Cruise ship accidents can be complex from a legal perspective, and this is often due to the fact that cruise ship accidents often involve multiple aspects of state, federal, and international law. However, despite their complexities, cruise ship accidents occur with some regularity. For example, from January 1st to March 31st of 2017, there were three passengers who died of suspicious causes, two passengers that were assaulted with bodily injuries, and 13 passengers that were sexualy assaulted on cruise ships across the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Of course these numbers do not include, non-intentional accident victims the number of which far surpass their criminal counterparts.
Cruise ship accident cases are governed by federal maritime law, which is often referred to as admiralty law. Due to the complexity of this particular body of law, cruise ship accident victims are often penalized due to a lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, cruise ship companies are well aware that the average person isn’t well versed in the intricate details of admiralty law, and they use this fact to take advantage of uninformed cruise ship accident victims. As such, if you are involved in any type of cruise ship accident, there are a few aspects of cruise ship accident law that you should be aware of.
Federal Maritime Laws in Miami, FL
46 U.S.C §30106 states that all civil actions for damages for personal injury or death arising out of a maritime tort must be brought within 3 years after the cause of action arose thereby establishing a three year statute of limitations for maritime tort claims. However, a statute of limitations, like many legal rights, can be waived by contract. In fact, many aspects of legal claims can and often are dictated by contracts. Knowing this information, cruise line companies typically have you enter into an agreement with them at the time you purchase your ticket.
What is a Contract of Carriage?
Unbeknownst to most consumers, most companies that provide mass transportation services require you to enter into a contract of carriage, which is the portion of your cruise that can get complicated in the event of an accident. A contract of carriage is defined by 49 U.S.C.§13102(B) as an agreement entered into pursuant to the provisions of 49 U.S.C. §14101(b). 49 U.S.C. §14101(b) has multiple sections that apply to a host of different situations, but the section that is most important to a cruise passenger is 49 U.S.C. §14101(b)(1) which states, in part, that If a shipper and carrier, in writing, expressly waive any or all rights and remedies under this part, Title 49 chapter 141 of the United States Code, for the transportation covered by the contract, the transportation provided under the contract shall not be subject to the waived rights and remedies. Moreover, the contract of carriage may not be subsequently challenged on the grounds that it violates the waived rights and remedies under this provision of the federal statute.
In this scenario, you, the cruise passenger, are the shipper, and the cruise line is the carrier. The contract of carriage you must enter into when you purchase your ticket is like any other contract, long and confusing, but within that agreement, you are normally waiving certain rights or agreeing to certain terms such as what venue you must file a lawsuit in, an agreed upon reduced statute of limitations, which is normally one year, or that you will give notice to the cruise line of your intention to file a claim within six months. The fact that most cruise passengers do not understand nor take the time to read these agreements is irrelevant in the eyes of the law. Unfortunately, federal courts have consistently upheld the terms of these contracts, which is why the first thing you should do if you agree to go on a cruise is read the agreement printed on the back of the ticket or within the terms of service.
Do Cruise Ship Companies Carry Insurance?
46 U.S.C.§44103 requires a vessel owner or charterer to establish proof of being able to fulfill what is referred to by statute as their “financial responsibility.” This essentially means that a cruise line must show that it has the ability to pay a certain amount of money to a passenger or passengers who have been injured or killed on their ship due to the actions of the cruise line. There are three main ways this is accomplished:
- An insurance policy
- A surety bond issued by a bonding company authorized to do business in the United States; or
- By meeting the qualifications for self insurance set by the Federal Maritime Commission.
Moreover, the amount of each ship’s financial responsibility is determined by the vessel’s capacity as follows:
- $20,000 for each of the first 500 passenger accommodations
- $15,000 for each additional passenger accommodation between 501 and 1,000
- $10,000 for each additional passenger accommodation between 1,001 and 1,500
- $5,000 for each additional passenger accommodation over 1,500
Remember, that the cruise line’s financial responsibility is determined on a per passenger accommodation basis. Meaning, a ship with 500 passenger accommodations must carry an insurance policy or other financial responsibility mechanism that equals at least $20,000 per accommodation, which equals 10 million dollars overall. These requirements apply to all ships executing voyages to or from a port in the United States.
Should You Hire a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer?
Cruise ship accidents can occur in many ways. Slip and fall accidents, unsafe equipment, and intentional misconduct from crew members are just a few of the common causes of injuries sustained on a cruise ship, which is why hiring an experienced admiralty lawyer is so important. Like many areas of law, maritime law is simply too complex for you to approach your case without the assistance of an experience cruise ship accident lawyer. 1800-Injured is a lawyer and medical referral service that connects cruise ship accident victims with local admiralty law attorneys in Miami, FL. Don’t let a lack of information stop you from filing your claim. Call 1800-Injured today to be connected with a cruise ship accident attorney near you.