Our job is to represent cruise ship passengers that are injured or become sick on cruise ships in their lawsuits against the cruise ship companies.
Cruise Ship Passengers can always consult their problems with us free of charge with the knowledge that whatever they tell us will always remain confidential.
Medical Care Assistance
We always help our cruise passenger clients obtain the medical care that they need. If the cruise passenger has health insurance, we help him to maximize it and collect it. If the cruise passenger does not have health insurance, we will find for him doctors who are willing to wait until the end of the case to collect their fees.
Wage Loss Assistance
We always help our cruise passenger clients collect all wage and salary losses they have because of injuries or sickness they have suffered during the cruise.
Our Own Doctors
We hire our own doctors to make sure our cruise passenger clients have been diagnosed and treated correctly.
Our Own Experts
We always hire our own experts to help us understand and prove the mechanics involved in the accidents, incidents, and illnesses our cruise passenger clients suffer on and off the ships.
B1-B2 Visas Assistance
Our cruise passenger clients that reside in the United States do not need a visa to attend the legal proceedings related to their lawsuit. When a cruise passenger client is a citizen of another country and resides in another country, he will need a B1-B2 visa to come to the United States for his case.
Whenever a cruise passenger client needs to come back to the United States for his case, we help him obtain his B1-B2 Tourist Visa.
Free Case Evaluation
We are always happy to provide our cruise passenger clients with an estimate of how much money compensation they can receive for their injuries.
We always fight to obtain for our cruise passenger clients the greatest amount of money compensation. In most cases, we can obtain money compensation for our client without the need for him to attend a trial or any other legal proceeding.
Fees and Costs
We never charge fees nor costs until we win your case.
We Are Always Available
We always answer all cruise passenger clients’ phone calls and Emails promptly to address any questions or clarify any doubts they may have.
As a cruise ship passenger, you have rights the cruise companies want you to know. You also have rights the cruise companies do not want you to know.
These are the rights the cruise companies do not want you to know:
You have the right to receive money compensation for any accident, injury, assault, disappearance, drowning or near drowning that occurs aboard the cruise ship. These include: A. Slip and fall accidents during the cruise. B. Rape or sexual assaults during the cruise. C. Drowning or near drowning accidents during the cruise. D. Disappearances during the cruise. E. Any dangerous condition that causes you or your family harm during the cruise.
You also have the right to receive money compensation for any accident, injury, assault, disappearance, drowning or near drowning during shore side excursions.
These are the rights the cruise companies want you to know:
The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Master’s concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port.
The right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled due to mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures.
The right to have available on board ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed until shore side medical care becomes available.
The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures.
The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
The right to an emergency electrical generator in case the main generator fails.
The right to transportation to the ship’s scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger’s home city in the event a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
The right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
The right to have included on each cruise line’s website a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operations.
The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line’s website.
Do you have any questions or concerns? Contact us for more information.
If a cruise a cruise passenger is injured or suffers an accident during the cruise because of the negligence or the fault of the cruise line, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line. The most common dangers that cruise passengers are exposed to are the following:
Slip and falls aboard the ships. When a passenger is injured because the floor or the stairs he was walking on were slippery, defective, or dangerous, the cruise line is responsible for his injuries because it failed to keep the floor clean and safe. Therefore, if a passenger falls and injures himself because the floor or the stairs of the ship were dirty, slippery or defective, he is entitled to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
Accidents and injuries during shore excursions in the ports. Frequently cruise passengers suffer accidents, injuries, or assaults during shore excursions in the different ports. The cruise lines are responsible for these accidents and injuries because the companies that run these excursions are often agents or partners of the cruise line. Therefore, if a cruise passenger is injured or assaulted during a shore excursion in a port, he is entitled to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
Rape or sexual assaults during the cruise. Frequently, cruise passengers are the victims of rape or sexual assaults by the crew members or other passengers. The cruise line is responsible for these rapes and assaults for its failure to have a well trained crew or its failure to provide adequate security for its passengers. Therefore, if a passenger is raped or sexually assaulted, he is entitled to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
Drowning or near-drowning. When a cruise passenger drowns or almost drowns while participating in activities sponsored or supervised by the cruise line, the cruise line is responsible because of its failure to have adequate security or supervision such as a lifeguard on duty. Therefore, if a cruise passenger drowns or almost drowns, he or his family is entitled to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
Disappearances. When a cruise passenger disappears during a cruise because he has been the victim of a crime on the ship, in a port, or because the cruise line employees sold him too much alcohol, the cruise line is responsible for his disappearance. Therefore, if a cruise passenger disappears because he has been the victim of a crime or because he has been maliciously drugged or intoxicated, he or his family is entitled to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
Our advice to any passenger that is injured aboard a cruise ship is to consult with a maritime lawyer immediately.
