CRUISE SHIP INJURIES AND THE “CRUISE CONTRACT”
If the release of this blog goes according to schedule, as you’re reading it I am sitting on the Lido deck of the ms Veendam, enjoying a cocktail and celebrating my 35th wedding anniversary with my wife, along with our children and their respective spouses. A family vacation that is long overdue and I would argue well deserved. But as I prepared to print the boarding documents, the lawyer in me took over and rather than just hit the “I AGREE” button to accept the terms of the “Cruise Contract” I actually read all of the terms. Seventeen long paragraphs to be exact, most of them designed to limit in some fashion the responsibility of the cruise line for damages due to injuries, death or other losses. The terms of the contract reinforced what I already knew about claims against the cruise ship industry, namely those types of claims are in a class of their own, and the usual rules for recovery may not apply or may be significantly limited. Of note, the Holland America contract includes provisions that limit liability for damage to baggage and personal effects; limits liability for certain injuries and requires indemnification for breaches of the cruise contract; restricts time limits for bringing a claim to one year and requires prior notice within six months; limits the jurisdictions where claims can be filed; and finally requires arbitration of certain claims.
Cruises have become a very popular way of vacationing. Unfortunately, there are occasions when injuries occur to guests while on a cruise, or while enjoying excursions from vendors affiliated with the cruise lines. Those unfortunate circumstances not only cause disruption of the vacation, but if the injuries are serious they can require extended medical care, cause loss of wages and result in permanent disability for which compensation may be appropriate. The limits of liability found in the cruise contract can restrict recovery for those damages. If you or a loved one suffers injury or damage while on a cruise, it is essential that you quickly consult with an attorney familiar with the claims process against cruise lines so as to fully preserve your claims and recover just compensation for those injuries.