Wrongful Death Liability on a Cruise

Posted on behalf of Henness & Haight on Jul 02, 2015 in Wrongful Death News

Every year, millions of Americans go on cruises. Such vacations on the high seas are exotic, fun and thrilling. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong, and injury or death can result. If the accident is the fault of the cruise line, survivors or relatives of the accident may be entitled to compensation for their loss. Since cruise ships sometimes leave the country, the laws can be tricky to navigate.

Maritime Law and Reasonable Care

Cruise ships are governed by a concept called maritime, or admiralty, law. This law requires such vessels to exercise reasonable care to protect those on board. They can be held liable for passenger injuries or death due to willful actions or negligence. Under maritime law, cruise ships are called common carriers -- companies that transport passengers or goods using set rates and regular routes. Most of these ships are not registered in the United States.

Filing a Complaint

If you are injured on a cruise ship, you should immediately report the incident and gather information just as with any accident. This includes talking to witnesses, taking photos, and filing a claim via the instructions on the back of your ticket. If a loved one dies as a result of a cruise ship accident and you have reason to believe the company was at fault, a wrongful death claim can be filed by a personal representative of the deceased -- usually a spouse or next of kin. The complaint must still be filed in the designated state on the back of the ticket. The cruise line can provide this information if necessary.

Negligence and Maritime Law

The trick in a maritime law claim is determining negligence. Cruise lines are not necessarily liable for passenger injuries. They must be proven to have been negligent, compliant or willful in the circumstances that caused the accident. These cases can be very tricky as all too often they occur in international waters and outside the jurisdiction of many U.S. laws. This law hinges on the idea of the reasonable person -- whether a reasonably careful operator --would have known about the hazard. If it can be proven that the operator failed to prevent a condition they should have known about, that is the first step. To prove negligence, you will likely need witnesses, an expert, evidence and knowledge about maritime rules and regulations.

Getting Help

For the most part, if you need to file a claim regarding a maritime accident, the information you will need is on the back of your ticket. This is why it's so vital to keep track of the ticket, which serves as a contract between you and the carrier. Your ticket will often include a forum-selection clause that indicates in what states you can file a lawsuit. This may be inconvenient, but it has been upheld in courts. There may also be a stated time limit in which you can file your claim. Always be careful to read the fine print on the back of your ship's ticket before boarding the vessel. If you need more information about your legal options and what you should do next, our wrongful death attorneys page may be of help. After educating yourself, you should waste no time in filing suit by contacting an attorney licensed to practice in the state listed on the back of your cruise ticket.