One of the most common and stressful concerns injured cruise ship passengers have when suing a cruise line is disclosing potentially prejudicial or embarrassing personal information. This fear can often lead a claimant to conceal information in a case, thinking that “if they only knew,” the case would become instantly worthless—or worse.

This basket of worst-case fears may include previous claims and cases, subsequent accidents and claims, immigration status, psychological counseling, addiction issues, criminal history, and the signing of a waiver or release to participate in a cruise ship activity or event, like ice skating, zip lining, or using the artificial surf machine. Most plaintiffs don’t understand that not all evidence is going to be heard by the jury—even if it is disclosed and discussed during the development of the case.

Cruise ship accident cases are filed and litigated in Federal Court and are therefore subject to the Federal Rules of Evidence, which dictate what information a jury will be provided. Both sides work furiously to keep out the worst information, within ethical boundaries. For example, the cruise lines do not want a jury to hear about previous accidents and injuries aboard their ships, so that a jury won’t be inclined to think the ship or cruise line is negligent in the case being tried.

Likewise, we lawyers who represent clients who suffer slip and falls and other injuries on cruise lines will work ethically to exclude anything that might suggest that our clients are accident-prone, litigious monsters trying to take advantage of the cruise line.

In a recent proceeding against Holland America, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise Lines, in which we did not represent the passenger, her case illustrates what can be admitted and what is kept out through a legal process called the Motion in Limine.

In that case the passenger, Diane Weiss, sued Holland America, claiming she was injured while participating in a charity walk aboard the ship. Before the event, Holland America had her sign an “Informed Consent and Waiver of Liability Form.” Understandably, she did not want the signed form to be shown to the jury in her trial because she felt that it could prejudice her claim and mislead the jury. Of course, Holland America wanted it to be shown because they claimed it highlighted the warnings about the physical risks associated with the event.

Waivers Signed by Passengers on Cruise Ships

Pursuant to Federal Law, a cruise line cannot contractually limit its legal liability for its own carelessness—or limit the right to trial of a claimant for personal injury or death—by having a passenger sign a waiver or a release. Nonetheless, such waivers signed by passengers may be admissible to juries to the extent that they are relevant for other purposes, like blaming an independent contractor. This typically is an issue in cases where people are injured on excursions sold by the cruise lines.

However, waiver forms are permitted to be shown to the jury to illustrate the cruise line’s effort to warn injured passengers of the risks associated with the event—in this particular case, the charity walk. In situations like this, federal judges typically redact or black out the unenforceable language and simply provide an edited version of the Form to the Court for approval and use at trial.

While each case is different, courts tend to rely on previous rulings by other judges to provide legal precedent to support their decisions. This case is important for any parties who have been injured on a cruise and may be concerned that the waivers signed will prevent them from filing lawsuits or from seeking justice for their lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

Contacting a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

Our law firm has successfully investigated thousands of potential claims on behalf of people around the world who have been injured while on a cruise. If you have been injured on a cruise ship, it is important that you consult with an experienced cruise accident attorney as soon as possible. Most cruise lines—such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Princess, and others—require claims against them to be filed in Federal Court within one year of the date of the incident.

We provide free, confidential legal consultations via email at [email protected], phone at 305-441-0440 or toll free at 1-866-597-4529, or SKYPE. Call us today—we are ready to help.

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