Common Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Cruise Ship Accident, Cruise Ship Injury, Maritime Law, Personal Injury

Each year, millions of people embark on cruise ship adventures. Cruises are one of the most popular methods of vacationing in the United States. Unfortunately, cruises are not without hazards. Accidents, crimes, injuries, and illness outbreaks occur far more than most of us realize.

Despite safety protocols and regulations for the cruise industry, an average of 200 deaths are reported on cruise ships every year. The causes of death range widely, including natural causes, violence, accidents, and illnesses.

At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, we are well aware of how frequently incidents occur on cruise ships. Passengers and crew members are vulnerable to the hazards of the maritime industry, as well as the actions of those in charge of maintaining a safe and healthy cruise ship. Below, we delve into cruise ship accidents and injuries, and provide information that may be helpful if you suffer an injury or illness while on board a cruise ship.

What Happens if I Get Hurt on a Cruise Ship?

If you get hurt on a cruise ship, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. Most cruise ships have a medical center with a doctor or nurse on staff. They will be able to assess your injury and provide treatment.

If your injury is serious, the cruise ship may need to evacuate you to a hospital on land. This is usually done by helicopter. The cruise ship will cover the cost of your medical care, both on the ship and in the hospital.

If you are injured on a cruise ship, it is important to take the following steps:

  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Report the accident to the cruise ship’s staff.
  • Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.
  • Take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the accident.
  • Keep a copy of all medical records and bills.
  • Contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.

Once you have received medical attention, you may want to consider filing a lawsuit against the cruise ship company. This is only necessary if you believe that the cruise ship was negligent and that their negligence caused your injury.

What are the Most Common Injuries on a Cruise Ship?

On a cruise ship, passengers and crew members can sustain a range of injuries. Some of the most common injuries include:

Slip and Fall Injuries

Slippery surfaces, wet decks, or uneven flooring can lead to passengers and crew members slipping, tripping, or falling. These accidents can result in sprains, strains, fractures, bruises, or head injuries.

Pool and Water Slide Injuries

Cruise ships often have swimming pools, water slides, and other water-related attractions. Injuries can occur from diving accidents, water slide mishaps, or slips and falls around pool areas.

Burns and Scalds

Hot surfaces, scalding water, or accidental contact with hot objects can cause burns on cruise ships. This can happen in restaurants, cafes, or even cabin bathrooms.

Excursion-Related Injuries

Cruise ship passengers often participate in shore excursions, such as snorkeling, hiking, or other recreational activities. Injuries can occur during these excursions due to accidents, falls, or other mishaps.

Repetitive Strain Injuries

Crew members who perform physically demanding tasks may experience repetitive strain injuries, such as tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. This can be a result of tasks like lifting heavy objects, repetitive motions, or working in awkward positions.

Food-Related Illnesses

Cruise ships typically offer a variety of dining options and serve large numbers of people daily. Occasionally, passengers can experience food poisoning or gastrointestinal illnesses due to contaminated food or water.

Cruise ship injuries are relatively rare compared to the number of passengers and crew members onboard. However, they do occur far more frequently than most of us realize. They certainly occur more frequently than is publicized in the media.

Causes of Cruise Ship Accidents

Cruise ship accidents can occur due to various factors. Here are some of the most common types of cruise ship accidents:

  • Slip and Fall Accidents: These are among the most common accidents on cruise ships. Slippery surfaces, uneven flooring, or inadequate warning signs can lead to passengers or crew members slipping, tripping, or falling.
  • Mechanical Failures: Technical malfunctions can occur on cruise ships, leading to accidents. These failures can affect the ship’s propulsion system, electrical systems, or safety equipment, potentially resulting in collisions, fires, or other hazardous situations.
  • Collisions and Groundings: Cruise ships can collide with other vessels, piers, or underwater obstructions. Groundings can happen when a ship runs aground, usually due to navigational errors or unforeseen obstacles.
  • Fires: Cruise ships have complex electrical and mechanical systems that can be prone to fires. These fires can be caused by engine room malfunctions, electrical faults, or even accidents in passenger cabins.
  • Norovirus Outbreaks: Norovirus is a common gastrointestinal illness that can spread rapidly in closed environments like cruise ships. Outbreaks can occur when proper hygiene practices are not followed, leading to the contamination of food, water, or surfaces.
  • Medical Emergencies: Cruise ship passengers, who often include older individuals, may experience medical emergencies while onboard. These emergencies can range from heart attacks and strokes to injuries or illnesses caused by accidents or pre-existing conditions.
  • Man-Overboard Incidents: Although relatively rare, man-overboard incidents can occur on cruise ships. They can result from passengers intentionally or accidentally falling overboard due to unsafe behavior, intoxication, or other factors.

It is important to note that while these accidents do occur, cruising is generally considered a safe mode of travel. Cruise lines must adhere to stringent safety protocols and regulations in order to mitigate risks and ensure passenger safety.

Why are There so Many Outbreaks on Cruise Ships?

Outbreaks of illnesses, such as norovirus or other gastrointestinal infections, can occur on cruise ships due to several factors:

Close Quarters and High Passenger Density

Cruise ships are essentially floating communities with a large number of people living in close proximity. This close quarters environment can facilitate the rapid spread of contagious illnesses. When one person becomes ill, it is easier for the illness to pass to others in such a confined space.

