How to Get Compensation for a Cruise Ship Injury


Margot Lester

When you book a cruise, the last thing on your mind is getting hurt. But a cruise ship injury can occur at any time while you’re on vacation. One landmark study found that most injuries occur onboard the ship involve women and the elderly.

If you have a cruise ship injury and don’t know what to do, we’ve gathered the information you need below. This will help if you or a loved one experiences a cruise ship injury onboard, during a shore excursion, or while aboard a tender vessel.

IMPORTANT: Read your ticketing documents and waivers carefully. There may be special instructions about how and when to seek medical attention and who to report the injury to for it to count as a valid claim.

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What Are the Most Common Cruise Ship Injuries?

The most common cruise passenger injuries are slips, trips, and falls. Most of these accidents happen in cramped cabins, bathrooms, or on streets and sidewalks while ashore. People hurt in these incidents experience lower-body sprains, breaks, lacerations, and even traumatic brain injuries.

The most frequent causes of cruise passenger injuries are:

  • Crew misconduct or negligence, including failing to take safety precautions in rough weather
  • Excursions
  • Fires
  • Improperly maintained automated doors, decks, elevators, escalators, floors, and handrails
  • Inadequate lifeguard coverage
  • Insufficient lighting, standing water, and other unsafe conditions
  • Medical malpractice by the ship’s medical staff
  • Slippery surfaces onboard or on the gangway
  • Unsuitable sanitation and hygiene
  • Water-borne illnesses

The Most Common Cruise Ship Injuries That May Qualify for Compensation

How Long Do I Have to File a Cruise Ship Injury Claim?

Maritime law governs all cruise ship operators and the claims you may file against them. The statute of limitations for cruise ship injury cases is 1 to 3 years, as outlined in 46 U.S.C. § 30508.

PRO TIP: Report your cruise ship injury and start the filing process no more than 6 months from your accident date.

Every cruise operator serving the U.S. requires passengers to give notice of personal injury claims within 6 months.

Further, injured passengers only have 12 months to file a lawsuit. You can still file a case if you miss this deadline, however. That’s particularly true if you received treatment on board or the operator investigated your accident.

What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need for a Cruise Ship Injury?

You need a personal injury attorney experienced in maritime law. When talking to potential legal representation, confirm they have handled cruise ship injury cases and are familiar with maritime law.

Once you’ve selected an attorney, prepare for your consultation by gathering as much of the following documentation as possible:

  • Any correspondence/interactions between yourself and the responsible party or their insurer
  • Contact information and, when possible, written statements from any witnesses
  • Copies of your ticketing documents, waivers, and other cruise-related paperwork you signed before boarding
  • Documentation showing any missed work and a pay stub to establish lost wages
  • Medical bills and/or receipts
  • Photos or video evidence taken at the scene along with physical evidence from the event (such as ripped clothing)
  • Prescriptions for your injury, future treatment plans and their costs
  • Relevant medical records, including images of your injury (i.e., photos, MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, etc.)
  • Your health insurance information

While it might seem like a lot, the more you share with your prospective attorney, the deeper their understanding of what happened. PRO TIP: Download a free personal injury consultation checklist.

What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need for a Cruise Ship Injury?

Do I Really Need a Lawyer?

Yes. Cruise lines are big businesses with deep pockets and staff attorneys whose job is to avoid paying damages. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney is vital to getting the compensation you deserve.

IMPORTANT: Think you can’t afford a personal injury attorney? Most cruise ship injury lawyers work on contingency. That means you don’t pay unless you get a settlement. Learn more about how it works.

In some cases, cruise company lawyers have:

  • Questioned the character of the person bringing suit
  • Put forth outlandish scenarios to assert they were not liable for passenger injuries
  • Filed motions to delay or complicate the proceedings

An attorney working for you can counter those ploys.

EXAMPLE: An upper bunk fell open on a Carnival cruise ship, striking a passenger sitting directly below in the head. The impact caused a traumatic brain injury. He then filed a cruise ship injury claim. The cruise operator, Carnival Corp., alleged the injured passenger vandalized the bunk’s latch, causing it to fail. They even produced a cellphone video they said proved their version of the story. The passenger’s counsel countered those arguments and constructed a case that moved the jury to award him a $675,000 settlement.

What Kind of Damages Can a Lawyer Get for Me?

If you or someone in your party is hurt or worse on a cruise, then you’re entitled to compensation. A skilled personal injury lawyer with maritime law experience can help you secure that money.

Economic Damages for Cruise Ship Injuries

Every case is different. However, your case could qualify for economic damages that pay you enough money to cover:

EXAMPLE: A passenger broke her leg and shoulder when she fell walking along one of the ship’s external passages. She sued Carnival Corp. and the court awarded the passenger $290,000 in economic damages.

What Kind of Damages Can a Lawyer Get for Me?

Punitive Damages for Cruise Passenger Injuries

Your case may also qualify for punitive damages. This is a type of non-economic damages you can receive when the injury accident in question involves negligence.

EXAMPLE: Some automatic sliding glass doors on the Holland America MS Amsterdam closed prematurely, hitting one passenger in the head. As a result, he suffered a concussion and traumatic brain injury. His lawyers made the case that this was a known hazard since other passengers reported similar incidents in the past. That was enough to prove negligence on the ship operator’s fault to the jury. The passenger received a $21-million settlement, which included $16 million in punitive damages and $5 million for pain and suffering.

Find a Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer Through LegalASAP Today

If you’re injured during a cruise, consider having an experienced attorney to represent your case. If you don’t win a settlement, then you pay nothing for legal representation. And if you succeed, you only pay a small fee out of your final award.

Our network of more than 500 law firms nationwide is standing by and ready to help you. To contact a representative, either call 888-927-3080 or click the button below to start your free, one-minute evaluation.

Margot Lester
CEO at The Word Factory

Margot Lester is the CEO ofThe Word Factory,a content marketing agency based in North Carolina that provides services for international healthcare brands, tech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coachand organizational communications trainer,helping individuals and teams write more effectively.