Winter Cruisers Read the Fine Print!

Kudos to the clients of Grazian and Volpe who are able to escape ChiBeria, Chillinois whether by train, plane, auto or cruise ship. January is a good month to review some preventive measures to assure a safe and fun cruise. Included are steps to take should injury occur to protect your rights.

Mishaps on cruise ships are often highlighted in the newspapers. We have had experience litigating for passengers injured on cruise lines. This type of litigation can be complex and lengthy given the nature and registration of various cruise ship lines. The law combines elements of common carrier liability and premises liability and may often involve issues of admiralty law. There is vast amounts of case law in this area. However, the ruling document is the agreement between the passenger and the cruise line. We find that most clients ignore this document in their excitement to sign on for a sun-soaked vacation. When they are injured during their cruise; they are shocked at what they signed.

15 million cruise passengers leave from a port located in the United States. Cruise ships are large and becoming larger as each year passes often carrying in excess of 6,000 passsengers!. These floating cities expose passengers to all manner of peril, ranging from infectious disease and food poisoning to violent crimes or a simple slip and fall. A passenger should always be aware of their surroundings and the actions of co-passengers.

Before the cruise, all passengers must receive a “cruise of package” booklet from the cruise line. This booklet is not only you ticket to board the ship but also a binding contract between the passenger and the cruise line. Pay special attention to the fine print in this document- there are often several clauses that strip passengers of certain valuable rights in the event they are injured.

First and most typical, the cruise line must be notified in writing with six months of any injury sustained on the voyage. Failure to take this simple step may negate the claim. We suggest you report and accident immediately and make sure a written report is entered in the ship’s records. Grazian and Volpe had a client who slipped on liquid left by a cleaning crew. Not wanting to mare the trip with the fuss of making a report, our client did not report the fall despite experiencing pain in the left knee. The pain progressively worsened causing our client to visit a doctor upon his return home. The doctor diagnosed an injury requiring immediate and painful surgery with long term recovery period. We were able to obtain a settlement for him, but it was complicated and short the settlement he could have received had he made an immediate report of the slip.

Further, the booklet may limit the time within which a passenger may file a claim and it may be more restrictive than the Statute of Limitations in the passengers home state.

Attorneys and their injured clients must also be wary of the ticket provision which specifies where the lawsuit can be brought and it may very well bear no relationship to where the passenger embarked the ship, lives or where the main offices of the cruise line sit.

So how can you protect yourself?

As in all accidents-document everything! Cruise lines employ their own security forces charged with investigation and documentation of all accidents. The media is full of dramatic onboard crimes where gaping holes exist in the the investigations conducted by the ship’s security personnel. Remember, they work for the cruise ship line- their investigation will most likely favor their boss.

Be careful about what you say and what you sign. If the cruise line does not agree to give you a copy of anything you sign-immediately- don’t sign. Ask for a copy of their accident report and obtain the names and contact information for any witnesses. Try to document as many details as possible regarding the scene of the accident and how and why it happened. Document the name and conversations with any crew members (including full name and job title). If you can, take photos and videos of the accident scene. This is very important as passengers and crew will soon traverse the area, potentially corrupting the conditions that existed at the time of your accident.

Most of all – have fun! These are strategies and precautions to protect your rights and keep your trip safe and enjoyable. The vast majority of cruise passengers have a safe and relaxing voyage and return home glowing and in better shape than they left. Remember, Grazian and Volpe wants you to stay safe first-but if you can’t stay safe-stay with us, your Chicago and South Chicago Premises Liability Lawyers for over 30 years.