Contracts are important and legally enforceable agreements. When you enter into a contract—whether it is for business purposes or personal—you are certainly aware of it. You know what you are getting into. You know what the terms of that contract are. In fact, you probably negotiated them pretty diligently beforehand.
Even with personal contracts like marriage, there is an understanding of what each party is agreeing to.
In other words, you know what you are getting into before you sign the contract. You know what you are agreeing to. You know what your rights are.
That is the general rule for most contracts.
But not all.
There is one important contract you may enter into that you may not even be aware of.
What is it?
Cruise ship ticket contracts.
What is a Cruise Ship Ticket Contract and Why Aren’t You Aware of it?
When a passenger buys a ticket for a cruise, whether they know it or not, they are agreeing to a ticket contract.
Quite often an individual ticket contract is never even provided to the passenger—instead, passengers are e-mailed a link to the ticket contract posted on the cruise lines’ website.
Most passengers are not aware of the ticket contract or how important it is. They do not understand that these contracts are binding and that they contain important provisions that affect the passenger’s rights in the event he or she is injured during the cruise.
What Do You Agree to In a Cruise Ship Ticket Contract?
So, what exactly are you agreeing to in the cruise ship ticket contract?
The answer is: it all depends on your particular cruise line ticket.
So read the ticket contract.
Carefully. Many of the provisions in the ticket contract are extremely important if you are injured during a cruise, and, in some cases, if you were aware beforehand of the cruise ship’s liability limitations, you might not agree to go on the trip.
For example, here are some common limitations cruise ship tickets may have that you might not like:
No Cruise Ship Liability for Medical Malpractice
One perhaps unexpected limitation is the provision in the contract that releases the cruise ship from liability for the actions of the medical staff on board the ship. Because the doctors and nurses aboard many cruise lines are not employees of the line but are considered independent contractors, the cruise ship refuses to accept responsibility for their actions. So, if you receive sub-standard care in the medical center (i.e., if medical malpractice occurs on board ship), you will not be able to sue the cruise line. Instead, you would have to sue the individual practitioner himself or herself.
Shortened Time for Filing a Claim
Another common, yet critical personal injury limitation in many cruise line ticket contracts is the requirement that any person who is injured must file a claim within 185 days of the incident.
Complying with claims filing deadlines is critical to any personal injury action.
While under general maritime law you have 3 years to file a claim, most cruise ship ticket contracts reduce that timeframe to either a specific number of days or 1 year.
Being aware of the time in which you have to give notice and file a claim is vital. Even if it is possible to get around the ticket contract’s statute of limitations deadlines (and it may not be), it is not possible to circumvent the maritime personal injury statute of limitations.
Miss the filing deadline and your case is, well, dead in the water.
Limitations on Recoverable Damages
Ticket contracts can also limit the type of damages you can seek in a personal injury lawsuit. For example, some ticket contracts limit punitive damages to international cases only and put a cap on the amount that can be sought.
Where You Must File Your Claim
Another major provision in cruise ticket contracts that you should be aware of is the forum selection clause. This clause in the ticket contract stipulates where any personal injury action may be brought. It does not matter where you were injured, this clause controls where you can sue the cruise line.
For example, Carnival requires suit to be filed in federal court in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami). It does not matter that you did not negotiate for this term, or that the clause will effectively deprive you of your day in court because you cannot afford to litigate in Miami—if you signed the ticket contract (or clicked “accept” online), and you are injured, you will be required to file suit according to the forum selection clause in the ticket. These clauses are enforceable.
What Happens If You are Injured on a Cruise?
If you are injured on a cruise, the cruise line ticket contract will determine what your rights, and the cruise ship’s liabilities, are. So before you click “accept” or sign a cruise line ticket contract, read it. Make sure you understand and agree to the terms—because if you are injured, they will apply.
No one ever anticipates getting injured while on vacation. But it does happen. If you are injured on a cruise, it is critical that you seek out the assistance of a personal injury cruise line lawyer to help you navigate the complicated and murky waters of cruise line liability.
Cruise Line Personal Injury Attorneys in Orange Park, Florida
Florida accident lawyer John Fagan understands personal injury and the cruise line industry. If you were injured on a cruise ship and have questions, contact us or call the firm at 777-JOHN. Our practice is dedicated to helping those who are injured due to another’s negligence. Our main office is in Orange Park, but we serve clients throughout Florida. We have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.