Cruise Ship Accidents

Cruise ship companies spend tens of millions each year on flashy ads in an effort to entice people to experience the cruise of their dreams. What some don’t realize is how many dream cruises have quickly turned into nightmares.

Sinkings, running aground, capsizings, collisions with land, rocks, docks, bridges, ice bergs, terrorist and pirate attacks, virus outbreaks such as legionnaire’s disease and norovirus, unexplained deaths and drownings on land tours/shore excursions. Even sexual assaults of minors by Disney ships’ crew members.

While these situations are rare, what occur more often are equipment malfunctions, such as the 2013 generator fire aboard the Carnival ship Triumph. Dubbed the “poop cruise” by the media, the fire caused electrical and plumbing systems to shut down. More than 4,000 on board were stranded at sea for four days before the ship could be towed to shore. North Carolina Public Radio reported one woman’s horrifying experience:

“… some passengers panicked. People were hoarding food — boxes and boxes of cereal, grabbing cake with both hands,” she said. “Toilets stopped working and the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew had to urinate in sinks and eventually red plastic bags.” She saw sewage dripping down walls. “Sometimes people slipped on it,” she said. Soon, the ship began to smell. “It was like a hot port-o-potty.” And when the ship tilted, “it would spill.”

Shockingly, the Triumph crew knew of the potential fire hazard but set sail regardless, according to CNN.

These things happen more often than you might like to think. But you typically won’t hear or read about them. One of the reasons is that 90% of all commercial vessels calling on U.S. ports are foreign-flagged, so the U.S has no jurisdiction over how those ships report incidences. Another is that these mega cruise companies do a very good job of keeping many of these types of things quiet. One Disney ship’s security officer quit after she investigated a sexual assault of a minor and was told not to report the incident to U.S. authorities.

Types of Cruise Ship Mishaps

According to CruiseMinus, an organization that categorizes and chronicles cruise ship accidents, cruise ship accidents and incidents can be classified as:

  • Disasters. Sinking, grounding, capsizing, collision, allision (when the ship strikes a fixed object), terrorist and pirate attacks, pollution, crashes, and deaths on land tours/shore excursions
  • Mechanical. Fire, propulsion issues, power loss – often result in cruise cancellations
  • Sickness/illness outbreaks. Norovirus/gastrointestinal, influenza, Legionnaire’s disease – often (but not always) result in delayed embarkation or itinerary changes
  • Deaths. Overboard jumps/missing passengers and crew members, drownings in ship pools, critical traumas, murder, suicide, heart attacks
  • Injuries. Rape, assault, battery, fractures by accidental falling/slipping
  • Crimes. Bomb threats, robbery, drug smuggling/possession, arrests for past fugitive warrants, theft, belligerent behavior and indecent exposure
  • Weather. Heavy fog, squalls, storms, hurricanes – usually result in itinerary changes and ports of call delays

Common Cruise Ship Accidents

While ships will always face inevitable mechanical failures and acts of God, such as rogue waves and severe storms, accidents don’t have to occur. Sometimes these accidents are the result of negligence of ship’s crew. The most common accidents on cruise ships are caused by:

  • Rogue waves – waves that can reach height of up to 100 ft.
  • Hurricanes and squalls/heavy storms at sea – 10 such events per season on average
  • Ship fires – 72 onboard fires occurred between 1990–2011
  • Collisions – 6 cruise vessels sunk hitting the sea bottom/rocks and reefs or icebergs between 1990–2012, the most notorious of which was the Costa ship Concordia
  • Allisions – when the vessel strikes a fixed object (such as pier, rocks, buoy, etc.), usually happens during docking/undocking maneuvers
  • Norovirus – an average of 15 virus outbreaks on cruise ships happen every year

Health & Safety Negligence

More cruise ships failed health and safety inspections in 2017 than in any year in the past decade, a MarketWatch analysis of reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found. This news comes as cruising is on an uptick, with more than 27.2 million passengers expected to cruise in 2018, up 53% over the past 10 years, according to the Cruise Line Industry Association.

Violations run the gamut, from improperly stored items to crew members working, despite having symptoms of a gastrointestinal illness. In 2017, there were 14 instances in which a cruise ship failed a health inspection, and only half the ships were reinspected in a timely manner, says the CDC.

In fact, the CDC reported 11 outbreaks of gastroenteritis aboard a cruise ship in 2017. While most cruise ships go to immense efforts to minimize the spread of disease through intensive cleaning and quarantine, passengers affected by the illness can still seek compensation, such as a refund on their trip as well as compensation for the care and treatment. They may even file for lost wages if effects from their illness continues beyond their trip.

Sexual Assault

While cruise lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean have reputations for running background checks to refuse registered sex offenders from boarding their ships, most sexual offenses on a cruise ship are not committed by known sexual predators. Some are attributed to crew members with no history of sexual abuse.

Cruise Disasters

Cruises are generally safe, but when disaster befalls a ship in open seas, consequences can be drastic. System failures can leave thousands of passengers stranded for days without adequate food or sanitary systems. Navigational errors, such as failing to avoid areas frequented by pirates, or running aground may potentially be clear cases for negligence. The high-profile 2012 crashing of the Costa Concordia into a reef off the coast of Tuscany resulted in 32 deaths and 64 injuries, according to the Associated Press.

Passenger Mistakes

When a passenger is injured aboard a cruise or a cruise excursion, sometimes the cruise company may try to minimize the injury by pointing the finger at the passenger. When this happens, you may need sound legal advice. CruiseMinus cautions that cruise passengers injured, assaulted, or violated often make one of four big mistakes:

  1. Failing to read and understand the terms and conditions of the cruise ticket contract. Given to all passengers before they embark on a cruise, the cruise ticket contract contains all the limitations against the cruise ship line/company and the specific terms for filing an injury claim.
  2. Failing to report the cruise accident/injury immediately after it occurred. In order to try to receive compensation, a person on board the cruise ship should act immediately to report the incident/injury, collect witnesses’ testimonies, and document the claim to cruise ship authorities. In many cases, you may only have up to one year to make a claim.
  3. Settling for less. After being injured, a cruise passenger is likely to be shortchanged by the cruise line/company, who may want to settle the claim by offering worthless gifts like vouchers, for example.
  4. Not seeking proper medical care. Most passengers will visit the ship’s medical center after being injured, but will fail to follow up with their doctors once they are off the ship and return home. For a positive outcome regarding the claim, it is important to document the injury.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from NC Personal Injury Lawyers

The cruise industry often embellishes the cruise experience to make passengers seem safer than they may be. Often many cruise accidents are the result of crew or cruise line negligence. If you or a loved one has been injured on a cruise ship or one of their excursions, contact us immediately or call 1-866-900-7078. You may only have one year to make a claim.

Our experienced attorneys stand ready to fight any cruise line including Carnival, Disney Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean (RCCL), Princess Cruises, Holland America, Celebrity, Costa, Regent, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCCL), Seabourn, Crystal, and many others.

The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin consults with a national network of attorneys on product liability, defective drugs, defective products, and cruise ship accident cases in an attempt to provide the best representation we can for our clients. Depending on the details of your case, our firm will likely refer your matter to another law firm with which we associate. We will only do this if we believe it is in your best interests and if you agree.