This article covers the laws that apply for personal injury claims against cruise lines.
Deadline to File a Personal Injury Claim Against a Cruise Line
Does a cruise line have to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish and funeral expenses?
Does a passenger need a permanent injury to get money for pain and suffering?
Do Cruise Lines have insurance that pays for your personal injury claim?
Cruise lines have insurance. However, most passenger personal injury claims against cruise lines are not big enough to trigger the insurance coverage.
Most accident claims will be paid by the cruise line’s self-retention (SIR) in their insurance policy.
Premises Liability Injury Claims against Cruise Lines
Almost all personal injury claims against cruise lines are premises liability claims. Premises liability claims generally arise from slip, trip and falls, negligent security and other accidents.
Standard of Care Owed to Cruise Passengers
If you are invitee, the cruise line and any other operators on the cruise ship owe you two duties. They are the duties to:
Wrongful Death Cases
The majority of wrongful death claims against cruise claims need to brought in Miami, Florida.
In Florida, a personal representative (“PR”) brings the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate and any survivors. A personal representative who has not yet been appointed can negotiate a settlement on behalf of a claimant. See Berges v. Infinity Ins. Co., 896 So.2d 665, 668 (Fla.2004).
The first step is to determine the law that applies. In order to do so, you need to know the distance from the shore of the United States where the wrongful act or negligence occurred.
If the negligence occurred 3 or less nautical miles from the shore of the United States
If the wrongful act or negligence that caused the passenger’s death occurred 3 nautical miles or less from the shore of the US, then state law applies.
Each state defines “Survivors” under its wrongful death laws differently.
In Florida, for example, “survivors” means the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive brothers and sisters. It includes the child born out of wedlock of a mother, but not the child born out of wedlock of the father unless the father has recognized a responsibility for the child’s support. Florida Statute 768.18.
Under Florida law, a:
- Spouse can recover mental pain and suffering damages for the death of a spouse
- Parent may recover mental pain and suffering damages for the loss of a minor child. (Sometimes a parent may recover pain and suffering damages for the loss of an adult child.)
- Minor child may be able to recover mental pain and suffering damages if their parent is killed. “Minor children” means children under 25 years of age.
- Adult child may be able to recover mental pain and suffering damages for a parent’s wrongful death if the parent was not married at the time of death.
Adult children cannot recover pain and suffering damages for a parent’s death due to medical malpractice.
If the negligence occurred more than 3 nautical miles from the shore of the United States
The Death on the High Seas Act states:
“When the death of an individual is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore of the United States, the personal representative of the decedent may bring a civil lawsuit in admiralty against the person or vessel responsible. The action shall be for the exclusive benefit of the decedent’s spouse, parent, child, or dependent relative.” 46 U.S.C.A. § 30302.
This means that if the negligence or wrongful act that caused the death occurred more than 3 miles from US shore, then the decedent’s spouse, parent, child cannot make a claim for mental pain and suffering.
Injuries to Minors on Cruises
Many minor child personal injury cases require court approval of the settlement. If you need court approval and don’t get it, the cruise line will not pay you.
Find out when child injury settlements need court approval in Florida.
Work Accidents on Cruise Ships
The Jones Act provides maintenance and cure benefits to crew injured during the course of their employment. Employees who fall within the Act’s scope are usually paid regardless of the employer’s fault in causing their injuries.
If the employee can show that the employer’s negligence caused his or her injury, he is also entitled to pain and suffering compensation.
Employers who comply with the Act are given immunity from civil suit by the employee, except in rare circumstances.
Work Accidents: Compensation for injuries when a third party is liable.
If an employee, subject to the provisions of the Jones Act, is injured or killed in the course of his or her employment by the negligence or wrongful act of a third-party tortfeasor, the injured employee or, in the case of his or her death, the employee’s dependents may accept compensation benefits under the provisions of this law, and the injured employee or his or her dependents or personal representatives may pursue a claim against such third-party tortfeasor.
Which Cruise Lines Require that You Sue Them in Florida?
Several cruise lines require that your lawsuit be brought in federal court Miami, Florida. This is true regardless of the city in the US that the ship sailed from.
Disney Cruise Line must be sued in any court in Brevard County, Florida, or Federal Court in Orlando, Florida.
MSC cruise lines passenger ticket contract requires that you sue them in federal court for the Southern District of Florida in Fort Lauderdale.
Costa must be sued in Broward County, Florida.
Do Passengers (Who Aren’t Florida Residents) Get a Jury Trial When Suing a Cruise Line?
If the passenger lived in a state other than Florida on the date of the accident, then the passenger can claim (and get) a jury trial. The passenger can claim diversity of citizenship.
If the passenger claims diversity and gets a final judgment of less than $75,000, the passenger can owe the costs of the lawsuit even if the passenger wins at trial.
Do Passengers (Who Are Florida Residents) Get a Jury Trial When Suing a Cruise Line?
If the passenger lived in Florida on the date of the injury, the passenger can’t get a jury trial. A judge will decide the case.
Make sure that your attorney is licensed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida. I am.
Comparative Negligence Laws
You need to show that the cruise line’s negligence caused your injury in order to recover your damages. The cruise line can argue that you were comparatively negligent in causing the accident.
In a negligence lawsuit against a cruise line, contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.
Example of Comparative Fault
Jorge makes a personal injury claim to recover his damages from Carnival.
If the jury finds that Carnival was negligent, it will then be asked whether Jorge was negligent. Assume that they assign 25% negligence to Jorge for not paying better attention while walking.
This would make the full value of Jorge’s damages $500,000. Since Jorge was 25% at fault, these damages are reduced proportionately by Jorge’s comparative fault, which is 25%.
Jorge comparative negligence reduces the $500,000 by 25%. This brings the judgment to $375,000. Carnival would owe Jorge $375,000.
Comparative Fault does not bar recovery
Even if Jorge was are 51% at fault, he can still recover 49% of his total damages. This is a good law for injured cruise passengers.
Damage Caps in Florida
There is generally no caps on economic damages, or pain and suffering damages against a cruise line.
However, in any negligence lawsuit where the jury decides that the defendant is liable and enters an award of damages for the injured party, the court may review the amount of the award to determine if such amount is excessive or inadequate in light of the facts and circumstances which were presented to jury.
The appeals court can also review a trial court verdict and reduce the damages if it finds that they are excessive.
Medical Malpractice Cases against a Cruise Lines
There are no caps on medical malpractice cases against a cruise line.
Florida has limitations on the fee percentage that an attorney can charge an injured cruise passenger to represent him/her. A brief summary of contingency fees in Florida personal injury cases is below.
An attorney may not charge a contingent fee of more than:
- 33 1/3% of any recovery up to $1 million before a cruise line files (or should) file an answer to a lawsuit. Florida Bar Rule 4-1.5(f)(4)(B).
- 40% of any recovery up to $1 million after the filing of an answer to a lawsuit.
Attorneys generally don’t charge a fee unless they recover money. I don’t charge a fee unless I recover compensation.
Articles on Slip and Fall Claims against Cruise Lines
- Slip and fall accident claims against Carnival Cruise Lines
- Slip and fall accident claims against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
- Slip and fall claims against Norwegian Cruise Lines
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