Florida Cruise Ship Accident Lawyers

An idyllic cruise vacation creates the quintessential image of rest, relaxation and time spent enjoying activities that evade your routine life.  An injury or calamity during this time can be especially unsettling.  Legal issues that arise at sea or against a cruise line operator are not simple matters.  Often, even conduct that would constitute a relatively simple tort if committed on land may fall under the purview of maritime law or admiralty law.  Maritime and admiralty are highly specialized areas of the law that have jurisdiction in the federal courts, requiring representatives who have experience with their associated nuances.

Incidents such as the infamous 2012 grounding of the Costa Concordia near Isola del Giglio, the May 2013 fire aboard Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, and the fire aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Triumph which stranded the vessel at sea with passengers for several days in the Gulf of Mexico, all highlight the myriad legal issues which have recently arisen in this area.

The ports of Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Port Canaveral host hundreds of thousands of travellers each year embarking and disembarking cruise ships home ported in these marine centers.  Cruise lines invest significant resources in logistics, supply and staffing in these cities.  The cruise lines base manpower and corporate offices in these areas and have strong legal ties to these cities.

It is common to find a “forum selection clause” in most cruise vacation contracts, naming the counties of these ports as the agreed-upon location for the courts to be used in any prospective litigation that could arise in the course of the contract’s execution.  The United States Supreme Court has held that such forum selection clauses are generally enforceable when parties enter them freely, as is the case in many cruise package agreements.  For cruise companies, the forum selection provision has the advantage of allowing them to focus their legal resources, despite the inherent portability and multijurisdictional conduct of their trade in which accidents may happen anywhere their ships go.

Such venue selection clauses allow the cruise line operators certain advantages under the law.  First and foremost, the cruise line is the contracting party that selects the forum in the boilerplate terms of their service contracts.  They have diligently researched the advantages and disadvantages of a particular venue and have settled upon it as the preferred one in their regular course of business.  Such conduct is something one would rarely see in the conduct of the average prospective vacationer.  Legal teams representing the cruise lines generally have a great deal of familiarity with the law in the preselected jurisdictions in which they practice.  Cases they handle rarely involve matters of first impression for a court or for the cruise line’s lawyers.

Certain laws may also provide for an abbreviated time period in which the injured party must present their claim.  These are known as, “statutes of limitation.”  In areas where the cruise industry is prevalent, the law may be more favorable to the cruise lines that are based there.

All of these considerations underscore the need for experienced legal counsel familiar with the unique laws, rules and regulations which may arise in a maritime litigation matter.  Podhurst Orseck has nearly 50 years of experience with personal injury accidents and have been nationally recognized for their excellence.

Some of the areas of law involving cruise ship litigation in which Podhurst Orseck practices include:

  • Cruise ship premises liability claims.
  • Slip and fall accidents.
  • Physical or sexual assault by employees or agents.
  • Ship products liability claims.
  • Jones Act and Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) claims for injured seamen.
  • Vehicular accidents, including drunk-driving accidents and hit-and-runs.
  • Accidents incurred participating in cruise ship entertainment excursions in port.
  • Wrongful death claims.