By Ehline Law Firm – As a passenger on one of these ocean Greyhounds, many of the hazards that can happen on land can also occur aboard ship. Passengers can sustain injuries from other passengers, dangerous conditions aboard the ship or due to the actions of crew members. Passengers can be assaulted, raped or robbed, while on-board the steamer.
One of the other dangers the ship and passengers can suffer are external, such as attacks by pirates. Armed robbers, using assault rifles and other rocket launchers, using high-speed boats, have been an increasing problem for ocean liners, and even commercial ventures, since approximately 2003.
This has resulted in robberies of passengers and even deaths off the coast of Somalia. Even a famous movie with Tom Hanks, was made about one such attack here:
Captain Phillips Trailer – Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener
This Maersk Alabama case, is nothing compared to the loss of life and dangerous events that unfold on private floating hotels and their transport shore vessels at sea.
See the Below Video Dealing With Cruise Ship Accident Laws
As noted in the video, these “floating palaces” have a responsibility to ensure the “duty of safe passage” to its passengers. When passengers are injured on-board a cruise ship, they have the right to file a lawsuit against the owner of the sea vessel, the company that chartered the cruise ship, the company that sold tickets and the charterer or operator of the ship. These claims may be subject to specific cruise ship laws, which affect where and when a passenger is able to file a lawsuit, and the applicable laws.
Cruise Ship Safety
All vessels on the ocean are subject to inspections, and this includes cruise ships. Most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries, and carry the country’s flag. This means they are subject to inspection according to vessel inspection laws in the country, where the ship is registered.
When these ships board passengers at U.S. ports, the U.S. Coast Guard requires the ship to meet the standards of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea(SOLAS. This and other international regulations are strictly regulated for crew and crewing competency, lifesaving equipment, firefighting and fire protection.
Vessel integrity, ship control, stability, navigation safety, safety management and environmental protection, are a part of the strictly regulated international regulations. U.S. passenger ships much have licensed individuals and crew, which must comply with U.S. Coast Guard regulations, who sets the standards for training and experience.
Duty of Care for Cruise Line Passengers
When a ship is departing from U.S. ports, they are considered common carriers, which means they must adhere to the Shipping Act of 1984, 46 U.S.C. § 1702 (6). This act determines that carriers owe passengers a higher duty care in protection from physical harm, they are responsible for ensuring the passengers arrive safely at their destination.
This includes the passenger’s safety from assaults, rapes, crew members, and other types of criminal behavior.
Cruise Ship Disappearances
If there is a report of a missing passenger, the cruise line company has a duty to carry out reasonable rescue search and rescue efforts. When the missing person is not found aboard the ship, then the vessel must return to the location, where the person was last known to be seen.
There have been passengers, who have fallen overboard cruise ships for a variety of reasons and have been rescued, even when they have been missing for hours. When a passenger is missing, and the cruise line fails to perform a reasonable search and rescue effort, they may be held liable for the disappearance of the passenger, since they failed in their duty of care.
Filing a Cruise Ship Lawsuit
Passengers who sustained injuries, or have become the victim of a criminal act on-board a cruise ship; have the right to file a lawsuit to recover damages, including medical costs, loss of income, pain, and suffering. The one thing that differs from the same injuries or criminal act taking place on land is that filing the claim may be governed by the terms on the cruise ship ticket.
Cruise ship tickets contain what is called a forum selection clause and a choice of law provision, which is found in the small print on the back of the ticket. This fine print will specify the state, where passengers must file their lawsuit against the cruise line and the laws get applied in such cases.
The cruise line will define that filing claims for injuries that occurred while on the cruise ship to be filed in Los Angeles, California, Seattle, Washington or Miami, Florida. This will depend on where the cruise line is based and failing to follow the rules in these sections of the ticket, could result in the court refusing to hear the case, since the terms on the ticket are considered a contract between the passenger and the cruise line.
Passengers filing a lawsuit against a cruise line, who object to it being heard in a court outside of their home state can petition to have it moved to a local tribunal. But this challenge is usually denied.
It may be outlined on the ticket that the injured passenger is required to provide notice of the injury to the cruise line, within a specified period, which is usually six months from the date of the injury. This is not the same statute of limitations that is usual for the filing of an admiralty and maritime claim, which is three years.
The ticket may detail that any lawsuits filed against the cruise line, must do so in Los Angeles, California or Miami Florida. In either state, the court may enforce the time limitation outlined in the ticket and deny claims that are filed later than this specified period.
Injuries Suffered by Employees
Cruise ship employees are protected by the Jones Act, which apples to seamen who sustain personal injuries or death in the course of their duties. The Jones Act protects most cruise ship employees, and especially those who live and work aboard the ship. When an employee becomes injured during their employment for the ship, the seamen are entitled to medical expenses, which are related to the injury. They are also entitled to living expenses during their recovery.
Jurisdiction Terms and Laws
Many of the cruise lines get registered in other countries; as such, they fly the flag of that foreign country and abide by their laws. This means these laws could apply to incidences that occur on the cruise ship. When a cruise ship leaves a U.S. port, the laws of the state, where it departed from apply, as well as U.S. federal laws. International treaties may also apply to incidences that occur aboard ship.
One of these may be maritime jurisdiction, pursuant to 18 U.S. Code Section 7, if a criminal offense has been committed by or against a United States citizen, which occurs outside the jurisdiction of any country and applies to foreign vessels that have a U.S. departure and arrival port.
When an offense has been committed, California law enforcement and federal law enforcement have special maritime jurisdiction, if the victim is a resident of California. This also applies if the suspect of an incident is a California resident on-board the ship.
This applies, when over half of the passengers boarding a ship that embarks and disembarks in a California port or when the crime could have had a ‘substantial effect” within the state of California. Learn more at 633 West 5th Street #2890 Los Angeles, CA 90071. (213) 596-9642. Understanding cruise law is of vital importance for anyone who cares about their safe passage.