I’m Charles Naylor. I’m a Maritime personal injury lawyer, and the purpose of this video is to talk about the basics of United States Maritime law as it applies to injuries that occur on passenger cruise ships.
When a passenger’s injured, the law that will ordinarily apply is the General Maritime Law of the United States.
This is true for most of the cruise lines that you’ll sail on. For example, a Princess, Cunard, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise lines, Holland America. Even though many of these names have foreign sounding names, the cruise lines are based in the United States. So the law that applies is the Federal Maritime Law of the United States.
A cruise line can be held liable for damages but only if the injury is caused by its negligence. Negligence is sometimes something dramatic. For example, the listing incident on the Crown Princess that occurred a few years ago when the negligence of a crew member nearly caused the vessel to capsize. Hundreds of passengers and crew members were injured.
But usually, negligence is of the more ordinary sort.
For example, a deck that becomes unreasonably slippery when it’s wet around a swimming pool or perhaps one that’s exposed to the weather, or a poorly marked tripping or falling hazard. An example would be the raised thresholds that are present on some doorways on ships or a single step elevation change, for example in a dining room or a restaurant, to improve the ambiance or decoration. But that’s difficult to see when the lights are low.
Every year, thousands of cruise line passengers suffer broken hips, shoulder injuries, knee injuries, neck and back injuries as a result of these dangerous conditions. Compensation is available under US Maritime law for the cost of medical care, past and future, lost earnings if you’re still working and compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
US Maritime law protects you on these ships no matter where in the world your injury occurs. And foreign passengers are entitled to this same protection as US citizens.
But there are important limits on your rights that you need to be aware of.
The first of these is that cruise lines are allowed to shorten the time you have to make a claim. They’re allowed to do this in two ways.
First, they require that you give them written notice of the claim within six months of the date of the injury. And that you file a lawsuit within one year of the date of the injury. This is considerably shorter than the time that’s allowed under most state laws and under federal law. So you have to be careful about the time.
The second is that cruise lines are allowed to limit the place where you can file a lawsuit. Most specify either Los Angeles, California or Miami, Florida. But whichever they specify, that’s the only place you’re allowed to file suit.
But the law require that these limits be spelled out in plain language in your passage ticket. So you need to check the passage ticket to see what limits apply to you.
If you don’t have the ticket or if when you look, you’re not clear on what the limitations are that apply to you, an experienced Maritime lawyer can tell you what the limits are for most of the major cruise lines.
You have rights under Maritime law, but you also have responsibilities. Our mission here is to help you understand both.
Our attorneys are available to you for a no cost, no obligation consultation and are happy to answer whatever questions you may have about cruise ship injuries.