I took my very first cruise last week. In the middle of the night I had to use the bathroom, and when I entered the very small latrine [sic], I slipped on the floor which was wet from a leak under the sink.
I did not think it was that bad and since I was traveling with my husband and two small kids, I did not want to interfear [sic] with their trip or scare them.
I did not even report it, but it bruised up pretty bad as you can see in some of the photos we took on our tour of the Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman. When I got home and back to work (I am a dental assistant), my coworker noticed I was limping.
We don’t have health insurance, but she insisted I go to our local urgent care. I did, nothing broken, but they recommended that I get an MRI, which I cannot afford. I found you on the internet when I searched for the best cruise ship passenger accident lawyers. What should I do?
Helen in Park City
Thank you for contacting me. Your case is very typical. Most hardworking people are not looking for lawsuits or claims, and it simply never occurs to them to look into what needs to be done. With your permission, I would like to share your letter with my readers. Let’s start with what I would recommend that you or anyone in your situation should do when a fall first happens:
A. If you are injured on a cruise ship, the first thing you need to do is make sure you are okay. All cruise ships have onboard medical facilities called “sick bays” to treat mostly non-serious or non-life-threatening injuries, ranging from fractured bones to asthma.
The cruise ship industry has invested a lot of money in creating medical facilities that are more sophisticated than some you would find on land, especially in various ports. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines claims that its onboard facilities are equipped to handle everything “from thrombolytic therapy to X-rays.” And some Holland America ships have digital x-rays that allow doctors to email X-rays to the University of Texas Medical Branch, the company’s land partner, in extremely complicated situations.
You should have gone for three reasons:
- Most importantly, to diagnose and treat your injury so that you do not inadvertently make it worse by walking on it. For instance, if you have a torn ligament or tendon, you could turn a minor knee injury into a condition requiring surgery by not immobilizing it and by walking on it.
- You need to prove the injury happened where and when it did. By delaying the initial treatment, you leave open the possiblity that you could have injured it somewhere or sometime other than in your cabin.
- By going on with the cruise and visiting the different ports, you have given both the cruise ship lawyers and any potential jurors the impression that the fall was not very severe–at least not bad enough to prevent you from enjoying a vacation the average juror could never even dream of taking.
A Word of Caution on Cruise Ship Hospitals:
Having sued virtually every cruise line in the world, I have seen that the cruise lines often use the medical records against claimants. In other words, it appears that the sick bay personnel are trained to ask questions about how and where the fall happened and document these in the medical records. When we file a claim, the records become evidence and can be used against the injured passenger if there are any inconsistencies.
B. Report the Accident to the Ship’s Authorities
You should have reported the fall or accident to the ship’s authorities. The ship has very specific protocols in place the minute a passenger reports an accident. They would have interviewed you and photographed the scene. The photographs could have been helpful for us in proving where the leak came from and why and how the fall is their fault rather than yours.
In addition, the delay in reporting now will create a solid argument that the fall never happened and that you are trying to make a fraudulent accident claim. I am not suggesting that you are doing that, but cruise ships play on this sentiment that many people do make fraudulent claims, and one of the typical characteristics is the fact it was reported a week or so later.
C. Photograph the Scene
After you visited the sick bay and returned to your cabin, it would have been good to take a dozen or so digital pictures of the scene and then immediately email them to yourself. I recommend you take the photos after the visit to the sick bay–first, because your health is more important than the potential claim and, second, an injured passenger who photographs a scene before seeking care will be made to look like one who is more concerned about making a claim than getting help. Juries do not like those types of claimants.
Again, we do urge our clients to email the photos to themselves immediately. Unfortunately, we have seen situations where the photos, phone, and camera simply “disappear” before the client returns home. We cannot take a chance on losing this valuable evidence.
D. Contact a Cruise Accident Lawyer
Hey, you did the right thing here: You reached out to an experienced attorney who sues for cruise cases. And you did it within in the first few days of returning. Sadly, many people who are injured on cruise ships do not contact a maritime lawyer quickly; letting months and sometimes years pass before deciding to consult with an attorney can cost them their opportunity to obtain compensation for their accident–since cruise injury cases have to be filed within one (1) year from the date of the incident. Many cruise lines require that these cases be filed in the Southern District Court in Miami, Florida, which is about ten minutes from our office. That is one of the reasons why we are called upon to represent people around the world who have been hurt on cruise ships, even if the accident happened at sea or in another country.
E. Getting the Proper Medical Care for a Cruise Ship Accident
Without a doubt one of the greatest services we can provide you is helping you find a doctor and MRI facility that will work with us in getting your necessary testing and diagnosis while your case is pending. We work with doctors and hospitals across the world that assist our clients by providing the needed care and waiting for the payment until the end of the case. This type of arrangement is legal and is commonly referred to as a letter or protection, or LOP.
With an LOP in place, the doctor and MRI facility will have the comfort of knowing that we will protect their bills by paying them at the conclusion of your case before we disburse money to either you or ourselves.
We work with a group of orthopedic surgeons in Salt Lake City, which is only 15 minutes from you, and they are willing to examine and diagnose you, provided with give them an LOP; we have provided you information on how to do so in a separate email.
Helen, all ship owners and operators owe passengers like you a “duty of care.” The duty of care is the responsibility of the cruise line to make sure that there are no “unreasonable” risks on their vessels that can cause an injury to a passenger. The risk can be from failing to maintain, inspect, or repair the leak in your bathroom. Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian are enormously successful and sophisticated corporations, with the experience and resources to mount a legal war when they defend a claim. This is why it is important that you hire a lawyer who has extensive experience and success in maritime law.
I appreciate your confidence in consulting with our firm.
Board Certified Trial Lawyer
We are passionate about representing people who are hurt on cruise ships. We are pleased to offer a free consultation to anyone who has a potential claim. We accept these cases only on a contingency basis, which means that we charge only if we are able to successfully collect compensation for our clients.
For more information or if you have a question, please Email me, Spencer Aronfeld, or call our cruise passenger injury attorneys at 305-441-0440 or Toll Free: 866-597-4529.