More than 200 passengers aboard two Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been infected with norovirus, causing the ships to dock for medical care. Cruise ship injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm explain how personal injury cases are argued against cruise lines.
Both ships have docked in the U.S., one in San Diego and the other in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after massive outbreaks of norovirus. Norovirus infection is highly contagious and is most often spread through contaminated food and water, or through close contact with an infected person. Symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea, and can last one to three days.
Cruise ships are common places of norovirus infection, as it most frequently occurs in closed and contained environments. The CDC requires cruise ships to report the total number of illnesses onboard before ships may arrive at a U.S. port. Outbreaks are posted on the CDC’s website, here, when they meet certain criteria. So far in 2015 there have been five outbreaks in ships arriving in the U.S.
Some passengers on the Celebrity Infinity line told reporters they believed the virus came from a port in Guatemala. The CDC sent crews aboard both ships to determine the cause of the outbreak.
In some people, particularly the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, norovirus can cause malnutrition, dehydration, and even death. Recovery depends on the strength of the individual’s immune system, as there is no specific treatment for norovirus infection.
Cruise ship litigation is much more complex than regular personal injury claims, as they fall under maritime law. Common injuries on ships include falls, sexual assaults, battery, medical negligence, and injuries during shore excursions. Maritime law requires that cruise lines exercise reasonable care for passenger safety.
Most cruise passenger tickets have a one-year statute of limitations for filing an injury claim, meaning the claim must be officially filed within one year from when the injury occurred. Each cruise line is different, but most tickets – which serve as passenger contracts with the line – require that lawsuit notices must be made within six months of the incident.
These are two small but very important details. Many if not most passengers do not read the detailed contracts on the back of the tickets and wait too long to notify the cruise line or hire an injury attorney, preventing them from collecting any damages whatsoever.
In many ways, however, injury claims against cruise ships are similar to other injury cases. Plaintiffs must prove that the injury they suffered was legitimate and occurred as a result of the cruise line’s negligence. To prove this there must be detailed factual records, such as accident reports, eyewitness statements, photographs, and medical records.
Cruise tickets also may reference a treaty called the Athens Convention. This only applies to ships that do not ever dock in a U.S. port. The U.S. has not ratified the Athens Conventions, so it does not apply if the cruise itinerary ever included a U.S. port.
If the cruise was entirely foreign, the Athens Convention limits damages plaintiffs can receive to about $70,000 per person. This applies to damages suffered due to the cruise ship’s neglect or fault – any behavior that was intentional or reckless would not be subject to this limit.
Maritime law governs all accidents that occur on water with access to the ocean. In addition to cruise ships, this can also include oil rigs, tug boats, barges, yachts, ferries and fishing boats. Anyone injured in a maritime accident should contact an attorney immediately.
Our team of cruise ship injury lawyers is currently investigating cases of serious injury and death onboard sea vessels. If you or someone you love was injured on a cruise line contact our firm for a free case review. We accept clients nationwide and can travel to you to help guide you through the legal process.