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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.
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.
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.
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.