Since the end of the 70’s, cruises have become a very popular vacation for the American middle class. Regrettably, there are a lot of accidents aboard these ships and many passengers suffer very serious cruise ship injuries. The most typical maritime accidents are:
Slip and Falls and Trip and Falls due to dangerous conditions aboard the ships such as defective floors, and slippery substances on the floors. These accidents can occur inside the cabins, in and around the pools, on the decks, hallways, access ramps, restaurants, bars, etc.
Cruise ship accidents during short excursions
Fires and Maritime Collisions
Poisoning and Sickness due to contaminated food and drink
Negligence in providing medical care when it is required.
Negligence in providing adequate accommodations for handicapped people.
Physical or sexual assaults perpetrated by the crew or other passengers.
Maritime claims for cruise ship incidents and injuries
Many passengers are not aware that they can receive money compensation for injuries that result from these incidents and accidents on cruise ships. Additionally, they do not know the laws that apply and the location where the lawsuits must be filed. Matters are made more difficult by the fact that most maritime claims have to be filed where the main offices of the cruise company is located. The main offices for most of the main cruise lines that operate in the United States are located in Miami. Therefore, most passenger lawsuits against the cruise lines have to be filed in Miami. As a result of this, most passengers start their maritime lawsuits in Miami after returning to their home states or home countries.
Maritime claims and passengers’ contractual limitations
The passenger ticket is a contract between the passenger and the cruise line. It contains far more than the itinerary. It imposes severe limitations on a passengers’ ability to file a maritime claim against the company and it must be read very carefully because it will contain all the requirements that must be complied with before a maritime lawsuit can be filed. For example, some companies require written notification of the passenger’s intention to file a lawsuit, and this usually has to be done within six (6) months after the accident.
Maritime claims and statute of limitations
The passenger ticket also contains that statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time within which the passenger can file his case against the company. If the passenger does not file the case against the company within the statute of limitations, he will lose all his rights. It is a very short statute of limitations. It is one (1) year from the date of the accident or injury. More passenger cases are lost for failure to comply with the requirements of the ticket and the statute of limitations than for any other reason. If you suffered cruise ship injuries during your vacation and want to file a maritime lawsuit, please read your passenger ticket carefully and comply with all of its requirements. If for any reason you have lost your ticket, please request a copy of it immediately from the company and comply with all of its requirements. Better yet, contact us– (305) 642-5000 – and we will help you comply with all the requirements and bring your lawsuit to a successful conclusion.
Though cruise vacations are usually a safe and popular choice for travelers, what is less known is how severely restricted their rights are when something bad happens. In the process of buying a cruise ship ticket, the consumer automatically agrees to a boilerplate contract that limits what can be done to seek redress. And to make matters worse, there’s really no shopping around, all cruise companies use the same type of contract with the same restrictions. After all, no cruise ship company attracts their customers by advertising how much more lenient and generous their boilerplate contracts are compared to the competition. If anything, cruises can get away with this because the vast majority of travelers are unaware of what they are signing, and may be operating under a false sense of security. Even now, the public is unaware of how little protection exists for cruise ship passengers under maritime law.
Can anything be done? Before that question is answered, it is a good idea to take stock of what the fine print specifies. According to maritime lawyer James M. Walker, the choice-of-forum clause is something every potential cruise passenger should be aware of because “you have to file suit in the location specified on the contract on your cruise ship ticket.” In the United States, most cruise ship companies are headquartered in Miami and will specify that a consumer can only sue in Miami, which can be a huge obstacle for passengers who do not live in Florida. Given that cruise ship vacationers often fly to the ports of departure to board their ship, this clause is especially effective in discouraging lawsuits because of the added cost, time, and travel just to file a case.
But even without the choice-of-forum clause, just buying the cruise ship tickets means that you have already agreed to a list of restrictive terms and conditions that prevent legal remuneration. Added Mr. Walker, “So many people call us and tell us they were treated badly on a cruise and 90 percent of the time we have to tell them that because of the terms and conditions of the contract, they don’t have a case.”
One way to deal with legally bulletproof cruise ship contracts is to buy comprehensive travelers insurance that includes coverage for lost luggage as well as emergency medical care. This can be a pricy alternative, but for those who can afford it and want to reduce risk in their cruise ship experience, it can be an option.
