Cruise Line Accidents: What You Should Know

boat wheel and gavel

Cruise line cases are unique in that the law permits the cruise line to impose deadlines on passengers that are different than the deadlines found in typical state and federal laws. For those taking to the high seas as a passenger or crew member these maritime laws could impact your ability to file a claim. Keep reading to find out more about cruise line accident claims, maritime law, and more.

What Is Maritime Law?

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is the body of law that governs shipping and navigation. Specifically, maritime law includes conventions, treaties, and regulations that apply to private maritime business and other nautical matters that may occur on the sea or ocean.

Most nations recognized this separate code as an independent jurisdiction from national laws. In other words, the law at sea is separate from the law on land.

Because the open sea accounts for 70% of the earth’s surface, laws that protect transportation and travelers are necessary to preserve the global economy and safety. However, because these laws are independent of most regulations on land, taking action after sailing over troubled waters may be difficult.

Cruise Lines and Admiralty Law

Maritime law establishes a strict framework for how and when a person may file a claim against the cruise line. Keep reading for more information.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations, or the time to file a lawsuit against a cruise line, is typically one year from the date of the incident. The actual deadlines are determined by what is listed in a particular passenger’s ticket.

The passenger ticket may also have a six-month notice requirement. Meaning, the injured person must provide written notice to the cruise line of the occurrence of an incident, within six months of the incident itself. The passenger ticket usually also contains a forum selection clause, where the cruise line sets out the specific court in which cases against it must be filed. Many cruise lines require that lawsuits be filed in federal court in Miami, Florida, regardless of where the accident or injury occurred.


A passenger cannot sue the cruise line for an accident that occurred due to their own carelessness. For example, drinking too much alcohol and falling down the stairs does not constitute a lawsuit. However, the cruise line is liable for injuries caused by their negligence. For example, torn carpeting that causes a passenger to fall or a malfunctioning elevator that injures passengers are correctable conditions that the cruise line failed to address.

Safety Measures

Cruise lines and commercial ships are responsible for providing a certain level of safety for passengers and the crew. Under maritime law, ships must provide:

  • Adequate fire protection
  • Safe food services
  • Vessel control
  • Environmental protection
  • Safe arrival
  • Protection from physical harm
  • Stable watercraft
  • Safe navigation and turbulence protocol
  • Firefighting and lifesaving equipment
  • Protection from crewmember assault
  • Reasonable search and rescue for missing passengers

If the ship does not follow the requirements listed above, they may be held liable for any harm that may come to passengers on the journey.

Filing a Claim

To file a claim, it is important that you have all the necessary documentation including:

  • Names and contact information of witnesses
  • Names of crew members on the scene
  • Photographs and physical evidence
  • Documentation of medical treatment

It is important that you enlist the help of an attorney. A lawyer can help you investigate the accident and collect evidence to support your case. Cruise ship claims are complicated and require professional help from an experienced legal representative.

If you believe you have a case, contact Rossman, Baumberger, Reboso & Spier, P.A. as soon as possible.

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