Slip and falls are the most common causes of injury on cruise ships. Each year, hundreds of passengers, and even ship employees, have slip and fall accidents due to improperly maintained or cleaned decks, floors, and carpeting. While slip and fall accident cases may seem clear and straightforward, they are not. Because these accidents are so common, the cruise lines have become skilled in defending them. At the Flanagan Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Law Firm, we are familiar with the cruise lines’ defenses and we know how to overcome them.

What Do You Need to Prove in Your Slip and Fall Case?

The cruise line and its employees have a responsibility to use reasonable care under the circumstances to provide you and your family with a safe environment that’s free from dangerous conditions. This means that to prove your case, you must show that the cruise line negligently or intentionally did not provide a reasonably safe environment. Furthermore, you must prove that this failure caused you to slip and fall, suffering injury.

There are many different possible theories of liability for cruise ship slip and falls.

Negligent Flooring Selection or Flooring Maintenance:  Cruise ships are designed by the cruise lines and various shipbuilders and designers.  Part of the design process involves selecting appropriate flooring surfaces for the various areas of the ship.  When a cruise line implements an inappropriate flooring surface that is unreasonably slippery, the cruise line may be liable for causing a slip and fall.  For example, on the pool deck, the cruise line is well-aware that the area is going to be wet with pool water, sunscreen, spilled drinks and rainwater.  Therefore, the cruise line should install a flooring surface in this area that is designed to be very slip resistant when wet.  However, oftentimes, the flooring surface selected is extremely slippery when wet.  This results in many passengers slipping and falling even though they were being careful because the area was obviously wet.  The flooring was just extremely slippery when wet.  Under these circumstances, even if there was a slippery when wet sign present at the scene, you would still have a case against the cruise line.  Furthermore, it is likely that you are not the first person to have fallen as a result of this condition.

Failure to Appropriately Design Stairs:  Cruise ships are required to use reasonable care in designing stairs and changes in elevation on their ships.  This requires that the cruise ship conform with reasonable and appropriate design customs that we are all familiar with on land.  These standards include that the tread and riser of the stairs be uniform from step to step, that the treads not be excessive rounded, that the top of the stairway be marked with a visual cue to alert people that a stairway is ahead, and that the stairs have a reasonable coefficient of friction.  Nevertheless, some ships have stairways that do not comply with reasonable design standards.  When this occurs, some of the most important evidence will be the amount of other people that had slip and fall or trip and fall accidents on the stairs before and after your incident.  We have handled cases where dozens of people fell over a period of years due to a dangerously designed stair – and the cruise line never bothered to fix the stair.

Failure to Clean a Spill:  The cruise line and its employees are required to use reasonable care to notice, warn, and clean dangerous conditions on their ships. Sometimes the cruise line will admit that a puddle existed, and sometimes they won’t however, in these cases, the biggest burden is proving that the cruise line knew, or should have known, of the dangerous spill.  Under maritime law, we must prove that the cruise line, through its employees either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.  This can be done in several ways: through circumstantial evidence showing that the puddle or dangerous condition existed for a substantial period of time, through showing that the cruise line employees were in the area but didn’t see the spill, through showing that the employees saw the spill but did not timely act, or through showing that the spill was so large that the cruise line employees should have seen the it  and cleaned it.

Failure to Place a Warning Sign In A Safe Location:  On cruise ships, the crew is usually instructed to mark a dangerous spill with a warning sign before beginning to clean the spill. We have handled cases where a crew member failed to place a warning sign in the correct area which resulted in a passenger slipping and falling and becoming severely injured.  In this case, the crew member placed a caution sign in a main hallway to warn passengers, but failed to realize that guests would be exiting an elevator and walking through the area of the spill without ever having the opportunity to see the caution sign.

How Do Cruise Lines Defend Slip and Fall Cases?

One of the most common tactics cruise lines use is to blame the passenger. Cruise lines routinely argue that the passenger was not paying attention when he or she slipped, or that the cause of the fall was “obvious.” They sometimes even argue that the passenger caused the slippery condition.

Cruise lines also use the passenger’s lack of knowledge about the cause of the slip to their advantage. When a passenger slips and falls due to unexpected liquid on the floor or deck, the passenger usually does not know how or when the liquid was spilled, where it came from, or even what the substance was. If the passenger knew this information, then the fall likely would have been avoided. After the passenger falls, it is typically too late to gather this information. The passenger is distracted by the trauma of the fall, is in too much pain, or is too confused to examine the condition. Once the passenger leaves the scene for medical care or to report what occurred to ship employees, the cruise line often dispatches employees to clean the area and put down a “wet floor” sign. Only after the area is cleaned will the cruise line take photographs to document the so-called scene of the accident.

The cruise line will then attempt to show these photographs to the jury to demonstrate that they acted appropriately and were not at fault. Cruise lines also routinely obtain statements from employees, called witness statements, who will claim that the area was regularly cleaned and/or well-maintained. If the cruise line obtains witness statements from employees or passengers that do not support their defense, the cruise line will frequently claim these witness statements to be “confidential” or “privileged” or they simply won’t write them down and they will attempt to avoid giving these helpful statements to the passenger.

In addition, the cruise lines claim that even if a dangerous condition existed, the employees and the cruise line did not have actual or constructive notice of the condition and therefore are not responsible.  This is the most common defense that we encounter.

In these circumstances, you need an experienced injury lawyer to handle your case and to thwart the cruise line’s defenses by discovering evidence in your favor including, but not limited to, video surveillance footage, photographs, witness statements, records of prior slip and fall accidents on the ship, cruise line safety audits, safety focus groups, engineer’s reports, and the cruise line’s “confidential” incident report that documents your slip and fall.

If you’ve been injured because of a slip and fall while on a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact our firm today at (888) 216-8699 to discuss the merits of your case.