Cruise ship shore excursions can be a fun and exciting way to experience the culture and beautiful landscapes here in the United States and abroad. All the major cruise lines offer excursions ashore, with activities including: jet skis, scuba diving, ZIP lines, fishing, swimming with dolphins, hiking and private tours. Participating in a cruise ship excursion should be and usually is fun; but there are physical and legal hazards associated with shore excursions that you should be aware of.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are always popular excursions in the Caribbean and Hawaii. Off the coast of Maui alone there are a dozen popular dive spots, including the spectacular Molokini Crater. If, for example, you or a loved one participated in a scuba diving excursion off the coast of Maui, and was seriously injured or died while on the excursion, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the cruise line and/or the excursion operator.
Your first course of action should be to contact a Maritime Attorney that is experienced in handling cruise ship injury and death claims. When you buy your cruise ticket, you are essentially entering into a contract. In the passage ticket, all cruise lines have placed limitations on how long you have to file a lawsuit and where the suit can be filed. The passage ticket is written to make the same limitations applicable to the excursion operators. Even though a scuba diving excursion operator may be based in Hawaii, where the accident occurred and is not an employee of the cruise line, you must file suit within the time and venue restrictions outlined in your cruise ticket contract.
For most of the cruise lines the time limits are the same. You must submit written notice of the claim within six months of the date of injury, and file suit within one year. But the venue restrictions vary from cruise line to cruise line, most specifying Los Angeles or Miami. For example, all Carnival Cruise Lines lawsuits must be filed in Miami and all suits against Princess Cruises must be filed in Los Angeles. If you let too much time go by, or file suit in the wrong location, you may unintentionally waive your legal rights.
Furthermore, it’s likely that your passage ticket also includes an “assumption of risk,” clause that is intended to protect the cruise line from responsibility, even where the injury or death is caused by its own negligence. To top it off, the passage ticket will have language claiming that the excursion operator is an “independent contractor” and denying responsibility for injury or death caused by the “contractor”.
It takes an experienced Maritime Injury Lawyer to review the facts of your case, your passage ticket contract, and find the best way to protect your rights.