However, the legal invincibility of the cruise ship industry may be waning. In the wake of the highly publicized Concordia disaster and the negative publicity stirred up by the breakdown of the Carnival Triumph, cruise companies have finally responded to public outcry by approving a Passengers Bill of Rights. Fortunately, the newly approved guidelines are more than just public relations window dressing, because it is legally enforceable if the cruise company violates it. Among the guaranteed rights are: access to certified medical emergency attention, emergency backup power should the ship’s generator fail, complimentary overnight accommodations if the passenger is forced to stay overnight at an unscheduled port, the right to leave a docked ship if necessities cannot be accessed on board, and much more.
Though this “Passenger Bill of Rights” is not codified under modern maritime law, it is still enforceable because it is now standard for cruise ship contracts when a traveler buys a ticket. The path to true accountability is a long and winding road. But with the weight of public opinion affecting the bottom line, cruise companies will continue to do what is necessary to keep their customers, even if it means giving up their legal invulnerability.
For millions of travelers, cruise ships are a great way to leave the real world behind. It’s usually a safe and fun atmosphere, where you can enjoy activities like gambling and alcohol consumption without the hassle of red tape or threat of arrest. Unfortunately, the lack of jurisdiction at sea can be a big problem if you are ever a victim of crime onboard a cruise ship. Ship incidents such as an onboard fire, piracy, crashing into rocks or a glacier, and crime on cruise ships are quite rare. Between 2004 to 2007, cruise lines have reported 28 people who disappeared while at sea, while only 3 of the reported missing have been found. There were also about 200 reports of sexual misconduct or assault, and 4 recorded instances of grand theft during that time period.
However, the problem with cruise ship crime isn’t frequency (which is thankfully rare, considering the millions of cruise ship passengers each year)—it’s the difficulty of prosecuting offenders and enforcing maritime law. Very few reported cases have been properly investigated, and even fewer investigated cases have ever been solved.
Many factors complicate the enforcement of maritime law. The reality is that cruise ships don’t have to report crime data to any official governing institution, and the responsibility of maritime law enforcement often falls under the flag state the cruise ship is sailing under. Every country is different when it comes to prioritizing maritime law enforcement, which further adds to the confusion when a crime does occur.
Determining Jurisdiction Under Maritime Law
In 2006, a female passenger vacationing onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was raped and assaulted in her stateroom. Upon returning immediately to Los Angeles, she gave her statement to the FBI, only to find out that there was nothing the U.S. justice system could do.
Existing global maritime law mandates that cruise ships must do everything possible to ensure safe passage. However, determining jurisdiction can be complicated—which depends on whether the ship was in international waters or within the national coastline when the crime occurred, and what state flag the cruise ship is sailing under.
Unfortunately for the woman, the ship was in international waters when the alleged assault occurred, and is registered in Liberia. Before the incident triggered a congressional hearing on cruise ship crime in 2006, the cruise line recorded 66 cases of alleged rape between 2003 and 2005, without a single case resulting in a successful prosecution.
Different countries have their own version of maritime law, which means that cruise ship crimes must be decided on a case to case basis by necessity. First and foremost, the country where the ship is registered determines what laws apply. For the Royal Caribbean cruise ship that is registered in Liberia, only Liberian maritime laws apply, which are supposed to be enforced by Liberian authorities.
Additional jurisdiction also applies depending on where the ship is docking. If the ship is docked in Long Beach, CA, then all U.S. and California laws apply to the ship, its passengers, and its crew—regardless of the country the ship is registered under.
A country’s laws are usually applicable to any ships within 12 miles from its coastline, though there are some exceptions. For instance, no ship can allow gambling activities until it is 12 miles out of the American coastline, no matter what flag country the ship is sailing under.
The contiguous zone, which is the area between 12 to 24 miles from any national coastline, falls under limited national jurisdiction. Countries can patrol their borders within that zone and even supersede the authority of the flag state the ship is sailing under, as long as the ship is still within 24 miles of the national coastline.
Once the ship is 24 miles away from any national coastline, it’s considered to be sailing in international waters. In this case, the ship is subject only to the laws of its flag state. For example, a Panama registered ship that is 25 miles off the coast of Florida is only subject to Panamanian law, not U.S. or Florida law.
Unbeknownst to the vast majority of cruise passengers, cruise lines can also dictate where they can be sued according to the fine print on the ticket. If the ticket specifies that the cruise line can only be sued in Miami, then any other state court will almost always refuse to hear the case. It is for these reasons that lawsuits against cruise lines are rare. Not only is it difficult to file them, but the ones that do get filed rarely go anywhere.
