Cruise ship injuries are usually unexpected. But when they happen, they can be severe and even life-threatening. These incidents can lead to serious conditions such as fractures, head injuries, or worse, causing long-term health issues or disability. Victims of these incidents have the legal right to seek compensation.

A cruise ship injury lawyer can assist victims in the legal process by clarifying their legal options and working hard towards securing the compensation and justice that they deserve.

In the following article, we’ll go over cruise ship injuries, including how they tend to happen, the legal options available to victims, the possible types of financial compensation, and how a cruise ship injury lawyer can help throughout the legal process.

Cruise Ship Injury Lawyers

BoatLaw, LLP (formerly Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP), has been successfully prosecuting injuries at sea for over thirty years. We know the ins and outs of litigating against cruise ship companies and have the experience necessary to competently, efficiently, and successfully handle your cruise ship claim.

We offer an initial consultation free of cost.

Call 1-800-262-8529 today to speak with an experienced attorney at BoatLaw, LLP.

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About Cruise Ships

Cruise ships are large vessels designed to carry passengers on sea journeys, offering a variety of amenities and entertainment options. They are like floating resorts, providing accommodations, meals, and activities all within the confines of the ship.

The most popular cruise lines include:

  • Azamara Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Costa Cruises
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Cunard Line
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Holland America Line
  • Mediterranean Shipping Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Princess Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection
  • Royal Caribbean International
  • Seabourn Cruise Line
  • Silversea Cruises
  • Island Queen Cruises
  • Pullmantur Cruises
  • P&O Cruises
  • Virgin Voyages
  • Windstar Cruises

Each of these cruise lines offers a unique experience, catering to different preferences and budgets.

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Types and Causes of Cruise Ship Injuries

Cruise ship injuries can impact both passengers and crew, with varying degrees of severity. One prevalent type of injury is slip and fall incidents, which can occur in areas like wet decks, staircases, or dining rooms. These accidents can happen anywhere on the ship. Food poisoning is another common issue, stemming from contaminated or improperly handled food, affecting anyone who consumes the affected meals.

Passengers engaging in onboard activities, such as swimming, rock climbing, or using recreational facilities, may face injuries due to accidents or equipment misuse. Overboard incidents, though rarer, pose severe risks and can lead to critical injuries or fatalities. Malfunctioning equipment or furniture, like broken chairs or faulty elevators, can also cause injuries to both passengers and crew.

The causes of these injuries often include wet or slippery surfaces, poor maintenance, inadequate lighting, unsanitary kitchen conditions, improper food storage, inadequate safety measures, lack of supervision, a lack of proper railings, or intoxication. Equipment and furniture-related injuries may arise from poor maintenance or manufacturing defects.

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Common Types of Victims in Cruise Ship Accident Cases

Victims of cruise ship injuries can be anyone on board, but some groups are more susceptible.

Elderly passengers, with their mobility challenges, are particularly susceptible to slip and fall accidents, especially on wet decks or in poorly lit areas. These incidents can result in severe injuries, impacting their quality of life.

Children and teenagers, who are often drawn to the ship’s various recreational activities like swimming or rock climbing, may face a higher risk of injury if safety measures are not strictly enforced or if there’s a lack of proper supervision.

First-time cruisers, not yet familiar with the ship’s layout or maritime safety, might find themselves in harm’s way simply due to inexperience.

Crew members often face significant risks, given their extensive responsibilities and the environments they work in. These individuals, from kitchen staff to deckhands, operate behind the scenes to ensure passengers have a safe and enjoyable experience. However, their roles expose them to many hazards. For example, crew members working in the engine room deal with heavy machinery and high temperatures, which can lead to burns or other serious injuries. Kitchen staff might suffer from cuts, burns, or slips due to wet floors and the fast-paced nature of their work. Deckhands, responsible for maintaining and cleaning the ship, are at risk for slip and fall accidents, especially on wet decks or during adverse weather conditions.

