If you or a loved one were injured on a cruise ship, it is important to know your legal rights. Although you do have the legal right to sue the cruise ship for any injuries that occurred due to negligence on the part of the cruise line or its employees, the terms and conditions of your ticket have a huge impact when filing for your case. Therefore, it is essential that you get help in understanding the complex legal issues involved with filing a lawsuit for cruise injuries.
How Your Ticket Impacts Your Ability to Sue the Cruise Line
Many cruise passengers are unaware that their ticket is considered a legally binding contract between the passenger and the cruise line. Within the terms and conditions of the ticket, cruise lines generally insert a number of provisions designed to limit their liability for personal injuries, and these provisions will directly impact you should you choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against the cruise line.
As it is considered a legally binding contract, the terms and conditions of the ticket supersedes any local statute of limitations. Whereas you normally have up to three years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York, the terms of a cruise ticket generally stipulate that passengers only have one year to file a formal lawsuit for any personal injuries. In some cases, the period to file a personal injury lawsuit against the cruise line may only be six months. Furthermore, many cruise lines that allow passengers a full year to file a personal injury lawsuit may still require that the passenger submits an official written notice of their intent to file a lawsuit within six months of the injury.
In addition to shortening the time you have to file an injury lawsuit, most cruise tickets also include a forum selection clause. With this clause, passengers agree that any lawsuit they do file against the cruise line will be filed in a specific court. Most cruise lines have chosen the Federal District Court in Miami as their preferred venue, but it could be that your ticket stipulates any lawsuits be filed in Orlando, Seattle or any other specific district court. Due to this forum selection clause, your lawsuit will only be considered legally valid if you file it in the specified court. Similarly, the lawsuit will also only be valid if you make sure to file it within the set time period.
Suing a Cruise Line for Negligent Injury
Even if you do file your lawsuit in the proper court in time, you will still need to be able to prove that the injury was a direct result of negligence or carelessness by the cruise line or any of its employees. However, proving this type of negligence isn’t exactly the same as proving negligence in other personal injury cases.
Cruise lines are governed by maritime law, which means that any lawsuits against the cruise line is also dictated by maritime law instead of any other local, state or federal laws. The fact that maritime law is completely different from standard US law means it is essential that you seek help from a personal injury law firm that has experience with cruise injury lawsuits.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will first examine the terms and conditions of your ticket to determine exactly where and when you need to file your suit. Should it be necessary to file the suit in Florida or another state, hiring a local lawyer is also a good way to ensure that you don’t have to needlessly travel back and forth. Of course, you will most likely need to appear in court should your case go to trial. However, a skilled attorney may be able to help you negotiate a settlement with the cruise line for your injuries without the case ever needing to go to trial.