Cruise Ship Injuries: Do I have a Case?

Cruises can often be an enjoyable experience for family vacations or other special events. Although most cruise line guests enjoy themselves and have pictures and memories of their cruise that will last the rest of their lives, some cruise passengers are not so fortunate. Some passengers suffer personal injuries as a result of a slip and fall, medical malpractice by a ship doctor or other circumstances. Cruise ship personal injury claims are a specialized type of personal injury claim that have specific rules, methods of proof and statutes of limitation periods, which apply to these cases. Therefore, if you are injured while on a cruise, it is important to hire a Florida personal injury attorney with experience in cruise ship cases.

Cruise Line Cases Often Must be Filed in Federal Court and Are Governed by Different Law than Most Florida Personal Injury Lawsuits

Unlike personal injuries, which occur as a result of a car accident or a slip and fall incident in a grocery store, personal injury claims which stem from a cruise ship are governed by a different set of laws. Federal admiralty and maritime law govern cases involving injuries suffered on cruise ships. This means that, in most cases, any lawsuit which you file against a cruise line or any employees of a cruise line will end up in federal court. Indeed, most of the world’s major cruise lines, including Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, are headquartered in Miami. Several of these companies may have fine print on their tickets that requires that any lawsuits a cruise ship passenger may file based on injuries suffered on a cruise must be filed in federal court in Miami. This is called a forum selection clause. Therefore, no matter where you are from, your case involving injuries suffered on board a cruise ship is likely to end up in federal court in Florida. In addition, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims against cruise lines is only one year.

Medical Care Onboard Cruise Ships

One of the most common personal injury claims against cruise lines relate to medical care received onboard cruise ships. Cruise lines frequently staff their ships with foreign-trained physicians and nurses who are not licensed to practice medicine or nursing anywhere in the United States and who may have received inadequate training. In many instances, you may find that the ship doctor has no experience in treating pediatric patients just when your toddler needs a pediatrician. This fact is compounded by the fact that many times you or a family member may become injured when you are hundreds of miles off-shore and evacuation to a facility that can provide the proper level of care is not available. Furthermore, at times a person can be injured due to the often-substandard medical care available on a cruise ship. It used to be the case that a cruise line could not be held liable for negligent medical care provided to their passengers by physicians or nurses who are often independent contractors. However, thanks to a 2014 decision by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, cruise lines can be sued directly for medical negligence committed by medical personnel committed aboard a cruise ship.

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