Cruise Ships Accidents and Injuries

The COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the pleasure cruise industry, resulting in devastating losses to many cruise lines. Statista reports a decline of $12 billion for the US cruise industry in 2020. This, however, isn’t surprising given the horror stories of passengers forced to quarantine for weeks.

Nonetheless, cruise lines pivoted, and by mid-2021, many were able to meet stringent safety regulations and welcome passengers back onboard. Industry leaders are so optimistic about the future that they plan to introduce 12 new cruise ships in 2022.

With the specter of the pandemic slowly sinking out of sight, the safety concerns for most passengers today is sustaining personal injuries while onboard. Fortunately, cruise ship accidents involving personal injuries in US waters are rare, as cruise lines are subject to safety and sanitation inspections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Coast Guard. 

The CruiseMapper’s cruise ship accidents project reports more than 3,000 incidents, which also includes non-injuries. In fact, due to small fires, technical glitches, and other minor operational incidents, about 17.7 people sustain injuries from cruise ship accidents every year. Nevertheless, sustaining an injury onboard a cruise ship is serious and you might not receive proper medical care. Moreover, the applicable personal injury laws for cruise ships are complex.

A Look at Cruise Ship Law

Cruise ships operating in US waters or docking on US ports are governed by the Shipping Act of 1984 (Shipping Act) and liability for personal injury falls under Chapter 301 of the Shipping Act. However, depending on the terms stipulated in the passenger ticket, special circumstances may apply to cruise ship accidents, including a forum selection clause, whereby the passenger must file a lawsuit in a particular jurisdiction.

Statute of Limitations for Cruise Ship Accidents

Cruise lines have the right to dictate the terms of the contract between their passengers and them, which are often found in passenger tickets. While the law states that claims for personal injuries from maritime accidents must be filed within three years, a cruise line can, and often does, shorten that timeframe by stipulating it in the contract. Therefore, and in most cases, you’ll have to file a lawsuit within a year.

Cruise Ship Injury and Assault Claims You Can File

If you file your claim within the timeframe, you may receive the following damages for a successful personal injury lawsuit:

  • Medical costs
  • Rehabilitation and therapy costs
  • Lifelong care
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Wrongful death

It would be difficult for even an experienced cruise injury attorney from Diamond Law Miami to estimate the value of a claim without knowing the circumstances and the details of the incident. Each case is unique, so it is crucial to get a free case evaluation as soon as possible.

Who is Liable for Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries

Under the Shipping Act, cruise ships coming from or going to US ports are common carriers and, therefore, they owe a duty of care to their passengers. Consequently, owners of cruise ships are liable when their negligence harms or injures a passenger onboard or in the immediate area, such as the loading dock.

Common Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries

A cruise ship is like a floating city, but compressed. Therefore, common cruise ship accidents and injuries tend to be the same as you would expect in a city. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Rape and Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is a persistent problem on cruise lines despite the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA). The CVSSA places the responsibility squarely on cruise ship management to ensure the safety of passengers. Reports from 2020 show 16 instances of sexual assault of cruise ship passengers and 6 of crew members, which is a significant improvement from the 35 in 2019. However, and unfortunately, sexual assault is still the top, if not the only, crime that generally occurs on cruise ships.
  • Disappearances: An unofficial, but compelling, recording of persons disappearing (presumed lost overboard) from cruise ships between 2000 to 2020 puts the figure at 314. However, keep in mind that it’s a 20-year average. Between 2011 to 2020, when the CVSSA was in effect, 175 passengers and crew members still went missing.
  • Slip and Fall Accidents: Slip and fall injuries are common anywhere. They are perhaps even more common on cruise ships, as these vessels are inherently unstable while on the water. Additionally, pools, activity decks, steep stairways, and narrow gangways can increase the risk of slip and falls for both passengers and crew members.