Furthermore, the long hours and sometimes strenuous nature of their duties can contribute to fatigue, making accidents more likely. Despite safety standards and training, the physical demands of their jobs and the complex environment of a cruise ship can put crew members at an increased risk of injury. These accidents not only affect their health and well-being but also their ability to work.

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Potential Liable Parties

When someone is injured on a cruise ship, whether they are a passenger or a crew member, there can be several parties potentially liable for the injury. The most obvious potential liable party is the cruise line company itself. The company is responsible for the safety and well-being of both its passengers and its crew. This means maintaining the ship in a safe condition, providing adequate medical facilities, and ensuring that all activities, both on and off the ship, are conducted safely. If the cruise line fails in any of these areas, it could be held liable for injuries that result.

Another potentially liable party could be the crew members or other employees of the cruise line. If an employee’s negligence or intentional actions cause an injury, the cruise line may still be held responsible because employers are generally liable for their employees’ actions performed in the course of their employment. Additionally, manufacturers of equipment or products used on the ship could also be held liable if an injury is caused by a defective product.

In some cases, other companies involved in the cruise, such as those offering shore excursions or third party service providers onboard the ship, could be liable. If these companies fail to provide safe experiences or products, and their failure leads to an injury, they could be held accountable. Identifying the liable parties in a cruise ship injury case involves examining the circumstances of the injury, the roles of different parties involved, and the legal responsibilities each party had towards the victim.

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Legal Options for a Victim of a Cruise Ship Accident

For crew members, filing a lawsuit for a cruise ship injury often involves claims of negligence or unseaworthiness. The Jones Act allows for negligence claims against employers. A negligence claim under the Jones Act involves showing that the employer failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work and that this failure caused the injury.


Claims of unseaworthiness, on the other hand, do not require proof of negligence but demand that the vessel owner ensured the ship was seaworthy and safe for its intended use. Unseaworthiness refers not just to the physical condition of the ship but also to the adequacy of the crew, the equipment, and the ship’s operations. If a crew member’s injury can be attributed to the ship’s unseaworthy condition, a claim can be made under this principle.

Employees who are injured due to the negligence of parties other than their direct employer, such as equipment manufacturers or third-party service providers, can also seek damages under general maritime law, which offers protections beyond the specifics of the Jones Act.

Civil Suits

For passengers, the legal process differs. Passengers can file lawsuits against the cruise line for injuries sustained due to negligence, such as slip and fall accidents, food poisoning, or activities conducted in an unsafe manner. These claims must show that the cruise line failed to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers.


Also, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA) requires specific safety and security measures that cruise ships must follow to protect passengers, such as requirements for rail heights, peepholes on cabin doors, and the availability of sexual assault forensic examination kits on board. If a cruise line fails to meet these standards and a passenger is injured or suffers harm as a result, the victim could potentially sue the cruise line for damages under the provisions of the CVSSA.


Additionally, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) is applicable when a death occurs over three nautical miles from the shore of the U.S. It allows the family members of the deceased, which could be a deceased passenger, to sue for wrongful death.

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Potential Damages in Cruise Ship Injury Cases

Crew members who become victims of cruise ship accidents have specific rights and possible claims under several maritime laws. Under the Jones Act negligence claims and general maritime unseaworthiness claims, a crew member can seek compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages related to the injury.

Maritime law also provides for maintenance and cure, which obligates the ship owner to cover a crew member’s medical expenses and provide a living allowance while they are recovering, regardless of fault. In cases of wrongful death, federal law allows family members of deceased crew members to seek compensation for their loss, including loss of financial support and emotional suffering.

LHWCA extends protections to certain cruise ship employees, such as those who work at docks, terminals, and shipyards. Eligible workers can file claims for injuries or occupational diseases sustained in the course of their employment. The LHWCA provides for medical benefits, compensation for lost wages, and rehabilitation services. In the event of a worker’s death, the LHWCA offers benefits to surviving family members.

