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Cruise Ship Passenger Injuries

HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer

Friday, January 24, 2014



Cruise Ship Passenger Injuries
Cruise Ship

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, the cruise industry serves more than 20 million passengers per year. Thousands of those passengers are injured on the cruise ships themselves, on tender boats to and from the cruise ships and during on-land excursions. Cases for these injuries typically include: slip-and-fall accidents; trip-and-fall accidents; gastrointestinal illnesses from food and water; respiratory illnesses caused by contamination of facilities and water supply systems; accidents caused by the crew or by intoxicated passengers; physical or sexual assaults caused by the crew or by intoxicated passengers; accidents or assaults on tender boats; accidents or assaults during on-land excursions; negligent medical care by cruise ship medical personnel/facilities; and disappearances of passengers.

Cases against American cruise ships are like land-lubber cases in some respects, yet quite different in other respects. While these cases are governed by U. S. law, cruise lines are allowed to impose additional restrictions that can hamper and even defeat a cause of action. For example, regardless of where the injury occurred and where the passenger resides, cruise lines often impose the requirement that suits be brought in Miami, Florida and some go even further, requiring that those suits be brought in federal court - United States District Court Southern District Miami Division. Furthermore, though longer statutes of limitations are normally allowed by law, cruise lines often require that they receive written notice of your injury – including all the information required by your cruise line – within six months of the injury, and that the suit be brought within 1 year. No matter how good your case might otherwise be, miss the deadlines, submit inadequate information or file in the wrong court, and your case will miss the boat, so to speak. Finally, in some instances, your cause of action will be against the on-land excursion company rather than or in addition to the cruise line.

How can cruise lines be so powerful? How can they possibly impose such restrictions? They can do it because you agree to it: look at your contract of carriage, your ticket, your boarding pass – you agree to all those restrictions. Just try getting on a commercial cruise ship and enjoying your complimentary “whatever” without agreeing to those restrictions; won’t happen. What’s more, the cruise line will often try to negotiate with you, basically for 2 reasons: to get you to settle for far less than the reasonable damages – for medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, pain and suffering, and so forth – you might otherwise obtain through a suit; and to drown your case by delaying you beyond the required deadlines.

What, then, should you do if you are injured as a cruise line passenger? In some respects, you will approach this case just as you would a land-locked case but in other respects, you will give this case special Maritime treatment.

First, BEFORE any incident can occur anywhere, you should carry: a cell phone with a camera and a clearly labeled list of emergency contacts (including their stored phone numbers, of course), so others can quickly dial them if you are unconscious; your driver’s license or equally acceptable ID; a copy of your medical insurance card with coverage information and ID number; pen and paper to take information; a card with emergency contact names and phone numbers; a card with information about any allergies or other medical conditions you have, in case you’re unconscious after the injury.

Secondly, at the risk of being an utter killjoy, before taking an on-land excursion, check out the excursion company to ensure that the company is insured, licensed and reputable.

Third, if you’re injured, you should immediately seek medical attention. Cruise ships typically have medical personnel and facilities to: “provide emergency medical care for passengers and crew; stabilize patients and initiate reasonable diagnostic and therapeutic interventions; and facilitate the evacuation of seriously ill or injured patients.” This, of course, will affect your ability to carry out any other post-injury steps. Whether or not you are treated on board ship, you should seek medical treatment afterward. In conjunction with your treatment, whether it occurs on or off the ship, you should obtain and keep all medical records, the treating persons’/organizations’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and records of all expenses related to your injuries.

Fourth, obtain information about other people at the scene of the injury, including any person who might have caused your injury and any witness. Regarding each person, obtain information such as: name; address, home phone number; work phone number; cell phone number; email address; write down any comments made by these individuals.

Fifth, write down the exact location of the incident and how it happened, including as many details as possible.

Sixth, take photographs of physical injuries, each person involved, each witness, any defect that caused the injury, the entire scene, anything – anything - that will help show the entire context of the incident.

Seventh, don’t directly negotiate with the cruise line.

Eighth, as soon as possible, hire a lawyer who is licensed to practice in Florida (preferably in or near Miami), licensed to practice in federal court, specializes in Maritime Law and tries Personal Injury/Negligence cases in federal court. This is the time to hire an appropriate specialist who practices at the heart of the action to ensure that you meet every requirement on time.

Ninth, make copies of all information/documentation/pictures you’ve gathered, give copies to your attorney and keep copies in your own expandable file folder.

Tenth, with your lawyer’s assistance, obtain the cruise line’s requirements for your written report of injury, complete the form and ensure that it is submitted within the six-month deadline;

Eleventh, with your attorney’s assistance, ensure that your suit is filed in the required court within the 1-year deadline. Your awareness and diligence, coupled with the skills of an experienced Maritime lawyer, should greatly increase the probability of adequate compensation for your injuries.


DO’S AND DON’TS

DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.

DO carry: a cell phone with a camera and a clearly labeled list of emergency contacts (including their stored phone numbers, of course), so others can quickly dial them if you are unconscious; your driver’s license or equally acceptable ID; a copy of your medical insurance card with coverage information and ID number; pen and paper to take information; a card with emergency contact names and phone numbers; a card with information about any allergies or other medical conditions you have, in case you’re unconscious after the injury.

DO check out the on-land excursion company to ensure that the company is insured, licensed and reputable.

DO immediately seek medical attention if you are injured.

DO seek medical treatment afterward, whether or not you are treated on board ship.

DO obtain and keep all medical records, the treating persons’/organizations’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and records of all expenses related to your injuries.

DO obtain information about other people at the scene of the injury, including any person who might have caused your injury and any witness.

DO write down the exact location of the incident and how it happened, including as many details as possible.

DO take photographs of physical injuries, each person involved, each witness, any defect that caused the injury, the entire scene, anything – anything - that will help show the entire context of the incident.

DON’T directly negotiate with the cruise line.

DO hire a lawyer who is licensed to practice in Florida (preferably in or near Miami), licensed to practice in federal court, specializes in Maritime Law and tries Personal Injury/Negligence cases in federal court, as soon as possible.

DO make copies of all information/documentation/pictures you’ve gathered, give copies to your attorney and keep copies in your own expandable file folder.

DO, with your lawyer’s assistance, obtain the cruise line’s requirements for your written report of injury, complete the form and ensure that it is submitted within the six-month deadline.

DO, with your attorney’s assistance, ensure that your suit is filed in the required court within the 1-year deadline.


By Kathy Catanzarite

[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]



Source: Kathy Catanzarite - Handelonthelaw.com Staff Writer

Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.





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