What Law Controls My Injury Case?

Most people who are injured on a cruise ship or other type of vessel assume that their cases are governed by the same law as people injured on land. This assumption, however, is incorrect. Cases involving passengers injured on cruise ships and other cruise related activities, such as shore excursions, dives, tender-operated tours, and snorkeling trips are normally governed by maritime law.

If you have been injured on a cruise ship or other vessel, or while engaging in some cruise related activity, it is crucial that you select an attorney who knows maritime law because your rights and remedies may be different than those of someone injured on land. For instance, under maritime law, cruise ships have the right to limit the time you have to file suit in the language of your ticket. Virtually all of the major cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL, require passengers to file suit within one year of the date of their injury. Many also require that you notify the shipowner within a certain amount of time of your intent to sue before bringing a lawsuit. Normally, the time for serving this notice is six months from the date of the injury, although it can be shorter, depending on the terms of the ticket. Adhering to these deadlines is critical because if you miss them, you may forfeit your right to sue. In addition, maritime law allows shipowners to require passengers to sue in a particular state or court, even though the passenger doesn’t live in that state and has never been there. If you file your suit in the wrong court, you could wind up having your case dismissed. Although most passengers (and non-maritime attorneys) are unaware of these restrictions because they are buried in the fine print of the passenger ticket, they have been upheld by appellate courts throughout the country and, in the case of the forum selection requirement, the United States Supreme Court.

There are also differences in the types of damages passengers injured on cruise ships and other types of vessels can recover. For instance, under maritime law, the damages a passenger is allowed to recover for wrongful death are normally limited by the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA), a federal statute passed by Congress. Maritime law also normally limits the right of a married person or parent whose spouse or child is injured on a cruise ship or other vessel from recovering damages for loss of consortium, or that person’s pain and suffering. Whether or not it is possible to overcome those limitations, or seek other remedies, requires a knowledge and understanding of maritime law.

David H. Pollack has extensive knowledge of maritime law. He has handled cases against the major cruise lines on both the trial and appellate levels for almost 20 years, and is often retained by other attorneys to assist them in handling maritime cases. The firm has extensive experience litigating many complex issues related to maritime jurisdiction, including who qualifies as a seaman, what constitutes an unseaworthy vessel, and whether cases must be brought in foreign jurisdictions. If you have any questions regarding what law controls your maritime personal injury case, call our office for a free consultation.

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