The cruise industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, and like any other major industry, it does whatever it can to protect itself from liability. This is especially true when it comes to liability for personal injury, as all cruise lines use specific contractual language that limits the ability of passengers to file a personal injury claim and dictates the terms that they must follow when filing such a claim. As part of this, the cruise line can dictate exactly where passengers must file any personal injury claims against the company.
Cruise Line Injuries and the Forum Selection Clause
Passengers are required to sign a contract when purchasing their cruise tickets, and the terms of this contract specifically dictate when and where any personal injury claims must be filed. Although cruise lines generally operate under maritime law, they are also governed by a range of other local, federal and international laws depending on where the ship is registered and where the ship was at the time the injury occurred. This has the potentially to create a jurisdictional nightmare, which is why all cruise lines insert a forum selection clause into their passenger contracts.
This forum selection clause essentially sets out which court has jurisdiction over any claims a passenger makes against the company. Basically, when you agree to the contract by purchasing your ticket, the forum selection clause means that you also agree to file any injury claims against the company in a specific location.
The majority of cruise companies require passengers to file claims in the US Federal District Court in Miami. Still, other companies state that claims must be filed in federal court in Seattle, Orlando or another city. Although most companies tend to use the same court for all cases, there are also companies that have special rules that govern certain ships. The only way to know for sure where your case must be filed is to read through the forum or venue selection clause in your contract.
Filing a Legal Claim Against a Cruise Line
The only way you can potentially receive a settlement for your injuries is to actually file a formal legal claim against the cruise line in the appropriate court. In this case, the law is on the cruise line’s side. The contract you signed when purchasing your ticket is legally binding and dictates the terms of any personal injury claims. In addition to specifying exactly where you have to file the claim, the contract also sets a shortened length of time for you to file a claim.
Although the statute of limitations is generally around three years for most personal injuries, your cruise contract will almost always state that you have a maximum of one year from the date of the injury to file a formal legal claim. If you don’t file the claim with the appropriate court within this period, you forfeit your right to potentially receiving a settlement.
The Importance of a Local Personal Injury Attorney
No matter whether the contract stipulates that you need to file your claim in Miami or some other city, it is still a good idea to seek the assistance of a local personal injury attorney. It is always important to discuss your case with an attorney face to face, which means you’ll definitely need a local lawyer unless you want to travel back and forth to Florida all the time.
Time is of the essence for anyone injured on a cruise ship, which means you’ll want to immediately speak with an attorney as soon as you return home to New York to ensure that you understand all of your options and also the terms that dictate your personal injury claim. Unfortunately, filing a personal injury claim against a cruise line can be incredibly complex due to the issues of maritime law and the specific contractual factors involved. For this reason, it is essential that you seek the help and advice of an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you file your claim in the right place and within the specified time period.
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