Maritime Law

Maritime Law

Cruise Ship Injury Lawyers

Every year, thousands of people enjoy relaxing cruises aboard large cruise ships. But when things go wrong on these voyages, the incident often ends very badly. Far from shore, there are no emergency responders to react to fires and other catastrophes. Or, if someone on board develops a contagious disease, everyone else on board could be at risk. Collisions and other similar events are not uncommon either.

These claims are quite complex, because they may involve state law or U.S. law. The Napoli Shkolnik legal team has the expertise you need. Under the leadership of noted cruise ship injury attorneys like Marie Napoli, our professionals quickly evaluate your claim from both a factual and legal perspective. At the same time, we connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money. In other words, the total well-being of our clients is the only thing we care about when they partner with us.

Types of Cruise Ship Accidents

Many things can go wrong on a cruise ship, and shipowner negligence causes or contributes to almost all of them.

Large ships are essentially floating cities. All these people living and working together puts a great deal of strain on a ship’s physical facilities, such as walkways, stairwells, and handrails. This excessive use often causes serious falls. Shipboard conditions increase the likelihood of a fall. Wet decks affect footing, and harsh sunlight affects vision.

Most cruise ships also carry huge amounts of diesel fuel, coal, or other highly flammable substances. Even a small fire could cause a major conflagration which can affect everyone onboard.

Passengers and crew almost never wear life preservers. If they fall overboard, they have little chance of survival.

Swimming pool injuries are rather common as well. Unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death for children under four. Swimming pool poisoning is also a serious danger. Pool cleaning chemicals contain chlorine and other harsh ingredients. If the chemical level is too high, swimmers could sustain serious chemical burns. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if the cleaning chemical level is too low, swimmers could contract dangerous bacterial infections.

Employee Injuries

Normally, if workers are injured on the job, these victims can rely on workers’ compensation benefits. But workers’ compensation rules do not apply on seagoing vessels. Instead, the Jones Act typically protects victims in these situations.

The Jones Act applies to “seamen,” which is anyone from a captain to a cabin boy. Specifically, this law defines seamen as people who spend at least 30 percent of their time working on a ship. So, longshoremen probably do not qualify for Jones Act relief, even though they spend some time aboard the ships they load or unload.

Employer responsibilities are clear under the Jones Act. This law requires ship owners or operators to:

  • Provide seamen with a reasonably safe workplace, and
  • Inspect the ship frequently to ensure that it remains safe.

Possible hazards include slippery or unsafe decks, malfunctioning equipment, lack of training or discipline, unsafe work methods, or lack of proper equipment.

Fishing consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous of all occupations. There are many equipment and other hazards. Furthermore, when something goes wrong, there may be no help nearby. The Jones Act covers injured fishermen and all other injured seamen.

To obtain compensation, victim/plaintiffs must prove that the shipowner’s negligence proximately caused the injury. For example, assume a sailor stumbles over a small oil patch at the same time the vessel pitches violently, and he falls. Mother Nature probably had more to do with the injury than the oil slick, but the oil slick may have played a part in the fall. So, the Jones Act applies.

The Jones Act burden of proof (proximate cause) is much lower than the burden of proof in civil court (a preponderance of the evidence, or “more likely than not”). If the above example went to a normal civil court, there would probably not be enough evidence to obtain compensation.

Workers’ compensation claims are usually limited to economic losses. But the Jones Act provides compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Passenger Injuries on Cruise Ships

The Jones Act applies whether the ship is lashed to the dock or in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. However, geographic location could mean a lot when passengers are injured.

State Law Claims

If the vessel was less than three miles away from shore, the closest state’s law applies. Negligence laws vary significantly in different states. For example, the laws in a “red” state like Alaska are much different from the laws in a “blue” state like California.

Fortunately for victims, the bottom line is always the same. State law compensates victims for both economic and noneconomic losses, in almost all cases.

Death on High Seas Act

If the cruise ship or other vessel was more than three miles from shore, the federal Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA) applies. This law limits injury compensation to pecuniary losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and other economic losses, such as funeral and burial expenses in a wrongful death matter.

Wrongful death survivors may be able to file additional claims under a separate legal theory, such as negligent infliction of emotional distress, and obtain additional compensation for things like their grief and suffering over the loss of a loved one.

Cruise ship accident victims may be entitled to substantial compensation, but these claims are quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.