Video: Hurt or Sick on the High Seas – Your Rights When Taking a Cruise

Posted February 22, 2012 in Personal Injury by

Millions of people each year take cruises for many reasons – a lifelong dream to see a particular part of the world, a special romantic trip such as a honeymoon, or to have fun or celebrate an occasion. This adds up to over $29 billion a year for the tourism industry.

One Passenger’s Story

Gema Garcia was on a cruise to celebrate her birthday when a dispute with a bartender escalated and he called security.

“I don’t know why they did that; I still don’t know.” the petite Miami woman tells Lawyers.com.

Garcia says seven men dragged the petite school teacher away. Bruised as a result of their excessive force, she began to have a panic attack, struggled to breathe and requested medical assistance. But according to her, the guards refused and continued to physically and verbally abuse her.

Attorney Tonya Meister

Attorney Tonya Meister

Tonya Meister is a Maritime Law Specialist in Miami and Garcia’s attorney. She says it may surprise the general public to learn assaults and injuries happen routinely on cruises.

“Multiple types of injuries from physical injuries, broken bones, herniated discs in the neck and back as well as emotional injuries that come from assaults unfortunately there’s a lot of rapes and sexual assaults that occur on the cruise ships.”

Know Your Rights

Meister says, “Very importantly people don’t realize their cruise ticket is actually a binding contract and the fine print in that contract if they scroll through it about page 20 of the ticket they’ll find the legal terms and conditions.”

“Under the terms and conditions are two important factors – where and when to bring litigation.”

  • General maritime law of the United States provides for a 3 year statute of limitations 3 years in which to bring your claim; however, another statute allows common carriers such as cruise ship owners to limit the time to one year.
  • Cases must be brought to either Miami or Broward County which is the Fort Lauderdale area in the federal district court.

Most disturbing is the amount of recovery. “If a passenger goes on a cruise that does not touch a U.S. port even if they’re injured and the value of their loss is a million dollars they’re limited by this Athens Convention which says they only get a limited amount of special drawing rights what it’s worth right now is about $70,000.”

Meister warns cruise travelers to pack their common sense when packing for a cruise. Don’t walk the decks alone at night or trust the ship staff to keep you safe.