Cruising the High Seas…. Don’t let your legal rights float away

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By Attorney Joshua D. Ferraro and Managing Partner Gary S. Lesser

This year more than twenty million people throughout the world will embark on a cruise vacation to destinations ranging from the Western Caribbean to the Far East. Each of these passengers can expect to enjoy new sights, adventure and (in most cases) large amounts of food. However, it’s those things that cruise passengers rarely expect that can end up costing them a relaxing vacation, and often a whole lot more.

According to a study published through the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about one percent (1%) of cruise passengers will experience a traumatic injury during a cruise vacation. By far, the most prevalent cause of injury was an on-board slip and fall but other common injuries were suffered on shore excursions and during tenders from ship to shore.

If you are injured during a cruise vacation as a result of actions, inactions or negligence on the part of the cruise line, any employee of the cruise line or any company operating a shore excursion sponsored by the cruise line, you may have a legal entitlement to compensation. However, the procedures and deadlines for exercising these rights are much different than a typical personal injury case.

The most important differences between a cruise ship injury case and a land-based injury claim are: (a) cruise ship injuries are typically governed by federal maritime law (the law of the sea) rather than state civil law; (b) most of your rights and obligations are set forth in your cruise ticket which is considered a binding contract; and (c) you will need to file any lawsuits within ONE YEAR instead of the four years typically permitted in land-based injury claims.

If you are injured during a cruise vacation, follow these tips to ensure that you do not waive any rights:

  • Report the injury as soon as possible to a cruise employee and make sure that they follow-up by documenting the time, place and manner of your accident;
  • Seek medical care immediately if you are injured. Almost every cruise has medical personnel on board ranging from trained EMTs to board certified physicians. Most ships have the capability to run tests, take x-rays and even perform minor procedures. Make sure that you document all of your injuries for the medical personnel and follow all of their recommendations regarding your level of activity while you are on board.
  • Ask for a copy of any medical notes or records that are taken while treating you on board.
  • In rare circumstances, injuries will be so severe that you will need to be removed from the ship. In this case, you should contact the U.S. Embassy immediately to ensure that you are taken to a facility that can provide appropriate care.
  • If your accident was the result of a slip and fall, be sure to keep your shoes and your clothes so that they can be examined in the event the claim proceeds to court.
  • Ask if the incident was captured on video and ask to see a copy of the video. If they will not allow you to see the video, ask them to preserve it so that you can get a copy later. If possible, make this request in writing.
  • Every major cruise line requires that you provide formal notice of a claim within a very short period of time and that you file a lawsuit within one (1) year. These requirements are set forth in your ticket and they are binding upon you. These deadlines are far shorter than most land-based accident claims so it is vitally important that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
  • Keep in mind, that most major cruise lines require that any lawsuit claiming personal injuries must be filed in South Florida. Therefore, if you live in another state you should make arrangements (if possible) to consult with a South Florida cruise injury lawyer before you leave town.

The vast majority of cruise passengers have a great trip filled with wonderful experiences and memories. Unfortunately, the unforeseen sometimes happens and when it does it is important that you are informed so that important rights are not inadvertently waived.  Therefore, it is vitally important that you contact a cruise injury attorney as soon as possible to secure your rights and ensure that you remain eligible for all available compensation.

The attorneys of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC have been assisting the victims of negligence and intentional wrongdoing for more than ninety (90) years. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation to learn your rights and the steps that you can take to ensure that you are protected.

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