We are into summer and the cruise season. "Ahoy, Mates," but, also, "Beware, Mates." All may not be so well. Injuries on cruises are more common than we want to consider. After all, we are paying to have fun. When injuries occur, though, it's not fun, and the question becomes, "Is someone legally responsible for the injury and the disruption of my vacation?"
Sexual assaults by crew members, slips and trips, medical malpractice, and injuries during shore trips do occur. That will happen a certain percentage of the time. Maritime law applies to these cases, stating in subjective terms that the cruise line has a "duty to exercise reasonable care" for its passengers' safety. That's a duty to exercise reasonable care under all the circumstances according to the courts, but it's still a vague standard.
That's why we lawyers, both for the injured and the cruise lines, have to argue the facts about what happened and why the law should favor our clients. The tension between the two is obvious. If location on the ship is important to show a dangerous condition, it would be extremely helpful if the injured person has photographed the place where the injury occurred because, obviously, the lawyer or his investigator cannot board the ship later to secure that evidence. So get photos. Fast.
Cruise passengers’ tickets contain a reference to the Athens Convention. That treaty can limit damages to $70,000 per person. Fortunately, the U.S. has not ratified that treaty, so its limitations cannot apply to any ship that enters a U.S. port. That's our protection for voyages touching Canaveral, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and other U.S. ports. It is so important for you who have been injured to report to your attorneys how the ship was laid out, what the cruise line did that was negligent, and whether the crew members who responded made any statements. And don't forget that a photo is worth a thousand words.