Who Is Liable for Injuries & Deaths On Cruise Ships?
There is no question that Florida’s cruise industry continues to grow: With more than 100 new cruise ships expected to be delivered within the next few years, capable of transporting thousands of passengers, a number of individuals and families will continue to take off from Florida’s ports, including not only Tampa and Miami, but also from ports like Jacksonville.
However, a tragic accident that occurred on a ship this past summer has brought up questions as to who is responsible when these incidents occur on these trips. In this particular incident, a toddler fell out of a window on the 11th floor to her death. However, this is by no means the first tragic accident that has occurred on a cruise ship, as there have been a number of catastrophic injuries and deaths due to cruise ship accidents over the years: Thousands of passengers left adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with nothing to eat and raw sewage seeping through the carpets and walls, fires, sinking, food poisoning illnesses, assault crimes, falling overboard and unsolved disappearances, etc.
Trying To Limit Liability Through Contractual Provisions
Bringing claims against cruise ships can often be more complicated than other injury and wrongful death claims due to the contractual language included when passengers purchase their tickets. This language tries to limit the various rights and remedies that passengers have when something goes wrong, although some courts have issued opinions holding cruise ship companies accountable and their attempts to limit their liability as contrary to public policy in some circumstances. This can apply to their attempts to limit:
- The statute of limitations: While Florida law allows for plaintiffs to file injury claims for four years and wrongful death claims for two, cruise ships will often try to force lawsuits to commence within one year
- Forum selection: Your ticket will often dictate that claims can only be brought in a particular city/state. The courts have upheld these clauses unless passengers did not receive notice with enough time to cancel the cruise without a fee
- Choice of what law applies in resolving disputes
- Jurisdictional issues
Cruise Ships Are Held to A Reasonable Standard of Care & Cannot Disclaim Negligence & Misconduct
Regardless of what a ticket tries to exclude liability for, cruise ships cannot disclaim liability for death or injuries caused by gross negligence, negligence, intentional misconduct, etc. They are responsible for ensuring that their vessels are safe for passengers, just as all businesses have to take reasonable steps to ensure that their property premises are safe for customers and guests.
That being said, passengers must also act in a reasonably safe way while on the ship. In the case involving the toddler who recently fell to her death, some of the factors that will likely be relevant in determining negligence in the lawsuit against the cruise ship company will include what is common in terms of industry standards and having windows on the 11th floor/whether the windows were compliant with industry standards, who opened the window, whether a particular family member was negligent in placing the child near the window, etc.
Contact A Florida Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Attorney to Find Out More
If you or a loved one has suffered in a boat and/or premises liability accident, contact our Jacksonville personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation to find out how we can help. At Douglas & Douglas, you are not just a number or a case – our attorneys are invested in obtaining justice for our clients.