While it’s not always clear whether a passenger sustained an injury because of the negligence of cruise ship owners or crew members, a ship accident attorney can help determine who was at fault. Other types of injuries may result from the following:

  • Fires
  • Shore excursion accidents
  • Food poisoning

What Passengers Must Know About Sustaining Injuries Onboard a Cruise Ship

Cruise ship accidents are complex. The obstacle faced by cruise ship accident attorneys is to navigate the applicable laws and, when necessary, challenge the limitation clause in passengers’ ticket contracts. But, you have rights under international maritime, federal, and state laws regarding personal injury.

Applicable Laws

In most cases, maritime law states that any injury that occurs on a cruise ship registered in a foreign country is under the jurisdiction of that country. However, when a cruise ship departs from a port in the US, the port’s state has jurisdiction. International treaties might also apply, such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

Medical Care

Cruise ships subject to US federal laws must maintain medical standards as stipulated in 46 U.S. Code § 3509.  One of the requirements is that cruise ship owners must ensure that a physician is always present. Moreover, the medical facilities must satisfy the guidelines established by the American College of Emergency Physicians, which, however, does not mention anything regarding the competence or credentials of the physician.


The CDC requires cruise ships at US ports to submit to regular sanitation inspections in compliance with the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). The goal is to ensure proper health standards for the safety of cruise ship passengers and crew members.


Cruise ships are subject to 46 U.S. Code § 3507, which specifies security and safety requirements. American cruise ship passengers and crew members may report crimes to the US Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The Ticket

Cruise ships routinely restrict the rights of their passengers to file personal injury cases through the passenger ticket contract. In most cases, the ticket stipulates where you can file a claim, any limitation periods on filing, and the time you have within which you must provide notice to the cruise line. Failure to adhere to the stipulated venue and timelines can significantly affect the outcome of your claim.

What to Do After Being Involved in a Cruise Ship Accident 

You must protect and fight for your rights when you sustain cruise ship injuries due to the negligence of cruise ship owners and crew members. Because cruise ship accidents typically occur when the vessel is in the water, you are on your own until you can contact cruise ship accident lawyers. You can help your case significantly by adhering to a simple action plan:

  • Get medical attention and obtain a copy of the medical records
  • Report the incident to the ship’s safety and security officer and get a formal acknowledgement of the report
  • Obtain witness statements if possible
  • Take photos of the accident scene to establish the circumstances surrounding the event
  • Report the incident to the proper authorities as soon as possible

Contact a cruise ship accident attorney


Pro Tip

Familiarize yourself with the cruise ship’s safety precautions and emergency numbers to ensure your well-being onboard.

Seek Legal Assistance from a Cruise Ship Injury Attorney

While you might be excited about the prospect of going on a long-awaited vacation, you must remember that cruise ship disasters happen. A cruise line will do everything it can to shield itself from liability. However, as a passenger who was injured, you have the right to seek compensation.

The best way to fight for your rights is by seeking legal assistance from cruise ship accident attorneys at Diamond Law Miami. Simplay call us at 1-800-567-HURT to get in touch with us today. We have handled many cruise line incidents resulting in serious personal injury to passengers and know how to protect our clients’ rights.

Remember that your cruise ticket gives you very little time to act. To make sure you don’t miss any deadlines, schedule a free case evaluation with us today! We can assure you that if the cruise line or its agents are liable in any way, we will not let them get away with it.

If you suffered an accident or injury on a cruise ship, contact Diamond & Diamond Miami for legal assistance.

FAQs on Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries

No, but US law requires all cruise ships that dock on US ports to have at least one crew member with training in preventing, detecting, and reporting crimes. Most cruise ships have a Security Director and a security team with federal, state, or military law enforcement experience.

The security officer will likely detain you in a special cabin, which is called a brig, until the ship docks. Depending on the nature of the crime, the ship’s security officer will inform the appropriate law enforcement agency. Aside from state police, the cruise ship may also involve the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, or the FBI.

Yes, you can, provided you have sufficient evidence that indicates the injury was due to the negligence of the cruise ship owners or its crew members. But, it won’t be easy, as cruise ship law can be complicated. Consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident to find out if you have a case.