Waves and Ship Passenger Injury Claims

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There are many types of ocean waves and some of them can cause massive injuries and even death of passengers.  Undersea earthquakes, coastal landslides and glacial calving (when a large chunk of a glacier breaks off and falls into the ocean) can create enormous and catastrophic waves.  Undersea earthquakes can produce tsunamis and coastal landslides can produce tidal waves.  Freak waves are sometimes referred to as "rogue waves". 

These are typically the result of what is called a “focusing effect” or a combination of conditions, including weather and the geographic conditions of the location.  Rogue or freak waves occur most often in deep water combined with converging currents along with unusual weather conditions.  Two weather fronts can meet and create opposing waves of considerable amplitude, which can create abnormally large waves.

Liability for Passenger Injury

A cruise ship departing from a U.S. port is considered a common carrier of passengers.  They have a special duty to its passengers to see that they arrive at their destination safely and to use the highest degree of care to protect them against physical harm.  The special relationship between a common carrier and its passengers comes from the fact that the passengers are entrusting themselves to the cruise ship company’s protection and care.

An estimated 12 million people take cruises each year, and almost half embark in America.  Most cruise ships serving America are registered under the flags of Panama, the Bahamas or Liberia.  They don’t pay U.S. corporate taxes and may not be within reach of U.S. courts.  However, U.S. law may apply when a cruise contract is entered in the U.S., its voyage begins in the U.S., and a U.S. citizen is involved.

The location of a cruise ship injury or death may be vital to your case.  If the incident occurs within the three-mile territorial limit off the U.S. coast, (i.e. off Texas or Florida), then that state’s laws apply to that case.  If it occurs beyond the three-mile limit and on open seas, then general maritime laws apply, notably the Death on the High Seas Act first written in 1920.

How to File a Claim

Persons injured on a cruise ship should be aware that these accidents present unique legal challenges.  The fine print on the back of the cruise ship ticket often limits when and where an injured passenger may file a lawsuit.  An injured plaintiff typically has only one year from the date of injury in which to file a claim if Miami or California is chosen as the venue for the claim.  Therefore, it’s important not to delay in filing a claim if you have been injured on any kind of cruise ship vessel.

If you or a loved one has been injured or died while on a cruise, you may have a legal right to seek compensation for your injuries or file a wrongful death lawsuit.  An experienced maritime injury attorney can review your situation to identify your legal options and discuss how they can be of assistance to you.

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