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When you go on a cruise, you’re supposed to have a fun and relaxing time, making memories with friends and family. The last thing anyone expects is for an accident or injury to occur while on a cruise – or for someone to fall overboard.

However, overboard accidents do occur each and every year to both those who are guests on the cruise and those who work for the cruise line. In many cases, overboard accidents are the fault of the cruise line.

When is the cruise line at fault, and who is ultimately liable when someone goes overboard? Read on to find out.

The Duty of Care

The cruise lines you cruise with, and that some work for, owe those on board what is called a duty of care. That is, they owe them safe transport to their destination.

If a cruise line fails to provide this duty of care and an accident with damages occurs, the cruise line is liable.

Why Do Overboard Falls Occur?

Even though it’s not the most prevalent accident on a cruise ship, the overboard accidents that do occur are often due to one of these factors:

Inadequate Warnings

A cruise ship must notify the people on board if they become aware of rough waters. If they fail to do so, people are not given a chance to secure themselves, and they fall overboard, the cruise line can be held accountable for this.

Inadequate or Defective Handrails

Under the Cruise Safety Act, cruise ships that travel to and from ports in the United States must have handrails that measure a minimum of 42 inches. If these handrails aren’t installed properly or maintained as required, and someone falls overboard, the victim or their family can sue the cruise line.


Aggressive behavior can cause someone to fall overboard, too. When the crew of the ship’s aggressive behavior comes from the crew and causes a passenger to fall overboard, then the cruise line may be responsible.

However, in situations where one person is aggressive toward another passenger, the cruise line may only be liable if they should have been able to anticipate the violence and didn’t take steps to stop it from happening.


If someone becomes intoxicated on a cruise ship and falls overboard, there may be circumstances where the cruise line is liable. For example, if the bartender overserves the passenger, then the cruise line may be at fault for the accident.

Cruise lines must ensure no passenger becomes intoxicated to a dangerous level.

Insufficient Search and Rescue

If passengers fall overboard or go missing, it is required that the cruise line perform a reasonable search and rescue operation to attempt to find them. If the response is inadequate, then the cruise line can be legally responsible and liable in court.

Actions to Take

Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer

If you have suffered an injury due to falling overboard or lost a loved one, then you have legal options when the cruise line is at fault.

Contact an experienced attorney to help you navigate the waters of a lawsuit against a cruise line so they can put their legal knowledge to work for you. You may be entitled to compensation for the accident or loss, so don’t delay.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all personal injury cases, focusing on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in representing injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, and has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2022– an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2022, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019-2022.