In negligence cases against parties other than the victim’s employer, or where a passenger is the victim suing the cruise line, damages could cover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Under DOHSA, family members can seek compensation for pecuniary loss, which includes the financial support, care, and guidance the deceased would have provided.

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Steps to Take After the Accident

  1. Seek Medical Attention: First and foremost, attend to any injuries by getting medical help immediately.
  2. Report the Accident: Notify your supervisor or the shipowner about the accident as soon as you can.
  3. Document the Scene: Take the time to document the accident scene and collect contact information from any witnesses.
  4. Keep Medical Records: Preserve all medical records and receipts connected to the injury. These documents are crucial for any potential legal claims.

It’s also important to keep track of all medical treatment and costs related to the injury. This means saving information about medical visits, any other treatments, medicines, and any therapy needed. Keeping these records helps show how serious the injury was and how much it cost to take care of it.

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Role of a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

A cruise ship accident lawyer begins by evaluating the case, looking over the details of the incident and the injuries to determine if a legal claim can be made. They can explain a person’s legal rights under maritime law and advise on the best action to take, whether it involves negotiating a settlement or filing a lawsuit.

A lawyer collects evidence to support the claim, including medical records, incident reports, witness statements, and any photos or videos of the accident scene. They also manage negotiations with the cruise line’s insurance company, aiming to secure a fair settlement that covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. If a settlement cannot be reached, the lawyer is prepared to represent the individual in court, presenting their case and advocating on their behalf.

Throughout the process, they ensure the claim is filed within the applicable statute of limitations. A cruise ship injury lawyer works to achieve the best possible outcome for the case, ensuring the individual receives the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses.

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Filing Deadlines

For Jones Act negligence cases and general maritime unseaworthiness claims, crew members generally have three years to file a lawsuit from the date of injury. Wrongful death claims under general maritime law and under Jones Act and DOHSA must be filed within three years. For workers covered by LHWCA, the deadline to file a claim for injury is generally one year from the date of injury or from the date the employee became aware of the connection between their employment and their injury.

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Additional Resources

Guidance for Cruise Passengers

Learn about the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) role in protecting cruise passengers through financial coverage requirements for non-performance and incidents causing injury or death, limited to U.S. port boardings. This resource additionally helps individuals understand cruise ticket contracts, which often favor cruise lines. FMC also highlights available passenger safeguards, including travel insurance, cancellation waivers, and the benefits of credit card payments, offering strategies for how to navigate issues with cruise lines effectively.

Cruise Line Incident Reports
The U.S. Department of Transportation provides reports on incidents involving cruise ships, as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. This law requires that cruise ships embarking and disembarking in the United States report criminal activities to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The website lists reports dating back to 2010, offering valuable information for passengers and researchers interested in the safety and security measures on cruise ships.

Cruise Ship Passengers
The Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs provides information for U.S. citizens planning to travel by cruise ship. This resource covers a range of topics, including safety tips, preparation advice, and what to do in emergencies. It emphasizes the importance of carrying a passport, getting the right visas, enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), and having adequate medical and emergency evacuation insurance.

Reporting Death or Illness on Ships
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the requirements for reporting deaths and illnesses on ships headed for U.S. ports. It’s part of federal regulations aiming to protect public health. The resource addresses what conditions require reporting, how to report them, and the steps shipmasters need to follow to ensure compliance.

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Hire a Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer

If you have suffered an injury due on a cruise ship, or have a current injury that you believe may be attributed to your time aboard a cruise ship, then you need to contact an experienced maritime injury lawyer.

Medical bills can be expensive, insurance companies are reluctant to provide the coverage you need to deal with the injuries you may sustain.

Don’t hesitate – contact BoatLaw, LLP today at 1-800-262-8529.

BoatLaw, LLP represents clients with claims coast-to-coast in courts in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California.

Our offices are located in Bellingham and Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco, California.

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