be reasonably communicated, which leads us to the next point.

Determining Reasonable Communication

The notice on your passage contract must be reasonably communicated to you. Two tests determine whether it was, namely:

  • The conspicuousness test: The notice should be in writing and easy to read. It should also be printed in a distinct font and be noticeable.
  • The knowledge test: You must be aware of or have a chance to learn of the notice. This means the cruise liner must make reasonable efforts to notify you of the clause’s contents, such as through emails or advertising materials.

If the notice fails both tests, it’s deemed unconscionable and unenforceable. Thus, if you weren’t aware of the forum selection clause or it wasn’t conspicuous, your lawyer may argue against its enforceability in court.

The Court Process

Apart from the notices, the court will consider other factors while deciding. The judge may consider whether the chosen forum would provide access to witnesses or evidence, including whether it’s convenient for you. If not, they may decide that another jurisdiction is more suitable.

At trial, your lawyer will offer proof of liability on your behalf against the cruise line and the damages you suffered. The jury l then deliberates on all this information before giving a verdict.

If you don’t have a solid case, your lawsuit may be dismissed outrightly or through a summary judgment motion by the defendant’s lawyer. Conversely, if you succeed, you can get compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

You may also receive punitive damages depending on how egregious the cruise line’s conduct was or has been in past similar cases. This is meant to punish the company rather than compensate you and serves to deter such behavior.

Get Advocacy from A Competent Attorney

Given the complex nature of maritime law, it’s advisable to work with a knowledgeable lawyer. They can assess your claim and give you an honest opinion on whether or not it has merit before filing a lawsuit. The process of going to court against a cruise liner is long, and there’s no point pursuing a suit with little chance of success.

Likewise, your attorney can resist arguments the cruise liner uses to safeguard their interests. For instance, it’s common knowledge that while cruise ships advocate for federal law in personal injury suits, they may push the court to rely on state law and if they succeed, reduce your claim for medical expenses. In this regard, your legal representative can advocate for the application of general maritime or federal rules.

In short, if you believe the cruise line is liable for your injury or illness, take action by teaming up with a maritime lawyer. Their invaluable input could make a difference, helping you get a favorable outcome. Plus, given all the elements that go into a cruise line case, you’ll need an expert’s insight and legal prowess to streamline the process.