Holiday Cruises-Put Passenger Safety First

Most cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Celebrity deck the halls of their ships literally with holiday decorations and Christmas trees in their lobbies, restaurants and have massive gingerbread houses.
12/15/2014 12:44 pm ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

The holidays are right around the corner and thousands will be taking vacations cruises this year. Most cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Celebrity deck the halls of their ships literally with holiday decorations and Christmas trees in their lobbies, restaurants and have massive gingerbread houses.

While nobody goes on a family cruise vacation hoping to get hurt-accidents do happen. Here some important things you need to know before you book this year's holiday cruise.

Most Claims Must be Filed in Federal Court in Miami

Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian require that passenger injury claims be filed in Federal Court in Miami, Florida and except for Disney which forces passengers to file claims in Melbourne, Florida regardless of where the cruise started, ends or where the accident occurs. This means, that if you are hurt on Carnival's Pride, Splendor or Sunshine ships on your way from Bermuda to New Orleans, your claim must be filed in Miami.

One Year Statute of Limitations

Claims must be filed within one year of the date of the incident. Unlike other personal injury cases like slip and falls, car accidents or medical malpractice cases, admiralty personal injury cases on most cruise lines have a one year statute of limitations requiring that lawsuits be filed within one year of the date of incident. This can be an enormous burden for elderly or severely hurt plaintiffs who may have a difficult time locating and hiring an attorney who can investigate the claim promptly and file the appropriate pleadings in the correct jurisdiction-which is almost always in Miami.

Cruise-lines are not Always Responsible to Pay Medical Expenses for Injured Passengers

Cruise lines are Not automatically responsible to pay your medical bills, travel expenses, or lost wages simply because you get hurt on your cruise. A common misconception amongst injured passengers is that the cruise line should reimburse them for all out of pocket expenses associated with an accident aboard the ship. In fact, under Federal Maritime Law, cruise lines are only responsible to pay claims that are caused by the ship's carelessness in whole or in part. In other words, they ship need not be entirely legally responsible for a passenger's broken arm. The key is understanding the difference-which requires the assistance of an experienced cruise ship claims attorney.


Cruise lines Not Always Responsible for Accidents in Ports

Cruise lines are not always automatically responsible for accidents in ports and on excursions. For example, Liz Marie Chaparro was a teenage passenger aboard Carnival's Victory. She died after being hit by a stray bullet in a gang related ambush in St. Thomas while on a public bus that was taking her and her family to Coki Beach. They were not part of a Carnival sponsored excursion, but had chosen the destination based upon recommendations of Carnival's crew. The lawsuit claimed that Carnival knew or should have known of the dangers of gang activity at Coki Beach and should have warned the family. The wrongful death case was dismissed by a Miami federal court judge and the family successfully appealed.

In its brief, Carnival argued that:"Carnival stops at a multitude of ports all over the world. It cannot reasonably be expected to monitor or be aware of every single danger that may arise on any given street throughout a port city and beyond." Once remanded back to the trial court, the case was settled prior to trial.

Rapes and Murder on a Cruise Ship?

Remember that most cruise ships are nothing more than floating theme-parks combined with Las Vegas style casinos. Always be on alert when cruising with young children and teens-and ask yourself-would you allow your child to wander the streets of Manhattan or swim alone in a Las Vegas hotel pool? I understand that many parents are in desperate need of a relaxation and are easily disarmed by the sun, sea and spa treatments into putting their guard down. But refrain from allowing children to wander about your cruise ship unaccompanied or with older siblings. Rapes and sexual assaults aboard cruise ships are not as uncommon as one may think. In fact, in response to the growing number of reported rapes, assaults and robberies aboard cruise ships President Obama in 0 signed into law the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (Safety Act) which only applies to shops that touch U.S. ports. The Safety Act requires ships to could update their safety and security infrastructure by installing peep holes in passenger room doors, installing security video cameras (CCTV) in targeted areas and limiting access to passenger rooms to select staff only during specific times.

Most importantly, the U.S. Coast Guard is required to post a list of incidents on their website that involve homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury . . . or theft of money or property in excess of $10,000. You should check out cruise line before you book your cruise. Click here to read the U.S. Coast Guard's latest report.