If a cruise line’s negligence caused your injury, you are entitled to compensation for your:
- Non-economic damages (Injury, pain, disability, disfigurement, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life)
- Economic damages (Past and future lost income, past and future medical expenses, funeral expenses, damage to personal property, mileage to medical appointments and more)
These damages are similar to those that you may receive in a land based Florida accident case. However, there are some damages that you can recover in an accident that occurs in Florida that you can’t get in a cruise ship accident claim.
This article deals with all cruise ship accident claims. You must sue certain cruise lines for personal injury in Florida.
Otherwise, the court will dismiss the case.
The cruise lines that you can only sue in federal court in Miami, Florida for personal injury are:
- Carnival Cruise Lines (Miami, Florida)
- Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (Miami, Florida)
- Norwegian Cruise Lines (Miami, Florida)
- Celebrity Cruise Lines (Miami, Florida)
Other cruise lines can only be sued in other Florida cities. They are:
- MSC Cruises
- Disney Cruise Line
- Costa Cruise Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
Cruise Lines Doesn’t Owe You Money if it Wasn’t At Fault
Most passenger injuries that happen on a cruise are not the fault of the cruise line. Often times, a passenger is acting careless and gets hurt.
If the cruise ship did nothing wrong to cause your injury, they do not owe you a dime. Don’t expect to get a settlement offer in those cases.
Will the Cruise Line pay your doctor directly for your medical treatment?
No. The cruise line will not pay your medical bills as it receives them. The cruise line won’t tell that the doctor that it pre-authorizes your treatment.
If you are able to settle the case with the cruise line, they will send you one (1) check as final settlement of the claim. They will first have you sign a release, which you should try to edit.
You should use your health insurance to get medical treatment.
Tip: You may have to repay your health insurer if you settle your case with the cruise line. It may depend on the law governing your health insurance contract as well as the type of health plan.
Do not wait for the cruise line to send you to the doctor. It won’t happen.
The cruise line may give you an authorization for release of medical information. The purpose of this authorization is so the cruise line can request your medical records and bills.
This authorization does not mean that they will prepay for your medical treatment.
Tip: You are not required to sign this. If you do choose to sign it, strike out any language that allows the cruise line to receive your mental health records.
Is a spouse entitled to compensation for his or her spouse’s accident on a cruise?
Maybe. It depends on whether the ship was in state or international waters at the time of your accident.
If the cruise ship was in international waters at time of accident, no compensation for spouse
If the cruise ship was in international waters at the time of the accident, then a spouse is not entitled to costs in missing work and in caring for and treating his spouse as well as the amount of the “loss of services of his spouse.” The Michaels v. Lines, Dist. Court, SD Florida 2005 dealt with this issue.
In that case, Lisa Marie Michaels and Robert Michaels sued Carnival Cruise Lines in the United State District Court in the Southern District of Florida. This court is located in Miami, Florida.
Reminder: As I said above, all personal injury lawsuits against Carnival Cruise Lines must be filed in Miami, Florida. There are no exceptions.
By way of background, on November 17, 2004, Lisa and Robert Michaels, who are husband and wife, filed a lawsuit claiming that on September 27, 2003, Lisa was injured aboard the Sensation, a cruise ship owned and operated by Carnival Cruise Lines.
The court concluded that her injury occurred while the ship was at sea. It cited the case of In re Amtrak “Sunset Limited”, 121 F.3d 1421 (11th Cir. 1993), where the court said that personal injury plaintiffs may not recover nonpecuniary damages under the general maritime law for loss of society, loss of consortium, and punitive damages. See also Lollie v. Brown Marine Serv., Inc., 995 F.2d 1565, 1565 (11th Cir. 1993) (ruling that “general maritime law does not allow recovery for loss of society or consortium in personal injury cases).
In “Sunset Limited”, the court found that the spouses of nonseamen injured in state territorial waters could not recover nonpecuniary damages under the general maritime law of the United States, ruling clearly that, absent certain inapplicable exceptions, “unless or until the United States Supreme Court should decide to add state remedies to the admiralty remedies for personal injury, personal injury claimants have no claim for nonpecuniary damages such as loss of society, loss of consortium or punitive damages.” “Sunset Limited”, 121 F.3d at 1429.
At least one other circuit court of appeals has adopted a similar legal conclusion under circumstances materially identical to those in the Michaels case, ruling that damages for loss of consortium are unavailable to the spouses of nonseamen who have suffered nonfatal injuries in international, rather than state territorial, waters. Chan v. Society Expeditions, Inc.,39 F.3d 1398, 1407-08 (9th Cir. 1994).
What if cruise ship is in state territorial waters at time of accident?
In Sutton v. United States, 26 F.3d 903 (9th Cir. 1994), after considering the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”) and United States Supreme Court precedent, the court concluded that such damages were available to the relations of nonseamen suffering nonfatal injuries in state territorial waters.
The court in the Michaels case said that Chan and, in fact, Sutton are consistent with binding law in the 11th Circuit – that the general maritime law does not create nonpecuniary claims in favor of the relations of nonseamen suffering nonfatal injuries in either international and state territorial waters.
The 11th Circuit Federal Appeals Court rules on all the appeals of personal injury cases against the cruise lines that I named earlier in this article.
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