Personal Injury Cruise Line Litigation
New Orleans is a Popular Cruise Line Port
Cruise line customers report that New Orleans is their favorite port of embarkation because they get two vacations in one: first, a visit to the Big Easy and then, a trip on the high seas. New Orleans is a major port of call for Caribbean cruises, with 7-day Western Caribbean cruises currently being the most popular cruise package, industry-wide.
Carnival Cruises has responded by making NOLA its second-largest passenger throughput port, and both Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines have a heavy presence on our shores. Huge vessels, like Carnival’s Carnival Conquest, Norwegian’s Norwegian Dream, and Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas can be seen in all their glory off Julia Street, in the Port of New Orleans. Carnival claims its Carnival Conquest to be the largest ship to ever sail out of the New Orleans port.
Why are Cruises so Popular?
People love cruise vacations, and cruise lines love to promote them. Among the most popular reasons that cruise vacations are skyrocketing in popularity:
- They can be very inexpensive;
- You unpack once, and travel to different destinations without further hassle;
- Family packages have something for every member of the family; and
- There is a lot to do as well as the opportunity to relax and do absolutely nothing.
Beware!!! Things to Consider Before You Take that Scenic Cruise
A Caribbean cruise sounds great, right? Not necessarily. Cruise line marketing fails to report some very important information to you, including:
- If you get sick or injured on board, the line isn’t going to be legally responsible for the actions of its doctor-on-board.
The doctor is considered an independent contractor. And, the doctor doesn’t have to be licensed in the United States or meet U.S. standards for practicing medicine.
- If you are the victim of a crime on board, there is no police force on the ship.
The line will have a small security guard detail, which are usually minimum-wage workers that are not necessarily American and may have criminal records or unsavory pasts in their country of origin.
- Once the ship leaves port, you aren’t necessarily protected by American law.
The line may not be owned by a U.S. entity and the ship may fly under the flag of another country; moreover, once you hit international waters, drastic changes in liability and legal redress occur. A claim may have to go through the hoops of Louisiana state law, the law of the flag country, applicable international treaties, and the law shown in the contract you made with the cruise line.
- Should you choose to sue, you may not have your choice of courtroom.
Your ticket will contain language that has been held to be contractually binding upon you (even if you are a minor). This language will include a “choice of forum” provision, and for most cruise lines, this is Miami, Florida. The cruise line will fight to keep the case in its chosen courtroom location, and you will have an initial litigation fight using forum non conveniens arguments to try and get the case nearer to your home.
- You don’t have that long to sue, either.
That same ticket will have language limiting the time you have within which to bring suit as one year, not the standard three years provided in general maritime law.
What Can You Do To Minimize Your Risk?
- Investigate the cruise line before you buy a ticket. Make sure you have collected reliable, glowing reports for the exact cruise, and the exact vessel, that you are planning for your vacation.
- Ask about the medical care provided including the identity and licensure of their onboard physicians, and make sure to tell the cruise line in advance about any special medical needs you may have.
- Ask about the licensure and qualifications of anyone taking care of your child during the cruise. Do not leave your child with anyone just because they have a smiling face and a cruise line nametag! Cruise lines are notorious for hiring staff from third world countries whose customs are far from American standards, and whose known personal histories are scant.
- Get travel insurance to cover your cruise.
- Read the contract language on the proposed ticket before you purchase anything. Ask an attorney to explain exactly what risks you and your family are taking before you buy.
What Could Happen -- and What Should I Do if It Does?
The most common incidents that cruise vacationers face are shipboard slip and falls; injuries during ship-sponsored port excursions; food poisoning (which can be fatal); injuries from fires, lack of security, or other shipboard premises liability defects; and rape or assault while onboard by either crew members or fellow passengers. There are also a rising number of passenger-gone-missing reports.
The best protection to these possibilities is to choose another form of holiday: once you are onboard a cruise ship and out on the waters, you and your family are vulnerable in ways that you never are while on U.S. land. There is no 911 to call; there are no Emergency Medical Technicians with the latest training and equipment; there is no police force with cutting-edge evidence accumulation techniques. Serious things happen to people on cruises, and many of these incidents go unreported.
If something untoward does happen during your dream cruise, then Bloom Legal suggests you do the following:
- File a written report with ship security, and keep a copy of what you filed - and note the date and time that you provided the report, and to whom;
- As soon as possible, take photographs of the scene of the accident, injury, or crime, and safeguard them.
If there has been a serious crime -- such as rape or assault -- call the Federal Bureau of Investigation immediately by shipboard phone (504-816-3000) and follow their instructions. Seal off the crime scene until official law enforcement is present.
Rape victims should not eat, drink, shower, change clothes, or even brush their teeth or go to the bathroom until they have been seen by a medical professional for a rape exam and the collection of physical evidence;
- Collect the names, addresses, phone numbers, photos, and e-mail addresses of every person who may have any information whatsoever about what happened, and make a brief note about the extent of their knowledge;
- For injuries or illness (such as food poisoning) get treatment from the ship’s doctor and if you are not comfortable with the treatment received, get off the ship and get advanced treatment as soon as possible. In some situations, you may have to demand a ship-to-shore transport. Trust your gut here: don’t be led into complacency by a charming or well-meaning doctor or cruise line employee;
- Protect all the information and evidence you have gathered. Remember, the cruise line is your adversary in these situations - there is no intervening police department to independently and professionally protect your interests; and
- Contact an attorney for legal advice as soon as possible -- ideally, as quickly as you can after exiting the cruise ship.
If Bloom Legal can be of any help to you regarding cruise line vacation questions or concerns, or with any unfortunate vacation incidents, we’re here to help 24/7 at (504) 599-9997.
More Information (External Links):
FBI Congressional Testimony March 2007, regarding victims of crime while aboard cruise line vessels, including providing statistics
ConsumerAffairs.Com - cruise line complaints
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May 20th, 2013
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