Two types of people may be injured while aboard a cruise ship, paying passengers or crew members (staff of the cruise ship). Both types of injured persons may have different legal claims. The claims depend on the injuries sustained, the persons who may be liable for the injuries and the law applicable to the claims. Some examples of possible claims are negligence, medical negligence or assault. Generally, the ship owners will be liable for any injuries of passengers or crew members, since the owners have a duty to provide a safe environment and protect persons aboard their ship from known (or foreseeable) dangers.
If the injured person is a passenger on the ship, he or she may have a claim against the ship owner for compensation for injuries sustained. The legal claim will usually be for negligence. The injured person (or family members on his or her behalf) must be able to prove the elements of negligence to the court. The elements of negligence are as follows:
- The ship owner had a legal duty to the passenger
- The duty was breached by the ship owner
- As a result of that breach, the passenger was injured
- The passenger sustained damages as a result of his or her injuries
However, if the injured person was a crewmember of the cruise ship, he or she may have a legal claim under the federal Jones Act for compensation. His or her claim will also be against the ship owner (employer). The Jones Act provides legal remedies for injured workers who are seamen. It is similar to the Federal Employers Liability Act that gives injured workers legal rights to compensation against their employers. Under the Jones Act, the crewmember must be able to prove the elements of negligence (by the employer/ship owner) in court; the elements of negligence are the same as for paying passengers.
Alternatively, there are situations where the injury was not caused by a dangerous condition on the ship, but by another person aboard the ship. These situations may be of assault or a medical negligence. If assault of a passenger was committed by a crewmember, the ship owners may be held liable for the acts of their employee, in some jurisdictions. In other jurisdictions, the ship owner will not be held liable for employee actions unless the plaintiff (injured person) can show that the owner (employer) was negligent in hiring a dangerous crewmember, or knew of the crewmembers propensity for violence and did nothing to stop it, or continued to employ the crewmember.
Similarly, jurisdictions may hold ship owners liable for hiring competent doctors and medical staff, but not hold them liable for actions of their medical staff when treating passengers. Other courts may hold a ship owner liable for any actions of employees, whether they are a crewmember, medical doctor or other medical staff member. The possible claims and liable parties will depend on the situation, the law that applies and the court (jurisdiction) that hears the claim. Since there may be many variables that affect what type of claim the injured party may have, what jurisdiction the claim may be in and what law apples, it is important to speak to an attorney about your situation and to answer any questions you may before pursuing your claim.