If a passenger is injured while on a cruise ship, one might ask whether the cruise ship company is liable for that person’s injuries.  However, this determination is highly fact-specific. Certain factors play into whether the cruise ship is responsible, and it should not always be assumed that just because a passenger is injured while onboard a cruise ship, that the ship will be held liable.

Negligence on Behalf of the Cruise Ship

If an individual is hurt while on a cruise ship and wants to hold the cruise line responsible, he or she will need to show that the cruise ship was negligent in some manner. Simply being injured is not enough to show that the cruise line was negligent and is at-fault. Negligence means that the cruise line failed to act with reasonable care, and because of this failure, the individual was injured or damages occurred as a result.

Slip, trips and falls are common occurrences on cruise lines.  Examples include a passenger falling down a staircase, slipping and falling somewhere on the ship, or tripping over a threshold on the ship.  Sexual assaults or other intentional acts by someone hired by the cruise line can also happen while on the ship or while on a cruise ship excursion.

Specific Examples of Liability:

Staircase Liability

Falls often happen on staircases on cruise ships. Many factors can play into whether the person who falls down a staircase is at fault or whether someone else holds responsibility. Something else could have caused the person to fall, such as some type of liquid or foreign substance on the stairs, poorly designed handrails, lack of handrails, or the steps being too shallow. If the handrails curve away from the stairs at the bottom of the stairs, that can lead to a fall, as well.

Slipping on the Ship’s Deck

A passenger can be walking along the ship’s deck and suddenly slip and fall. It can be assumed that the fall was the result of an accident. However, if the deck had standing water, which led to the fall, it could be the result of the deck not being properly maintained. It is the responsibility of the cruise ship to ensure that all public surfaces, especially the ship’s decks, are safe and free from hazards.

Falls over Thresholds

Federal and international shipping laws require that certain locations within a cruise ship have thresholds to keep the interior of a ship watertight. For this reason, a cruise ship cannot be held negligent having thresholds as part of their design. This does not relieve the ship of the responsibility for posting warning signs for passengers to watch their step. If a fall happens over a threshold, and no warning is posted, the cruise liner could then be held liable.

Independent Contractor Liability

The cruise line may be held responsible for accidents that are caused by the cruise company’s negligence or by the negligence of one of its employees. However, if the person who caused the accident is deemed an independent contractor, it is that person who is responsible and not the cruise line. Examples of when an independent contractor would be held liable would be if an injury occurred during an on-shore excursion, and involved a separate company- not associated with the cruise line. In addition, many cruise lines hire independent contractors for their medical care for passengers. If a passenger becomes ill because of the treatment received, he or she is often forced to file a claim against the specific doctor and not the cruise line.

It helps to review the terms of service on the back of the cruise ticket. Most cruise companies specifically detail the liability the cruise line has for injuries passengers sustain while on the ship. When a passenger purchases a ticket and boards the ship, the passenger is legally consenting to the terms printed on the back of that ticket. Most passengers do not even think to look at the back of the ticket. However, a limited liability waiver is likely printed on the back of that ticket, as well as a forum-selection clause and clause regarding notice-requirements. All of these provisions can affect what the passenger has the right to do if injured while on the ship. If you believe you have a claim, it is important you contact an attorney immediately to discuss your legal options in greater detail.


If you have been injured on your cruise, on a wet and slippery deck, down a poorly lit staircase or steep gangway, in port on an excursion, or on a tender boat- it is important that you speak as soon as possible with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims against cruise lines. Most cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, MSC, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Costa, Regents Seven Seas and Oceania require that claims against them be pursued in a very specific place under very strict deadlines. Failure to comply with each individual cruise lines deadlines can result in a complete loss of any and all legal rights.

Aronfeld Trial Lawyers is a personal injury firm located in Miami, Florida since 1991.  We have fought hard to hold cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of passenger safety.  We are available 24/7 and encourage you to contact us even if you are still on your cruise. The sooner we can begin our investigation and preservation of key evidence, such as the CCTV footage of your trip and fall, slip and fall, assault or other type of injury the more likely we will be able to understand and prove how the incident occurred. Remember, the cruise lines have the most aggressive and well funded defense lawyers in the world- protecting their profits.  You need an experienced legal advocate in your corner who will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical expenses, transportation reimbursement and pain and suffering.  Call us today and speak with a cruise ship claims lawyer about your potential claim- toll free 1-866-597-4529, 305-441-0440, or by email. We are ready to help.