The Advantages of Legal Leniency
Most of the time, you don’t have to worry about crime on cruise ships. For people looking to get away and enjoy activities that are normally illegal or banned in their home countries, the high seas are a great opportunity to safely have fun without the worry of arrest or over-regulation. This is why passengers on U.S. registered cruise ships can enjoy gambling and round the clock drinking (as long as the liver and the cruise bartender will allow it) without violating any American anti-gambling and public intoxication laws.
The hazy jurisdiction under maritime law is usually a good thing, as long as no crime is committed. It’s important to remember that despite the lack of clarity in maritime jurisdiction, cruise vacations are usually safe and crime-free. That said, it’s always a good idea for travelers to be informed and prepared for all the risks—and to never forget to read the fine print.
Cruise ship passengers have more limited compensation rights and consumer protections than air travelers – as the Carnival Triumph passengers found to their dismay.
Cruise ship regulations and cruise industry loopholes
The cruising industry is regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), which focuses on safety rather than consumer issues. The FMC is not as strict as the US Department of Transportation, which oversees the airline industry and enforces consumer-friendly regulations. In addition, many cruise lines sail under foreign flags such as the Bahamas, Panama, Liberia, or Honduras, which enables major cruise operators like Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean to avoid paying US federal taxes and exempts them from following regulations and standards established by the US government.
These loopholes mean that cruise ships passengers can experience on-board fires, power outages, and other maritime hazards, yet they have limited legal recourse for their pain and suffering.
“Each of these issues requires urgent attention from both the industry and regulators,” said Ross Klein, a researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. “Because most [cruise ship] accidents are avoidable – related either to human error or to allowing ships out of port with unresolved mechanical issues – there is a need for much greater oversight of the industry and stricter enforcement of safety standards.”
Significant cruise ship accidents
According to Klein’s research, there have been at least 100 recorded cruise ship incidents worldwide in which cruise ships have gone adrift or sustained power outages since 2000. In addition, there have been 79 onboard fires and 73 collisions recorded for cruise ships since 1990.
In defense of the industry, The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) insists that its members “are subject to a very comprehensive body of laws, regulations and policies established at the national and international levels.”
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) also oversees the cruise industry and establishes global standards that all vessels are required to adhere to. However, its regulations specify cruise safety standards rather than passenger rights and comfort.
Notable past cruise ship incidents include: a fire on the Azamara Quest near the coast of Malaysia; the Costa Concordia accident last year; and a power outage on the Allegra, which stranded 1,000 passengers without power or water for one week. In response, CLIA adopted 10 new regulations to ensure cruise ship passenger safety, such as the number of available life jackets and revamped emergency procedures.
CLIA released an official statement regarding the new policies, stating: “Cruising is one of the safest forms of leisure transportation, thanks to our industry-wide commitment to safety, strict regulations and vigorous enforcement mechanisms. Yet the rarity of cruise ship accidents does not mitigate the pain and loss we feel if they do occur.”
Cruise passengers may have limited consumer rights and protections
However, the new regulations have done nothing to spell out and formalize consumer rights and protections for cruise passengers. Critics also charge that the new policies do nothing to mitigate lax global oversight, even when the ships dock at US ports and submit to US Coast Guard inspections.
“There is not one universal overlord” that oversees the vessels, explained Robert Jarvis, professor of maritime law at Nova Southeastern University Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “So there is a race to the bottom for cruise lines looking for which country is the most lax and the most inexpensive. And there are countries that say to ship owners, ‘If you come here and pay an annual fee, we will leave you alone.’ “
Would-be cruise passengers need to carefully read the contract on their ticket, so they can understand what they are entitled to if anything were to happen. Standard practice usually involves full or partial refunds, or credits toward a future cruise. In response to what the 3,143 Carnival Triumph passengers endured, Carnival Cruise Lines offered $500 on top of a full refund for their ticket.
According to Carnival Cruise Lines, an engine room fire causes the power outage. The US National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the cruise ship incident, though any impact on cruise regulations remains to be seen.
Cruise lawsuit immunity
Cruise ships are largely immune to lawsuits, since the standard of proof required of the plaintiffs are very difficult to fulfill. For a cruise ship lawsuit to have any traction, it must be proven that the cruise company knew that the vessel was not seaworthy, which is very hard to establish.
Though cruise vacations are often one of the safest travel options around, travelers need to be aware of what their rights are in case the unthinkable happens. Unfortunately, the cruise industry continues to operate in a type of legal purgatory, which means that passengers won’t be able to expect substantial changes in consumer protection anytime soon.
If you have suffered from a cruise ship accident, please contact our law office for a free evaluation. Attorney Elias Rudnikas is a maritime lawyer that provides law services free of charge until he wins each case.