This week the Sun Sentinel reported that Port Everglades had more than fifty thousand (50,000) passengers pass through the port Sunday to embark on one of at least eight cruise ships for their dream vacation. While some of these passengers reside locally, a vast majority of them likely came to Florida to embark on their Caribbean vacation to avoid the cold and dreary weather of the Northeast, Midwest and Canada.
What you should know about Cruise Vacations
Prior to leaving for their dream vacation each passenger had to check-in for their voyage at the terminal or on-line before boarding their “floating city.” During the check in process, each passenger signed a Cruise Contract. What is a cruise contract? This is a document that sets forth the terms that govern all dealings between the passenger and the carrier a/k/a “the cruise line” including claims involving boat injuries that might arise because of the negligence of the cruise line including but not limited to slip and falls, trip and falls or even the actions of a crew member. You may find a link to your cruise contract on your carrier’s website.
Unfortunately, whether you are a novice or veteran at cruising, a majority of the passengers probably have never read their cruise passenger contract. Like the documents you may have signed at your real estate closing or in the finance department when you bought or leased your car, the cruise contract is quite voluminous and in small print. Frankly, you are just happy to be on vacation and cannot wait to enjoy the warm weather and a nice cold pina colada or coconut mojito.
However, I must warn you about something very important in your cruise contract. Especially if you, your spouse, your child, loved one or friend have an accident or are injured on a cruise ship.
First, most, if not all, of the cruise contracts require you to provide the cruise line with written notice of your claim within six (6) months of your accident or injury. Although you may have filled out an incident report on board the ship, the incident report is not sufficient. The cruise line will often require you to provide it with written notice including a complete factual account of the basis of the claim. Here is the kicker, this written notice is a pre-requisite to filing a lawsuit against the cruise line. Therefore, if you fail to provide them with written notice required in your contract your claim may be barred in Court.
Second, if you or a family member have ever been in an accident before, you might have heard your attorney talk about something called the Statute of Limitations. This is the time frame in which you have to bring a lawsuit against a negligent party. For example, the statute of limitations to bring a negligence claim in Florida is 4 years while it is 3 years in New York. Your cruise contract, however, likely requires you to sue your cruise line for injuries, illness or death within one (1) year from the date of the injury. Unfortunately, Federal Courts in both Florida and New York have upheld these shorter time limitation periods in the cruise contract when the language is clear and unambiguous. Therefore, if you fail to comply with this time parameter your claim will likely be forever barred.
Finally, and equally important, is the venue or location where your claim or lawsuit can be brought against your cruise line in the case of negligence. As mentioned above, a vast majority of the cruise passengers that left Port Everglades were not from the State of Florida. However, if those residents from New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Ohio or Ontario are injured on their voyage, they may need to sue the carrier in Florida. This is even the case for those cruisers that may have left from the Port of New York, Port of Boston or Port of Baltimore. In fact, one cruise line, that generally caters to older passengers, requires that lawsuits against it be filed in the State of Washington. You may be thinking about how inconvenient this is. However, failure to comply with the venue provision in your cruise contract might lead to a dismissal of your case. Accordingly, if you are not a resident of Florida or had your dream vacation leave from a non-Florida port I caution you about rushing to hire a local attorney who may not be familiar with your cruise contract or cruise ship accidents as they may struggle to navigate through your case.
Why do I tell you all of this? It is important that you know your rights before you embark on your next dream vacation. It is equally important that if you, a loved one or friend have an accident or injury on a cruise ship that you have an attorney that can navigate through the claims process, work with industry experts in building your claim and aggressively represent your interest in Court.
Therefore, if you, a loved one, friend or colleague have a slip and fall, trip and fall, have an allergic reaction to consuming food after notifying the cruise of your dietary restrictions, are injured by an intoxicated passenger or because of the actions of a crew member call me at the Eltringham Law Group (561) 338-0420. We can help.