Shared Facilities and Surfaces

Cruise ships have communal areas, such as dining halls, buffets, swimming pools, and public restrooms, where passengers come into contact with shared surfaces. If proper hygiene practices are not followed by passengers or crew members, these areas can become sources of contamination and contribute to the spread of illnesses.

Contaminated Food or Water

Cruise ships have to store, prepare, and serve food to thousands of passengers and crew members daily. If proper food handling and sanitation practices are not followed, there is a risk of foodborne illnesses. Similarly, if the ship’s water supply or water treatment systems are compromised, it can lead to contaminated drinking water and contribute to illness outbreaks.

Cruise lines are aware of the above risks and have strict health and safety protocols to mitigate the occurrence and spread of illnesses onboard. However, outbreaks can still occur, especially if crew members do not adhere to food safety and sanitation guidelines.

What are Common Crimes that Occur on Cruise Ships?

While cruise ships generally have a low incidence of crime, there have been reported cases of criminal activities onboard. Some common crimes that can occur on cruise ships include:

  • Assault: Assaults, including physical or sexual assault, can unfortunately happen on cruise ships. These incidents can involve passengers or crew members and may occur in public areas or within cabins.
  • Harassment: Harassment can encompass various forms, such as verbal harassment, unwanted advances, or offensive behavior. It can occur between passengers or involve crew members.
  • Unauthorized Entry or Tampering: Intrusions into restricted areas or tampering with safety equipment are considered criminal acts. Unauthorized access to crew-only spaces or interfering with life-saving equipment can jeopardize the safety of passengers and crew members.

While these crimes do occur, they are relatively infrequent given the large number of passengers who travel on cruise ships each year. Physical and verbal assault or harassment on a cruise ship should be reported immediately. Such interactions can result in serious injuries.

How do Cruise Ships Handle Crimes on Board?

If a crime occurs onboard a cruise ship, it is important for those involved to report it immediately. Cruise ships have a number of measures in place to handle crime, including:

  • Security Personnel: Most cruise ships have a team of security personnel who are responsible for patrolling the ship and responding to incidents. These security personnel are often former law enforcement officers or military personnel.
  • Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV):Many cruise ships have a network of CCTV cameras that are used to monitor activity on board. These cameras can be used to help investigate crimes and identify suspects.
  • Code of Conduct: All passengers are required to sign a code of conduct that outlines the rules and regulations of the cruise ship. This code of conduct typically prohibits a variety of behaviors, including violence, theft, and drug use. Cruise line employees also must abide by a specific code of conduct.
  • Zero-Tolerance Policy: Cruise lines have a zero-tolerance policy for crime. This means that any crime that is committed on board the ship will be investigated and prosecuted, regardless of the severity of the crime.

If a crime is committed on a cruise ship, the security team will typically respond to the incident and investigate the matter. If the crime is serious, the suspect may be arrested and detained on board the ship. In some cases, the suspect may be transferred to law enforcement authorities in the next port of call.

What if an Onboard Doctor Commits Medical Malpractice?

Cruise ships are required to have adequate medical personnel onboard to manage any illnesses or injuries that arise. Cruise lines are responsible for ensuring that passengers and crew members get appropriate care when an incident does occur. Sadly, that does not always happen.

Medical personnel onboard a cruise ship can commit medical malpractice in the same ways as their on-land peers. Some examples of malpractice include:

  • Failing to respond to life-threatening emergencies in a timely manner
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failing to diagnose
  • Refusal to provide treatment
  • Failing to properly monitor a patient
  • Treatment that aggravates an existing medical condition

Maritime law requires cruise ship crew to take necessary actions to protect those onboard. That includes changing course or requesting a helicopter if a passenger requires more advanced medical care.

Can I Sue a Cruise Company for Cruise Ship Accidents or Injuries?

You can sue a cruise company if you believe that you have been injured due to their negligence. Cruise companies are considered common carriers, which means that they have a high duty of care to their passengers. This means that they must take all reasonable steps to protect their passengers from harm.

If you believe that a cruise company has been negligent, you will need to prove that:

  • The cruise company owed you a duty of care.
  • The cruise company breached that duty of care.
  • Your injury was caused by the cruise company’s breach of duty of care.
  • You suffered damages as a result of your injury.

If you can prove all of these elements, you may be able to recover damages from the cruise company. Damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

It is important to note that cruise companies often have liability waivers in their terms and conditions. These waivers may limit or even eliminate your ability to sue the cruise company if you suffer an injury. However, these waivers are not always applicable or enforceable. It is important to speak with an attorney to determine if such a waiver is valid.

Get Help after a Cruise Ship Accident or Injury

If you have been injured or became seriously ill on a cruise ship, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. At Kherkher Garcia, our attorneys can help you determine if you have a case. We will meticulously review the circumstances surrounding your injury or illness, and gather relevant evidence and information.

Our skilled negotiators will work on your behalf to communicate with the cruise line and other applicable parties. Additionally, we will represent you in court if a lawsuit is the best option to protect your rights and pursue recovery.

Get the help you need after a cruise ship accident or injury by calling us at 713-333-1030, or by completing our online contact form.

Schedule a free Consultation

Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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