From snorkeling and horse back riding to zip lining and local tours, cruises are a time for excitement and adventure. Until, that is, something goes wrong, and your dream vacation ends in a nightmare of excursion injuries.
Unfortunately, many of the injuries that occur while on a cruise happen during these off-ship activities.
The good news, however, is that for three decades, Fort Lauderdale cruise ship lawyer Alan Sackrin has been representing passengers who have suffered injuries while on excursion during their cruise vacations.
Passengers who partake in a shore excursion typically can expect a fun and accident-free time, but just because most people make it back to the ship without incident doesn’t mean the activity is entirely safe.
Some of these activities can even be deadly, especially since they are exposing passengers to new experiences of which they have little knowledge. While a safety briefing is normally performed before each of these activities, they can sometimes be altered or shortened due to meet time restraints.
Many passengers also run the risk of having a tour operator that just doesn’t follow rules, regulations, or laws. Equipment and vehicles may not be properly maintained or may be missing a basic item like a brake light, which could lead to a serious accident.
Typical excursion injuries we’ve seen have come about as a result of:
TYPES OF EXCURSION INJURIES
Injuries from shore excursion activities can range from a simple slip, trip, or fall, which results in a few minor scratches to more severe injuries, such as a broken leg. Unfortunately, some activities have even resulted in the death of the passenger.
Even if a passenger thinks they are okay, it’s important for them to seek medical attention after the incident – a doctor can quickly diagnose an issue and show that it occurred while partaking in an activity. The sooner an exam is performed, the better.
While a shore excursion is generally planned and booked through a cruise line and marketed as part of the cruise experience, often the activity will be conducted by a local tour operator or a company that has been hired by the cruise line through a separate independent contractor agreement. These operators may not need to carry insurance in case a passenger is injured during the activity. Their contract may not even have a section that requires them to submit to the jurisdiction of the United States court. If that’s the case, the cruise line does not automatically become liable for injuries that occur during a shore excursion.
CRUISE LINES MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO PURSUE A CLAIM
Pursuing a claim against a cruise line can be difficult. There are many ways a cruise line can avoid liability of an excursion injury. Sometimes they will blame the tour operator for negligence, or they will have the injured passenger execute a release that absolves them of any liability. These releases are often poorly written and can potentially be invalidated by a court. The cruise line may also make a claim that the case must be brought in the country where the accident took place in an effort to avoid U.S. law and a trial in federal court.
The good news is that our courts have held that cruise lines have “the duty to warn of dangers on shore that are not open and obvious, of which the cruise line had actual or construction knowledge, and that exist in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expect to visit (SEE: Lapidus v. NCL America LLC).”
If a cruise operator fails to provide this warning and a passenger suffers a serious injury or worse, the cruise line can be held liable for the damages.
CRUISE SHIP PERSONAL INJURY LAW REQUIRES SPECIFIC LEGAL KNOWLEDGE
Cruise ship personal injury law differs vastly from “regular” personal injury law that other attorneys and law firms practice. Cruise ship injury law is complex and unique. Different rules apply that can limit the time you have to file a claim and where you can file a claim. Meaning, which court has jurisdiction to hear the case.
Also, just because there is a contract between the cruise ship operator and an excursion company does not mean the passenger benefits from the agreement even if the agreement requires the excursion company to maintain insurance and/or exercise reasonable care in the operation of the subject excursion. The victim needs to allege and prove that he or she was the intended and primary beneficiary of the agreement (SEE: Lapidus v. NCL America LLC).
Every case involving an accident at sea is different. Whether you’re dealing with confusing clauses in a cruise line’s waiver of liability or you are the family of a passenger who wrongfully died, be sure to speak with an experienced lawyer before you file a claim.
A personal injury lawyer like Alan Sackrin, who has taken on the cruise lines and is experienced in the practice of maritime law, can help you learn about some of the issues that can arise with your claim, including the type of evidence needed to prove your case and the type and amount of damages you can recover.
Alan offers a free initial consultation, over the phone or in person, to evaluate your claim and answer your questions.