Frequently Asked Questions About Suing Cruise Ships

Q. How much time do I have to file my lawsuit?

A. It depends on the cruise ship and the provisions contained in your passenger ticket. Although there is a three year statute of limitation for most maritime negligence cases, most of the major cruise lines, and many of the smaller ones, require passengers to file suit within one year of the date of their injury. Because the time for filing suit can make the difference in whether you are able to file suit, it is important to consult a maritime attorney on this issue as soon as possible after you have been injured.

Q. Do I have to notify the cruise line of my intent to file suit?

A. As with the time for filing suit, this also depends on the cruise ship and the provisions contained in your passenger ticket. Normally, most cruise lines require you to provide them with notice of your intent to bring a claim within a short time after you have been injured. Although the notice does not have to be prepared by an attorney, because it may have an effect on your case and your legal rights, it is important to consult a maritime attorney on this issue as soon as possible after you have been injured.

Q. Where do I have to file suit?

A. That also depends on the provisions contained in your passenger ticket. If the provisions in your ticket require you to file suit in a particular state or court, you must do so. Otherwise, the case may be dismissed and you may lose your right to refile in the proper forum. Many of the major cruise lines require in their tickets not only that you file suit in the state where they are based, but that you do so in federal district, rather than state court. Because filing in the wrong place could jeopardize your right to recover, it is important that you obtain a copy of your ticket and that you consult a maritime attorney familiar with these matters.

Q. Do I have to pay an attorney in order to file suit?

A. Almost all maritime cases involving personal injuries are handled on a contingent fee basis. That means that if your attorney does not recover money for you, he does not get paid anything. If he does recover money for you, he would be entitled to a percentage of the recovery, as well as any costs he expended in handling the case. The terms of the attorney’s fee should be spelled out in a fee agreement you execute before hiring him. Most fee agreements involving personal injury cases, including those involving cruise ships, are regulated by the laws in the state where the attorney is licensed and/or files suit.

Q. How do I know how much my case is worth?

A. There is no scientific formula for determining the value of a case, since each person and set of circumstances is different. That said, a number of factors usually come into play in determining how much a case is worth. These include the nature of the injury, the strength of the evidence, the applicable law, the physical and emotional effect of the injury, how much past and future medical treatment is necessary, and the cost of that treatment. This number may go up or down as the case progresses. A lawyer with experience handling maritime cases should be able to assist you in determining what your case is worth, and in deciding whether to settle or try your case.

Q. Do I have to travel out of state if I am required to file suit in a place other than where I live?

A. Absent unusual circumstances, the law normally requires the person who files suit to appear for a deposition in the state where the suit is filed. This is true even though the cruise ship may require you to bring your suit in a state outside of where you live. You also may be required to travel to mediate your case before trial, if the court requires you to do so, and to appear for your trial. However, you may be able to avoid traveling if your medical situation, age or some other factor prevents you from being able to safely travel, and these trips can normally be consolidated. Your attorney will be the best one to advise you on this.

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