Cruise vacations are a great way to see and experience dream destinations. Filled to the brim with dining options and activity choices, today’s cruise ships are like floating cities, where there truly is something for everyone. However, sometimes, the unfortunate can occur, and you can find yourself seriously injured while on your cruise.

Many times, these injuries result from hazards on the ship itself that can lead to serious dangers to passengers if they are not properly supervised and managed by the cruise line and its crew. If you have been injured while onboard a cruise ship, you may be able to successfully sue the cruise line for compensation for injuries.

Common Causes of Cruise Injuries

Common types of injuries include food poisoning, sexual assaults by fellow passengers and by crew members, slips, trips, and falls, and even passengers falling overboard. However, the most common injuries on cruise ships we encounter are those involving a passenger who has slipped and fallen on a wet deck or staircase or tripped over a threshold, breaking a leg, ankle, arm, wrist, or shoulder. Cruise injuries often fall into a number of different categories, many of which the cause can be attributed to human error. So many activities are offered on cruise ships, many of which are thrill-seeking or offered for entertainment purposes. While cruise staff are trained on how to operate these attractions, there is always room for human error. In fact, if any of these moving parts on a cruise ship are managed negligently, injuries will almost certainly arise.

Slip and Fall Injuries

Many cruise injuries occur when the cruise lines fail to maintain wet and slippery decks or when they fail to warn passengers of a hazardous condition on the floor. As a result, passengers may trip over this hazard or slip on a wet deck, resulting in a significant injury. The most common injuries we frequently see involve broken arms, legs, ankles, and knees.

In terms of timing for when these injuries occur, most of them occur within the first 48 hours of the passenger being onboard the ship. This time period is key as it can take passengers awhile to get acclimated to being on the water, also known as “getting their sea legs.” The ship easily rocks back and forth, and if you are not familiar with walking on a moving surface, this can be tricky. Similarly, surfaces can easily become wet or slippery while the vessel is on the open water. It is the cruise line’s responsibility to ensure that surfaces remain dry and safe for use.

Cruise lines are responsible for taking certain precautionary measure to keep passengers safe, which can include installing handrails and making all areas of the vessel accessible. It is also their job to ensure that passengers are aware of hazardous, wet surfaces if they are not able to completely clear them of water.

Onboard Illnesses

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly made one point abundantly clear. Communicable illnesses can easily spread on cruise ships. This can include illnesses that are airborne or spread through human contact. For this reason, cruise ships must be prepared for handling any and all foreseeable medical issues.  This responsibility includes providing immediate medical pare for a sick passenger, providing them the option to disembark from the ship whenever possible, and seeking additional medical attention at a nearby hospital.

Common Types of Illnesses Caused by Cruise Line Negligence:

Generally speaking, there are three specific diseases passengers can contract as a result of a cruise line’s negligence. These illnesses include:

  • Norovirus;
  • Food poisoning; and
  • Legionnaires’ disease.

The level of liability that falls upon the cruise line depends on how serious the illnesses are, as well as the circumstances through which the illness was contracted.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for cruise lines to have procedures in place in the event a communicable disease is spreading on the ship, including quarantining sick passengers while keep all surfaces clean and safe for other passenger use. If a cruise line does not have these measures in place, and you suffer from an injury as a result of this failure to prepare, you may have a valid claim for your injuries.

Injuries from Recreational Activities

Most cruise lines offer several attractions on their vessels to entice passengers to choose them for their next cruise vacation. These attractions include swimming pools, FlowRider wave rides, rock climbing walls, slides, and skydiving. These attractions must be supervised closely to ensure that passengers are safe while enjoying them. Crew members receive extensive training to allow them to supervise these rides and attractions, but this does not mean that accidents cannot happen. Injuries occur on these attractions all the time, and many of these injuries can be quite serious, including broken bones, abrasions, and even traumatic brain injuries.

Injuries while at Port

Injuries are not limited to those that occur on the ship itself. Many injuries reported by cruise passengers occur while the vessel is docked at port. Cruise lines often offer packages to passengers, allowing them to participate in guided tours and other activities while exploring a port. These activities can include bike rides, hikes, kayaking, and scuba diving. The problem is, however, that the cruise line itself is not always the entity offering the activity. Most cruise lines will contract with a third-party company to offer the excursion, which can complicate liability in the event of an injury.

