Cruise season is every season here in South Florida, with some of the world’s greatest luxury liners coming and going several times a week. In addition to the destination, cruise line, excursions and the like, savvy travelers know to plan for worst case scenarios – “What happens if I get sick or hurt?” You can experience a slip-and-fall just as easily at sea as on land, yet being at sea complicates matters both medically and legally: Medically, as the staff and facilities available on a ship or in a foreign country may not be equal to what you are used to at home, and legally in part because matters such as the where the ship is registered, the location of the ship at the time of the incident, and other geographical issues can make it tricky to determine in what jurisdiction the case should be tried, and that medical providers may be independent contractors for whom the cruise line is not directly responsible.
Contract woes – jurisdiction, statute of limitations, and more
As reported at hg.com, “In most admiralty and maritime cases, the statute of limitations is just three (3) years. However, cruise ship operators often require that ticket purchasers agree that any such case must be filed within one (1) year, and that the case must be filed in a particular court, usually in federal court in the Miami, Florida jurisdiction.” So bad news, good news; you have a relatively limited time to make your claim, but most cases are tried here in South Florida. The key is to act quickly and not sit on a potential claim.
Should your claim be successful, you still may not be able to recover a settlement large enough to cover your needs. Reuters reports that there are two types of ticket contracts, “…Domestic ones, which do not cap liability, and international contracts… (which are) subject to an international agreement called the ‘Athens Convention’, which limits liability to about $80,000.”
So while you may not have much of a choice when it comes to the terms of your cruise contract, you should nevertheless review it carefully so that you fully understand the extent of your rights. And keep in mind that, should the case require it, an experienced attorney may be able to convince a court to disregard aspects of the contract in favor of reaching a fair settlement.
Before traveling you should confirm with your current health insurance policy exactly what they do and do not cover when out of the country. Depending on the situation, it may make sense to supplement your existing coverage with travel insurance. Keep in mind that potential costs go far beyond treating the injury or illness; as a recent Miami Herald article points out, ” A medical evacuation back to the United States can cost $100,000 or more, and many providers will require cash payment upfront. Travel insurance can help cover these costs.”
If you are curious about how often cruise ship incidents are reported and which lines are most often involved, the U.S. Department of Transportation keeps a database online here. In the first 3 months of this year, for example, Carnival and Royal Caribbean had the most reported incidents, with 10 and 11 respectively, ranging from missing persons to sexual assault; on the flip side, Crystal and Celebrity had no reported incidents.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
Chances are your cruise will be a joyful experience and you will return home with happy memories to last a lifetime. But should you be the unfortunate victim of an accident or illness, we at the Blaut Weiss Law Group are standing by to put our more than 60 years of combined personal injury experience to work for you. Schedule a free consultation at www.blautweiss.com/contact.php.