Compensation for Cruise Ship Employee Injuries

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Working on a cruise ship has many benefits, but it is hard work that entails many risks. Unlike passengers who are aboard to relax and have fun, cruise ship employees work long hours and face difficult conditions. Occasionally, they suffer injuries while at work. Typical cruise ship injuries include:

  • soft tissue and disk-related back injuries
  • fractures resulting from slips and falls
  • severe burns
  • dismemberment
  • drowning
  • exposure to the noro virus and other illnesses

Maritime Law Regarding Injury Liability

Like other types of employers, cruise ship owners have legal responsibilities to keep their employees safe. For the purposes of workmens’ compensation under federal Schoenbaum admiralty and maritime law, most cruise ship employees, including bartenders, casino workers, cooks, entertainers, waiters and others, are considered to be seamen.  

Seamen injured aboard ship have special rights and protections, including the principle of maintenance and cure, the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and the Jones Act.

Under the principle of maintenance and cure, shipowners have an obligation to provide medical care, free of charge, until the injured seaman attains maximum medical recovery. The shipowner is also obliged to provide basic living expenses until completion of the voyage, even if the seaman is no longer working or aboard ship. The obligation of maintenance requires the shipowner to provide employees injured at sea with their basic living expenses while they are convalescing.  

Moreover, in Vaughan v Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527 (1962), the Supreme Court ruled that, if a seaman has to sue a shipowner in order to claim maintenance and cure, he or she may also recover attorney fees. Recently, in June 2009, it also ruled, in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., et al. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. ___ (2009), that a shipowner may also be subject to punitive damages if its breach of the obligation to provide maintenance and cure is willful and wanton.  

Cruise ship workers may also be able to file claims under the Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 688). This federal law states that a seaman or maritime worker may have a right to additional damages if the unseaworthiness of the vessel or negligence on the part of the employer or a fellow crew member can be seen as a contributing factor to the injury. A vessel may be considered "unseaworthy" if there is general negligence on the part of a shipowner or operator to properly maintain the vessel’s physical condition, train the crew or remove hazards onboard the ship.  

Important Tips for Injured Crewmembers

If you or another crew member is injured offshore, it is important to take the following steps immediately.

  1. Report the injury to a supervisor.
  2. Request appropriate medical attention and make a note of the names of the medical personnel who provide treatment.
  3. Make sure a report is filed about the incident.
  4. Make a note of the names of any witnesses to the accident.
  5. If possible, take photographs of the site where the accident occurred and any factors that may have contributed to it

Talk to a Maritime Lawyer

If you are involved in an accident or injured at sea, it is important to seek the advice of cruise ship injury lawyers who specializes in maritime law.  Until you have spoken with qualified cruise ship injury lawyers who can protect your rights, do not provide your employer or an insurer with any written or recorded statements about the accident or your medical condition.  Employers and their insurers will often try to entice injured employees to make statements that will hinder their ability to seek full compensation under the Jones Act.

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