Onboard Medical Negligence

No one goes on a cruise ship expecting to sustain a serious injury or illness. But passengers who require medical treatment on their cruise expect that the care they receive will be delivered according to the highest standard.

Many passengers assume they will have the same medical care and treatment on a cruise as they would on land, which is simply not the case.  There are also unique health risks on cruise ships, including the risk of Covid-19. Many cruise ships have doctors on board, trained in emergency medicine- but some do not, and they are not required to.

Some of the most common passenger injuries we see as maritime lawyers include misdiagnosed fractures, head injuries and spinal injuries. Oftentimes the doctors and nurses that provide the medical care and treatment onboard these ships are not professionally trained to diagnose these injuries. If harmed by medical negligence while onboard a cruise ship, you have the legal right to hold those responsible accountable.

Is the Cruise Line Responsible for your Injury?

Before deciding whether to sue the cruise line for your injury, you should first determine who was the responsible party for causing your injury. This determination may not be simple, however. Many times, injured passengers assume they can automatically sue the cruise line for their injuries, but this may not be the case.

The first step in establishing liability in this type of situation would involve determining if the cruise line company was negligent. Negligence is a legal determination that someone was not exercising “reasonable care.” In the situation of a cruise line, it would need to be proven that they were not exercising reasonable care in ensuring the safety and well-being of its passengers.

If your injury resulted from the cruise operation’s negligence, you may have a successful claim for liability against the cruise line.

The bottom line is, however, if you feel you have a claim against the cruise line for injuries sustained while on a ship, you should first consult an experienced cruise ship injury attorney to discuss the question of liability.

Suing the Cruise Line for your Injuries

If you determine that you have valid grounds to file a claim for your injuries against the cruise line, the first thing you need to do is review the instructions for litigation or arbitration found on the back of your cruise ticket. Cruise lines lay out these instructions in the fine print found on their tickets to limit their liability, and most times, passengers are not even aware of this fine print when they board the ship.

Timing is key when it comes to pursuing a legal claim against the cruise line. Cruise ship injuries have extremely short time frames for pursuing a claim, when compared to other legal causes of action. This period is normally one year from the date of injury, which can present a problem since many injured passengers will come home from their trip and not contact an attorney for months. Waiting will not be in your favor in this situation. If you have been injured, it is extremely important that you contact an attorney as soon as you return home.

Cruise lines also often require injured parties provide an official notice of their intention to pursue a legal claim against them. How this notice is provided depends on the cruise line. You will also find this information on the back of your cruise ticket.

It is also important that you receive immediate medical care after being injured, whether the injury occurs on a cruise ship or in port. Report the incident or injury to the cruise line as soon as it happens. Cruise lines will also use the defense of “lack of reported incident” if a passenger is injured on the ship but does not report the injury to cruise line crew. Get a report of the incident from the cruise line, as well as a report of treatment if you do seek immediate treatment on the ship or at port. We also strongly recommend you follow up with your physician when you return home to monitor the progress of your injuries and to create a history of treatment for your claim. Bring this information in with you when meeting with an attorney for the first time to discuss your case.   


Cruise lines are responsible for the injuries that passengers sustain on and off the ship. Florida law is clear that cruise lines have a non-delegable responsibility to make sure that passengers are safe when being transported between the ship and shore.

If you have been injured on a cruise ship, tender or in port, it is important that you seek immediate medical care and report the incident. Cruise lines often defend cases based upon a “lack of reported incident.” Immediately consult with an experienced cruise ship passenger injury lawyer who is admitted to practice in Federal Court.

Aronfeld Trial Lawyers has obtained millions of dollars in compensation for injured cruise ship passengers and crew members onboard the major cruise lines. We are constantly filing lawsuits against Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and other cruise lines around the world in Federal Court. Since 1991, our law firm has helped injured passengers hold the cruise lines accountable. We work hard to get our clients compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering. The cruise lines are part of multi-billion dollar industry and employ the most aggressive and experienced lawyers–which is why you need experienced legal counsel on your side, too. Call Spencer Aronfeld today for a free consultation, Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer.

Related Resources:

Sick or Injured After a Cruise, What Can I Do? –

Can you Claim Compensation for a Cruise Ship Injury? –

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