Since 1991, our cruise ship accident lawyers have investigated thousands of passenger injury incidents aboard cruise ships. The 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.
When investigating these claims, it is crucially important for us first to establish why and how the incident occurred. Many people believe that simply because they have been injured while on a cruise ship, they automatically have a case. This is not true. First we have to investigate whether or not the cruise line is responsible in some degree for what happened.
For example, we interview dozens of people every week who have slipped or fallen but have no idea what caused them to fall. It is very common for people who slip on a wet staircase and fall, especially in front of a large number of people, to feel a sense of embarrassment, particularly if others are laughing or pointing at them. In addition, if they have sustained a broken bone or worse, the pain, confusion, and shock of a sudden fall, the need to get medical assistance far outweighs the thought of getting witnesses’ names, analyzing what and where the wet and slippery substance on the floor was, where it came from, or how long it had been there.
Usually, waiting for the injured passengers in the medical center will be members of the cruise line’s “security department” who are trained in analyzing and interrogating the injured passengers and their family members, purportedly to determine how the incident occurred, but more accurately to begin mounting the defense to a potential lawsuit. During these encounters, the security officers will take photographs of passengers’ shoes, escort them back to the scene of the incident–often directly from the medical center–and have them sign confessions disguised as “passenger injury statements” worded in a very particular fashion asking what they could have done to avoid the falls.
The written passenger injury statements, combined with the photographs and medical center records, are almost always used by the cruise lines against passengers who decide later to file claims against them to obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of cruise, and pain and suffering.
This is why one of the very first things we do when we are hired is obtain the CCTV footage of the incident–not just to prove that our client actually fell, but rather to demonstrate how long the wet or slippery condition existed before the fall, as well as its source. Under maritime injury law, the cruise lines only have to be reasonable in the manner in which they inspect, maintain, and repair their ships as well as warn passengers of dangerous conditions. Therefore, if the wet condition had been there for only seconds or minutes before the passenger fell, the cruise line would defend itself by saying that it was not there for a reasonable period of time for their crew to have been aware of it. To combat and overcome this defense, we are often required to take sworn depositions from crew members to determine where they were at the time of the fall, as well as inspect the ship to understand the condition and slipperiness of the floor, deck, or steps.
Generally speaking the sooner we can initiate our investigation, the better the result is for our clients. Carnival, for example, typically claims that they do not have CCTV footage in the common areas of the ship. In fact, in over 25 years of suing Carnival, I have probably had only a handful of cases where they provided CCTV footage of a fall. Other cruise lines–like RCCL, Celebrity, and NCL–typically have video, usually grainy and almost always unclear video. But if the video is not requested early, most cruise lines will claim they deleted it within a week or so of the cruise. Getting a lawsuit filed quickly allows us to use subpoena power and other means to preserve crucial evidence that will almost certainly be needed to prove and win our clients’ cases.
Our cruise ship accident law firm in Miami has nearly 50 years of combined legal experience holding cruise lines accountable when people are injured aboard their vessels. We represent people from around the world who have been hurt on Carnival Cruise Ships, and those of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Princess, and others. If you have suffered a slip, trip and fall, or other accident on your cruise, call us today toll free at 1-866-597-4529 or email us at [email protected] for a free initial consultation and speak to an experienced lawyer. We are ready to help.