What to Do if You Are Injured on a Cruise Ship

Our lead trial lawyer Brett Rivkind has an international reputation for dedication and excellence. His hard work and success have been recognized extensively through awards and special recognitions.

Cruise ships can be a great way to enjoy a vacation with family or friends and can be safely enjoyed if you go on board aware of the numerous risks involved in suffering an accident or injury, including the risk of being the victim of a sexual assault, rape, or other type of crime. The key of course is prevention of accidents and crimes. However, if an accident or crime does occur, there are several things you should do:

1. The Rules of the International Maritime Organization Apply

Cruise ship companies must abide by the rules of the International Maritime Organization, which requires the development of safety management systems by each cruise line company. The safety management system will include an accident investigation and reporting section, dictating what cruise ship employees must do every time an accident is reported.

Therefore, step one is to make sure that your accident is reported and documented.

2. Assumption of the Risk Forms

There are numerous activities that cruise ship companies have incorporated on board a ship that have been developed and built to be operated on land, not on a mega cruise ship plying the high seas. Activities such as zip lining, going down a waterslide, rock climbing, and ice skating pose serious safety risks to the passengers. Another popular activity on cruise ships that has generated a number of accident claims is the FlowRider, an activity which simulates surfing. Before participating in any of these activities, passengers are usually required to sign an assumption of risk form.

It is important to know that under the maritime law, the cruise line company cannot contract away their responsibility for any negligence that causes injuries to passengers.

3. Be Careful What You say

The investigation of your accident will be conducted by cruise ship employees, normally the staff captain and security officer. The medical staff will also generate a report. What you say to anyone in the medical facility, or to any of the employees on the ship will likely be recorded in forms the cruise line utilize. Often times, the cruise lines take statements when a passenger has just been involved in an accident, and is not a good historian of the facts, or simply not well enough to accurately convey the necessary information. Because the passenger is not feeling well or is simply in too much pain to care about giving a statement, important details may be left out. However, the cruise lines often push to get the statement immediately.

Therefore, you must be careful to accurately state facts and realize that what you say will be recorded in the forms, and may eventually be used against you in any claim you may bring.

4. Be Careful What You Write

Most of the time the cruise lines will attempt to get a statement in writing from the passenger in which the passenger writes details in his or her own handwriting, which makes it difficult to dispute what is contained in the statement later if the passenger was in fact inaccurate due to the circumstances under which the statement was taken. Therefore, if you do not feel well enough to provide an accurate written statement, you should not prepare one. Also, be careful not to allow a family member to do the statement on your behalf because often times the statement is not completely accurate, and again the statement can be used against you later in litigation.

5. Be Aware

It is important to keep in mind that the investigation the cruise line conducts regarding an accident is not only in accordance with their standard procedures, but also in anticipation of litigation. This means that the cruise lines will take statements and gather information in case they are sued. Accordingly, keep that in mind, because obviously the cruise line will try to conduct the investigation in the best way to assist them in defending any potential claim that may be asserted against them. Their questioning of the facts and circumstances of the accident does not indicate that they care about you and are simply trying to help figure out what happened and assist you.
Instead, the cruise lines will later claim that the statements you made were prepared in anticipation of litigation. That is why it is important to be careful what you say.

6. Be Investigators

If you or a family member suffers an accident, be your own investigators. Try to gather the names and contact information of any other passengers who might be able to assist you later in pursuing a claim against the company. Also, gather the names and job positions of any crewmembers you believe has any knowledge of your accident, or who might be helpful to your case later on. Often times a crew member will make a statement saying that this type of accident happens frequently, or that they were having problems with a particular area, and this can be very valuable information when you do pursue a case. Identifying the crew member will be difficult unless you get a name and job position at the time.

You should also take any photographs showing the area where you had your accident, as it is very difficult if you decide to assert a claim to get back on board a cruise ship for an accident investigation, and often times the areas change.
Relying on a cruise ship companies’ investigation is not enough to help show both sides of the case. You and your family members should gather as much information as possible on your own before you leave the ship.

7. Report Immediately

If you are harmed or injured in anyway, or the victim of a crime or sexual assault, you must immediately report the incident, and document whatever you can regarding what you reported to the cruise line. You should insist that the standard procedures of the company are followed, making sure your incident is reported, documented, and investigated promptly. Also, you should personally contact United States authorities, and other local police departments or the FBI, and make sure the cruise line does so as well. Eventually, one of the authorities will step forward, and you will know which authority will take over any potential investigation. A crime on a cruise ship raises many complex jurisdictional issues that you do not want to have result in a failure of an investigation to take place, and a perpetrator of a crime to get away with his or her acts.
You and your family must be very active and vocal to make sure the authorities are promptly contacted and to confirm somebody is promptly getting involved in gathering evidence and investigating.

8. 6 months Deadline so Contact a Maritime Lawyer ASAP

As soon as you leave the ship, you should obviously seek treatment immediately for any serious injuries, and if you have been the victim of a sexual assault or rape, you should proceed immediately to a rape treatment center. Because there is only a 6-month deadline, after you have attended to any medical care needed, you should immediately contact a maritime attorney for more advice.

This is especially important in the context of making a claim as a passenger on a cruise ship because the passenger tickets that you are issued requires notice to the company that you are asserting a claim, typically within 6 months, and then requires the filing of any lawsuit within one year. This is a very short period of time, and often times the cruise lines will not notify you of these deadlines that are contained in fine print on the passenger tickets, hoping that you wait too long before you contact a lawyer, resulting in your claim being time barred and invalid.

Our admiralty and maritime law firm is available for a free consultation.


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Brett Rivkind is a lawyer that not only cares but also a lawyer that makes a difference. Whether its speaking in congress to help promote safety awareness in legislation or representing clients in court seeking compensation for their injuries, Brett Rivkind is passionate about his dedication toward both promoting safety at sea and helping clients in need who have been harmed at sea.

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Jury verdict obtained by Brett Rivkind selected to hall of fame of jury verdicts. This case is believed to be a record verdict of this particular type of case.

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