Cruise Liability

It’s always the perfect time for a cruise, but the winter months seem extra perfect. Even in Florida, it can get a little chilly, and a cruise ship offers a getaway to warm, exotic places like Jamaica, Cozumel, and the Bahamas. With ships often departing from Tampa and Miami, there are plenty of opportunities to treat yourself to a relaxing trip.

Cruise Ship Liability Issues

Like staying in a hotel or traveling by plane, going on a cruise presents its own unique set of risks and liability issues. In general, a cruise ship is a safe place. However, there have been reports of illness outbreaks, pool drownings, assaults, and even people falling overboard.

Injuries on cruise ships can arise from:

  • Premise liability issues. This includes badly marked steps or staircases, faulty guard railings, or spilled substances on the deck or floor
  • Fires
  • Drowning accidents
  • Malpractice from an on-board doctor
  • Sexual assault or physical battery by a crew member or other cruise patron
  • Food poisoning

Cruise ships, also called common carriers, have a special duty to keep their passengers safe. When passengers embark, the ship must exercise the highest degree of care to protect its passengers. This includes getting them to and from the ports safety, as well as protecting them against any harm while the ship is en route. To avoid injuries arising from negligence, the ship must properly maintain staircases, railings, and other features. Passengers should also be informed of safety procedures. They should be safe and comfortable during their entire stay on the ship.

Who Is Liable?

If an accident occurs due to negligence or misconduct, the cruise line may be liable. If, for example, a passenger trips over an unmarked threshold, the ship may be liable. They are liable if the danger was foreseeable, and should have been fixed. In a more extreme example, a group of cruise ship tourists was killed in a terrorist attack in Tunisia in 2015. Some believe the ship is to blame, as they should have known there was a terrorist threat, but still choose to sail into the area.

However, there are some liability exceptions. In some cases, injuries might not be the result of the cruise company, but a third party. If someone goes to see a doctor on the ship, for example, and harm results from the doctor’s negligence, the doctor, not the ship, may be at fault, because they are an independent contractor. In these cases, a lawsuit is directly filed against them.

Depending on the circumstances, the ship is likely not liable for any injuries that occur during off-ship excursions. Separate companies often conduct shore excursions. Therefore, the cruise ship is not liable for any injuries.

Lawsuit Complexities

On their boarding tickets, cruise ships establish a specific location where they can be sued. For example, a passenger lives in Atlanta, and the injury occurs while the ship is in Cozumel, but the cruise ship lists Miami as their location. If the injured passenger wants to file a lawsuit, they must do so in Miami.

Like with other personal injury matter, there is a specified period of time during which someone can file a claim. Additionally, like with other injury claims, the negligence of the ship needs to be clearly proven. In an injury occurs, it’s very important to gather any immediate evidence, like photographs or the names of witnesses. If necessary, seek medical attention, but remember to act quickly if you want to file a lawsuit.

Safe Travels!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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