No one wants to suffer a cruise ship accident during their vacation – but it happens. If the accident wasn’t your fault, you may be wondering how you can get the cruise company to promptly address your economic and non-economic damages. In today’s post, we review some of the reasons why contacting an experienced cruise ship accident lawyer is essential to obtaining the best possible outcome on your injury case.
Our Miami cruise accident lawyers specialize in helping injured cruise passengers recover against the cruise lines. To request a free case evaluation, contact our firm today.
Specialized Experience and Knowledge of Cruise Ship Accident Cases
If you are injured in a cruise accident it can be tempting to contact a local lawyer for help. However, your local lawyer might do you more harm than good by treating your cruise accident case as an ordinary personal injury case. While the principles of negligence are universal among personal injury cases, the similarities stop there as maritime law and the other specific regulations that apply to cruise law are different. Additionally, an experienced cruise accident lawyer will be well-aware of the major cruise line’s ticket contracts and lawsuit filing requirements. Failure to comply with these legal hurdles will result in the dismissal of your case.
The “Ticket Contract” and How It Affects Your Legal Rights in a Cruise Ship Accident
Passenger cruise accident cases are subject to a “ticket contract.”
When you purchased your cruise ticket you agreed to the terms of the cruise line’s ticket contract. This is true whether you read it, or not. Ticket contracts are several thousand words long and often favor the cruise line. The ticket contract will affect your right to compensation for the negligence of the cruise line and its employees. Moreover, most ticket contracts significantly impact the statute of limitations for cruise accident claims and the lawsuit filing requirements.
Ticket Contract Details
Below are some examples of how your cruise ticket contract affects your rights:
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations defines the deadline for when you must file a lawsuit. In a typical maritime injury case, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury. This means that you would have three years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit against the defendants. However, most cruise ticket contracts dramatically shorten this time period to only one year. The purpose of this dramatically shortened filing deadline is to be a trap for the unwary lawyer or passenger. Routinely, courts have dismissed passenger cases for failure to comply with this deadline.
Forum Selection Clause
When you choose to file a lawsuit against a person or entity, you usually can choose where to file. This is not the case when filing a lawsuit against a cruise line. Most cruise ticket contracts specify that your case must be filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Therefore, your legal proceedings will take place here, in Florida, whether you have ever been to Florida or not. If you fail to file your case in the appropriate court within the one-year deadline your case may be dismissed. Please see our page on ticket contract forum selection clauses for more information.
Many cruise ship ticket contracts require that passengers provide written notice of their claim to the cruise line within 180 days of the date of their incident. Failure to do so may be grounds for dismissal of your claim. There are exceptions to this rule. You should contact an experienced cruise accident attorney to determine if your case meets an exception to this rule.
You should contact an experienced cruise accident lawyer to ensure that your case is presented to the correct court within the timeframe required by the ticket contract. Out-of-state lawyers contact us regularly to handle cruise accident cases for their clients. Unfortunately, we have declined many cases because the referring lawyer failed to comply with the ticket contract and waited too long, sometimes years too long, to contact us. Don’t make the same mistake.
Below are links to the online version of the current cruise ticket contracts utilized by some of the major cruise lines. However, you should be sure to review your ticket contract, individually.
Types of Cruise Ship Accident Cases
There are many different types of cruise ship accident cases. Some of the most common types of cases that we see are described below:
Slip-and-falls are the most common type of cruise ship accidents that we see. Slip and falls frequently occur on the pool deck, dining halls, and tiled flooring surfaces on the ship. There is a simple reason why these are the common areas where people suffer cruise ship accidents. These flooring surfaces are frequently smooth, shiny, covered with contaminants (grease, sunscreen, oil) and wet. Our firm has prosecuted cases for negligent selection of flooring surfaces, negligent maintenance, failure to warn of dangerous spills, failure to clean the spills, and a variety of other theories of liability related to cruise ship slip and fall accidents. When these cases involve allegations of unreasonable flooring surfaces like Bolidt or API decking, we use experts to prove that the usage of these flooring surfaces is unreasonably dangerous. Experts will compare the condition of the flooring surface that caused the fall to applicable industry standards including The Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention, the Life Safety Code, and the ASTM standards. Frequently, poorly maintained flooring surfaces lead to cruise ship accident cases.
For more information about slip and falls, please visit our page specifically dedicated to cruise ship slip and fall cases.
Unfortunately, medical negligence is a common occurrence on cruise ships. Most of the cruise ship medical negligence cases that we see relate to failure to timely diagnose and treat medical conditions. In order to win a cruise ship medical negligence case, you must prove medical negligence and agency. These types of cruise ship accident cases can be very complex and expensive so our firm is very selective about which cruise ship medical negligence cases we accept.
Trip and falls are another common case type that we see. Trips and falls are most often caused by a hidden or camouflaged condition on the ship that causes a passenger to fall. In order to prove a cruise ship accident case caused by a trip and fall, we usually rely on expert witnesses. Experts will compare the condition that caused the fall to applicable industry standards including The Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention, the Life Safety Code, and the ASTM standards. Incredibly, the cruise lines frequently argue that because they sail in international waters, no safety standards, except Coast Guard regulations apply to their ships.
You Need a Miami Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer That Knows the Cruise Industry
In order to prevail in federal court against a major cruise line, it is imperative that you hire a lawyer that has handled many cruise ship accident cases. It takes time and experience to learn the ins and outs of the cruise industry. Your lawyer needs to know what documents and evidence the cruise line will have that will help prove your case – the cruise line never gives this information voluntarily. Your lawyer needs to know what to request in discovery and what information the cruise lines have. For example, each cruise line creates different documents in response to passenger accidents under different circumstances. Each cruise line has a “safety committee” which meets regularly to discuss the occurrence of passenger and crew accidents, analyze what is causing the accidents, and how to prevent these cruise ship accidents. These documents often contain information that is essential to prove your case.
In a slip-and-fall case, your lawyer should obtain, at minimum, (a) prior incidents of slip and falls on the same ship for the three years prior to your incident and one year after your incident, (b) guest injury statements for each person that had a prior similar incident, (c) the contact information for each person with a prior similar incident, (d) all guest comment cards regarding the condition that caused you to fall for the three years prior to your incident, (e) ship safety committee meeting minutes, (f) surveillance video of your incident, and (g) the photos taken by the crew at the scene of your incident. There is much more information that should be obtained based on the circumstance of your case. However, if you hire a lawyer that is not familiar with handling cruise ship accident cases, he or she will not know what information the cruise line has that may help you prove your case.
Miami Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer
Cruise ship passengers and crew members need the help of an experienced cruise accident lawyer. The lawyers at our firm have handled hundreds of cruise ship accident cases and claims. Contact our office today to request your free case evaluation. We look forward to putting our experience as cruise ship accident lawyers to work for you.