Passengers on cruise ships often find themselves in a new and unfamiliar environment. Cruise ships are in many ways floating cities with a large number of unique risks caused by its status as a vessel in navigation as well as providing accommodations to several thousand people in tight quarters. Cruise ships often have wet or slippery substances that passengers are unable to appreciate making a slip and fall a distinct risk. Other events pose a distinct risk of harm including unruly guests, malfunctioning equipment, and sometimes the crew. One of the most common risks on a cruise ship is the possibility of being involved in a slip and fall accident.
As a passenger, it is important to understand that a cruise ship owes its passengers a strict legal duty to prevent dangerous and risky conditions. Passengers looking to relax and enjoy themselves are often not in a position to appreciate the dangers presented on a cruise ship.
How Common Are Slip and Falls on a Cruise Ship?
The cruise ship industry does not publish detailed information about the volume or frequency of slip and fall accidents that occur on their vessels. The National Floor Safety Institute has presented data showing that slips and falls account for over 1 million hospital emergency room visits each year. From our experience, slip and fall incidents are the top reason for serious cruise ship injuries.
What Precautions Must a Cruise Ship Take to Avoid Accidents?
Cruise ships have various measures in place to avoid trips and falls, including:
1. Clear signage: Cruise ships use clear signs to indicate potential hazards and to provide guidance to passengers. These signs may include warning signs for wet or slippery floors, low ceilings, or areas under repair.
2. Non-slip surfaces: Many areas of the ship, including decks, stairs, and public areas, have non-slip surfaces to reduce the risk of slips and falls. These surfaces are designed to provide better traction and reduce the risk of accidents.
3. Handrails: Handrails are installed throughout the ship to provide support and stability for passengers while walking on stairs or in areas where there is a risk of falling.
4. Adequate lighting: Adequate lighting is important to help passengers see potential hazards and avoid trips and falls.
5. Regular maintenance: Cruise ships undergo regular maintenance to ensure that areas prone to trips and falls, such as stairs and walkways, are in good condition. Crew members are trained to identify hazards and address them promptly.
6. Passenger education: Cruise ships typically provide safety information to passengers upon boarding, including tips on how to avoid trips and falls.
Although cruise ships make efforts to prevent accidents, many hazards and dangerous conditions on a cruise ship are often not promptly addressed. Cruise lines are often not in a good position to monitor risks in real time to effectively limit potential risk. An unsafe condition is often not known until after an accident occurs. Much of the time, these accidents could be avoided had the cruise line adequately staffed the vessel and implemented programs to limit hazardous conditions.
In some instances, the ship is poorly designed to handle the traffic and stress of several thousand passengers and crew members. We have had cases in which safety features failed due to poor maintenance by the cruise line.
A cruise ship owes a high duty of care to ensure the safety of its passengers.
Injuries Caused by Other Passengers or Crew
Another potential source of harm to a passenger is other passengers or even the crew. Cruise lines encourage passengers to drink alcohol, gamble, and engage in other activities that increase the likelihood of fights, disagreements, and other bad behavior such as sexual assaults. A cruise line must provide adequate security to prevent passengers from harming others. When a cruise line over serves alcohol to its guests, it potentially becomes liable for any harm that may be caused to an over served guest or passengers.
The ship’s crew is also a risk to the passengers. While the crew has a wide range of duties, we have had several cases where crew members have caused direct physical harm to passengers. If you have been injured or assaulted by a crewmember, you should act promptly to assert your rights.
Cruise Line Defenses to a Slip and Fall Claim
- Failure to Provide Notice
Most cruise line’s issue a ticket to passengers that include a large amount of boilerplate language. This language typically contains a provision requiring the passenger to provide notice of a potential injury claim within 6 months of the incident date. Moreover, cruise line tickets often require the passenger to file suit for a personal injury within one year of the injury. The lawsuit typically must be filed in a specific court listed in the ticket. If you have been injured on a cruise ship, it is critically important to notify the cruise line soon after the incident and consult with a maritime injury lawyer about your case.
- Open and Obvious Defense
A cruise line will often seek to limit its responsibility by claiming that the condition responsible for the injury was open and obvious. In many cases, the open and obvious defense is inapplicable to a slip and fall case. The open and obvious defense essentially states that the passenger should have seen the hazardous condition and avoided it. At a minimum, the open and obvious issue is factually disputed. Even if the cruise line has claimed it is not responsible for your case, you should speak with a qualified lawyer to determine if you have a strong claim.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Slip and Fall Case?
If you prove that your accident was caused by a negligent condition that was the cruise ship’s responsibility, you can collect a variety of damages. These damages are normally broken into two categories: (1) special (money) damages for items such as medical expenses and lost wages and (2) general damages for pain and suffering.
Special damages typically are amounts that can be proven on paper. For example, medical bills, therapy and prescription charges, and the wages that you lost as a result of your injury. In some cases it will be expected that the plaintiff will incur medical expenses and reduced earning capacity in the future. The assistance of a physician, vocational expert, and other types of experts are needed to prove future damages.
General damage awards for pain and suffering are typically left to the discretion of a jury. Factors that increase the potential general damage recovery include the length of time the plaintiff received treatment, the seriousness of the injury, long-term disability, and scarring.