Injuries on Cruise Ships

The recent sinking of the Costa Concordia Cruise Ship with resulting deaths and injuries has brought the issue of the dangers of taking a cruise to the forefront. While the risk of any given cruise ship sinking is relatively small, every traveller should be aware of the overall risks of taking a cruise. A cruise ship today is a floating city with all the dangers of travelling to any city. Some of the staff and fellow travelers are untrustworthy and carelesness can lead to tripping and slipping hazards, and injuries. Now, add to the equation that the ship may be rocking making it difficult to walk, that alcohol is flowing freely reducing people's ability to make good decisions, and people are packed in tightly. All of these factors can lead to people becoming sick or injured on a cruise ship. As in any other location, people have been killed, assaulted, raped and disappeared on cruise ships. The difference though is that when one of these crimes happen at sea there is no local police to investigate. Cruise ship employees involved in crimes are often quickly shipped back to their country of origin never to be seen again. Cruise companies more concerned about their reputation, and avoiding litigation, than helping passengers, have been known to put up roadblocks to prevent victims of crimes from discovering who was at fault. Similarly, passengers of cruises have been injured when they have tripped and fallen over defective conditions, or slipped and fallen on spills or poorly maintained surfaces. Passengers are exposed to bed bugs in cabins which have not been properly exterminated. People have been burned by hot beverages spilled on them by waiters. When someone is injured they will usually be first treated by the ship's doctor who has an interest in protecting his employer, the cruise line. When an incident report is made by the cruise line, they likewise have an interest in writing it in a way to protect themselves. The time and place in which a lawsuit may be brought against a cruise line is controlled by the cruise line. The ticket for the cruise usually limits the location where a lawsuit may be commenced. The venue for the lawsuit is often different from where you live, or where the cruise sailed from, but a passenger is bound by the language in the ticket. Likewise, the time to start a lawsuit is usually shorter than the statute of limitations for similar land based claims. It is common for cruise lines to require that lawsuits against them be commenced within one year of the incident. It is important to read the language on the ticket to find out exactly what your rights are. It is important to use common sense when on a cruise and keep your wits about you to avoid putting yourself in a compromising position. If you are injured in an accident or assaulted, due to the negligence or action of the ship's employees it is important to report what happened and gather as much information as possible as you can. The names of persons involved, witnesses, and responders should all be recorded. Take pictures of the location and any injuries. Note the time and place of the occurrence. All such information will be helpful later. If a crime has been committed you should contact the local authorities in the first port of call. As soon as possible you should also contact a lawyer to advise you about your rights in bringing a claim against the cruise line. Because of the shorter statute of limitations and venue considerations it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you try to deal with representatives of the cruise line on your own they will likely to string you along with offers of future ship credits or other benefits which are of little cost to them, while your time to sue expires. In summary, while the sinking of a cruise ship is a rare event, injuries and accidents on cruise ships are not rare. While, you may be able to reduce your likelihood of injury by using common sense and avoiding dangerous and compromising positions, injuries caused by the negligence or actions of Cruise Lines and their employees do happen on a too frequent basis. If you are the victim of a crime or injured on a cruise ship you should take the above steps to protect your rights. Zalman Schnurman & Miner is a New York Personal Injury Law Firm. Call us at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800529-5463) for a free consultation. All cases are taken on a contingency fee basis and thus there is no fee unless there is a recovery. If you have been injured while on a cruise ship do not hesitate to call to discuss your rights.

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