Danger on Board: Are Cruise Lines Failing to Identify Safety Hazards?

Whether it’s the hazards of just moving about a ship that’s underway or it’s the adventurous new attractions that an increasing number of cruise lines are adding to their decks, funnels and superstructure, there are numerous unsafe situations passengers might find themselves in at any given time while on a cruise ship. Even if a guest doesn’t climb onto the on board rock wall or zing across the top deck’s zip line, it’s shocking how many injuries can arise while one is simply trying to enjoy a leisurely vacation.

One of the more frightening threats to passengers is falling off the ship at any given point during the voyage. While cruise lines would like the public to believe this is a rare occurrence, it happens more regularly than most might think—one industry website claims that more than 20 people per year on average fall from cruise ships. Earlier this year, a woman died after falling from a balcony on the 14th deck of the Carnival Elation to a lower deck below while on an excursion to the Bahamas. The two-story fall came within days of another passenger going overboard on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship en route from New Orleans to Cozumel, Mexico—never to be found. On a brighter note, a 46-year-old woman who fell off the Norwegian Star this past August was rescued after spending close to 10 hours treading water in the Adriatic Sea.

For those cruise passengers who are able to remain on board, widespread gastrointestinal viruses can strike without warning and cause ship-wide illness. This past winter (prime cruise season) Royal Caribbean had 24 passengers and crew fall ill on one boat and 47 reported being violently ill on another. Princess Cruises is even facing a class-action lawsuit after eight voyages in a 3-month period had large outbreaks of norovirus.

This is not to say that all accidents on the high seas involve such high drama. Just this month, a Florida woman was awarded $1.2 million by a jury after tripping over a water bucket left out by the ship’s cleaning crew. Heading back to her table with a loaded plate from the breakfast buffet, she didn’t see the bucket and ended up hurting her shoulder as she hit the floor. Both the ship’s medical staff and a doctor on Grand Turk felt the injury only merited an arm sling, but once home she was subjected to surgery that inserted a metal plate and numerous screws into her shoulder blade.

Previously, we’ve discussed the issues and risks present with many land-based resorts—again, a situation where a sense of security with brand-name operators is misplaced. Often too late, guests find that the level of responsibility and accountability one might expect does not actually exist.

Therefore, if you or someone you know has suffered an injury, unexplained sickness or even death while on a cruise, consider speaking with one of our experienced Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen attorneys to understand your rights and any potential course of action. You may contact us for a free and confidential legal consultation, or you can also reach out to an attorney directly by calling (305) 670-0101 or email contact@bhfloridalaw.com.

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