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On September 11th, a serious accident occurred at sea for twenty-four-year-old Christina Ricci.  The New Hampshire resident suffered a hard fall on Carnival Cruise, Victory. It has been reported that she fell, hitting her head hard on the deck, on the second day of the Victory’s cruise.  Ms. Ricci, on vacation with her boyfriend, was airlifted off the ship (“medically disembarked”) and taken to a Miami hospital, where she has since reportedly suffered a number of strokes and is listed in critical condition.

According to media reports, her friends do not know whether or not she will ever be able to talk or walk again.  The family, in an effort to help finance her medical expenses, has started a website in Florida seeking contributions at GoFundMe , and has already raised nearly $6,000 in two days.

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As of today, we do not represent Ms. Ricci, but if we did, one of the very first things we would do is to stop the family from engaging in dialogue with Carnival until we were able to investigate and discover exactly how the incident happened.   It is important to note that not all falls and accidents on cruises are the fault of the cruise line. Apparently, the hospital and Carnival are working together to figure out how the fall occurred.  Our cruise ship accident law firm wishes Ms. Ricci a speedy and total recovery.

INVESTIGATING A FALL ABOARD A CRUISE SHIP

We investigate hundreds of slip, trip, and fall accidents suffered by people on cruises every year.Often the people know why they fell, e.g., a slippery floor, grease on the deck, or they tripped over one of the multiple thresholds that cruise ships have, particularly those that are found entering the cabin bathrooms.  However, sometimes the injured parties have little or no idea why they fell. They often simply wake up, finding themselves on the floor with a broken bone in agonizing pain, or they wake up in the ship’s hospital.  It is understandable that when people fall and are seriously hurt, the last thing on their minds is analyzing why the fall occurred; rather, the entire focus is in seeking medical care.

It is entirely different for most cruise lines. Certainly, they are going to make sure that a passenger who tripped, slipped, or fell on a cruise ship gets some sort of medical evaluation, but I have found that they are more concerned with finding out why the fall occurred, and not really for the reason one might think.

HOW CRUISE LINES DEFEND POTENTIAL CLAIMS

The primary reaction is not determination to discover the root cause of the fall, such as was there adequate warning signage, or where and how the “water or oil” got on the deck, but to start building the defense against the potential and probably inevitable claim that the passenger and her lawyers may make against the cruise line for personal injuries.

For example, almost every Carnival claim I have investigated, in nearly 25 years of suing cruise lines, has a “security officer” bringing the injured party back to the scene of the fall, often directly from the ship’s hospital, and having that person try to explain and often “reenact” the incident.  They also interview various witnesses, usually fellow passengers, family members, and crew, to collect additional information.  In the meantime, the ship’s nurses and doctors are trained to ask a series of questions also directed not at the patient’s health but more in a claims-adjusting capacity to determine if the passenger had been drinking, taking drugs, or had previously been injured or fallen.   The passenger is given several documents to fill out in addition to the medical questionnaire, all designed to help the cruise lines defend the claim later on.

I have often said that the most powerful weapon the cruise lines have to defend passenger injury and accident claims is the “Passenger Injury Statement Form,” which is usually provided to passengers in the moments after a fall, and requires them to “briefly describe” how the accident happened and what could have been done to avoid it.  And then sign it. Most passengers have no idea that the wording of their answer can and will be used against them later on in court.  The slightest variation in the description of how and why the fall occurred will be used to impeach their testimony and credibility.

I believe that the Passenger Injury Statement Form should contain a warning to alert passengers that the document has enormous legal implications and should not be filled out or signed without the assistance of an experienced maritime accident attorney.

HOW MUCH IS MY CRUISE SHIP ACCIDENT CASE WORTH?

In order for there to be a viable cruise ship accident case, the cruise line does not have to be entirely at fault.  In fact, in most instances both the claimant and the cruise line share some degree of responsibility.  For example, if someone trips over a threshold, we might argue that the raised threshold did not have clear enough markings or warnings.  The cruise line would argue that it was “open and obvious” and that the passenger was herself careless for not having seen it.

When both the passenger and cruise ship share in the responsibility for causing the accident, the total amount of damages is then divided according to the amount of responsibility.  For example, if the total amount of a particular claim is $100,000 (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, future medical expenses, lost cruise) and the ship and passenger are equally responsible for the fall, then the passenger’s net settlement or verdict  amount would be $50,000.

Another example would be the ship is 20% responsible and the passenger is 80% responsible.  The net settlement amount or the passenger would therefore be only $20,000.

Determining both the amount of the settlement and what percentage (if any) is the passenger’s fault versus the cruise ship’s is not a science, but rather an art based upon the specific facts of each case, including many factors such as the age and demographics of the passenger, and the degree of carelessness of the cruise line along with how, when, and why the accident occurred.

Our lawyers have successfully sued Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, MSC, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn, Disney, and Silverseas on behalf of people who have suffered serious injuries as passengers onboard their ships.  We are passionate about holding cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of safety.  We provide free initial legal consultations to passengers around the world via TOLL FREE telephone at 1-866-597-4529, by email at [email protected], or SKYPE.  Contact us today, before you speak to the cruise line, and allow us to help you maximize your claim and protect your legal rights.