We believe that cruise lines should be held accountable when they put their corporate profits ahead of passenger safety. More than 15 million people a year board one of the hundreds of cruise ships around the world–hoping to escape the stresses of life, create lifelong memories with friends and families, and explore our world. Cruise ship passengers expect to be safe and taken care of–not to be exposed to dangerous conditions, much less to be seriously injured.
Like modern land-based resorts, cruise ships now offer passengers incredible onboard activities, ranging from zip lining to ice skating, as well as world-class entertainment and food. In addition, they provide casinos, spas, and shopping–all designed to make a profit while entertaining their passengers.
Unfortunately, many safety concerns are left unaddressed, and when people get hurt, cruise lines should spend as much time, effort, and money taking care of injured passengers as they lavish on television commercials that play around the clock, luring people to book their vacations on their ships.
One of the most common accidents we encounter involves a passenger who slips, trips, and falls on a ship’s threshold or the doorways that exist throughout a cruise ship, dividing the different passageways, cabins, and bathrooms. These thresholds can be very dangerous because they are placed throughout the ship where passengers walk.
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974
I am frequently asked why cruise ships have these high metal thresholds. One of the reasons for deck thresholds can be found in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea or (SOLAS). SOLAS, along with its successive editions, is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safe operation of passenger cruise and merchant ships. In addition to safety stipulations, SOLAS specifies the minimum standards for constructing, equipping, and operating cruise ships.
SOLAS requires that cruise ships be divided into main fire zones, 32 capable of being sealed by fire screen doors. For such doors to be fire resistant and prevent the spread of smoke, a metal threshold is required to be installed on the floor where the bottom of the fire screen door would seal the door in its closed position.
However, it is up to the country under which a particular ship is flagged to enforce the codes. The Carnival Glory is a very popular passenger cruise ship. Currently, our office is representing a passenger who was badly injured when she fell down a staircase exiting one of the ship’s nightclubs. While the ship frequently docks in the Port of Miami, the 110,000-ton ship is actually registered and flagged in Panama.
This can and often does cause confusion over by who and where cruise ships are actually being inspected. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) provides a valuable portal to the public, with easy access to pertinent information about a particular cruise ship, such as the date of service, tonnage, and flag.
When we investigate an injury aboard a cruise ship, one of the very first things we do is request photographs and a site inspection to visualize where an accident actually happened. This often requires us to travel to different ports. Fortunately, most of the cruise lines use either the Port of Miami, Port Canaveral (Cape Canaveral), Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Jacksonville Port Authority (Jacksonville), or the Port of Tampa.
Freedom of Information & Privacy Acts
Another very valuable tool in our investigation of a potential claim against a cruise line is the Freedom of Information Act Request or (FOIA). FOIA is based upon the public’s right to know and was enacted in 1966. FOIA is the primary means by which lawyers for injured passengers obtain access to records in the possession of the United States Coast Guard and other governmental agencies after they have investigated a cruise ship passenger accident The USCG can withhold certain private information in response to the FOIA request–but must specify what is excluded and why.
When We Sue Cruise Lines
Perhaps the most important and effective tool we have in investigating a cruise ship passenger accident claim is the litigation process. By filing a lawsuit against a cruise line, civil maritime lawyers have the power of subpoena. We send out lengthy questionnaires to the cruise lines (interrogatories), requesting them to explain in detail how and why a particular incident occurred. We also send demands for certain documents, known as Requests for Production. A Request for Production requires the defendant cruise line to produce certain documents, surveillance photos and videos of the scene as well as policies and procedure manuals. This information is then carefully reviewed by our team of experienced lawyers and investigators.
Taking the deposition of a corporate representative of the cruise line is another important investigative measure. Depositions are essentially interrogations, where our lawyers will ask and cross-examine cruise line employees about the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular incident, with the goal of discovering if this type of incident has ever occurred before and what if anything could have been done to prevent it, or to prevent it from recurring.
We believe that the most important service we can provide injured passengers is our experience and diligence in knowing where to look for the evidence that will prove their claim. The burden of proof, or responsibility for proving negligence, is on the plaintiff or injured passenger. We often encounter seriously injured passengers who have fallen or been injured while on a cruise, but simply do not understand how or why.
Cruise lines employ onboard investigators. The moment they are aware of an incident, they take photographs of the scene and interview witnesses and the injured passenger. The cruise lines hold a tremendous advantage in the claims process because, generally speaking, they know more about a particular incident and know it sooner than the injured passengers or their lawyers.
Time is of the essence in investigating a claim–not only because the majority of cruise lines require passengers to file their lawsuits within one year of the date of the incident, but also because the evidence of how a particular incident occurred is often deleted or destroyed before we are retained.
If you or a family member has been involved in an accident or incident while on a cruise, please contact us today for a free initial legal consultation. We are passionate about holding cruise lines accountable for injuring their passengers. Call us today at 1-866-597-4529, or email us at new [email protected]