If you are injured on a cruise ship, it’s important to watch what you say, because the words you use can be the difference between whether you receive compensation for injuries caused by another’s negligence or have to pay for them yourself.
That’s exactly what happened to a passenger who was injured on Royal Caribbean Cruises. He filed a personal injury case against the cruise line after falling while ice skating, alleging that the ice skate he was provided was damaged, and that the ice in the ship’s rink had gouges that presented a hazard.
The jury ruled that both parties were negligent, but Royal Caribbean Cruises was deemed to be 65 percent liable for damages. This meant that the cruise line was going to have to pay over $400,000 in damages to the passenger.
However, the cruise line appealed the decision, and in December 2018, a judge overturned the jury’s decision. Why?
The judge referred to the plaintiff’s testimony that the fall was caused by both the skate and the ice’s condition. She ruled that there was not enough evidence to indicate the cruise line knew both the ice gouges and the defective skate together could create a hazard.
In this post, we’re going to break down what you should and shouldn’t say, and what you need to do to win if you are injured on a cruise ship and file a claim.
The Do’s and Don’ts of What You Should Say after Getting Injured
Let’s play this scenario out another way.
Pretend the passenger had simply claimed that the ice gouges were the reason for his fall. If he had done this, it’s possible that the cruise line would have carried 100 percent of the liability. Moreover, the judge would not have been able to overturn the initial ruling based on the inability of the cruise line to know how the two believed causes interacted with each other.
Of course, the victim wasn’t thinking of these things after getting hurt. He was just trying to explain what happened, and likely attempting to provide as much detail as possible in the hopes of helping his claim. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best idea.
If you get hurt and you believe it was due to another’s negligence, remember these tips:
Don’t admit fault. You can only see your own vantage point and, quite frankly, your point of view might be wrong. You could be confused due to stress or pain. Unfortunately, if you say you’re at fault initially, it can severely hurt your chances at proving that the cruise line is liable later.
Don’t apologize. Someone overhearing your statements can misunderstand them as admitting fault.
Do keep it simple. Fault and cause are tricky things. Why did he fall? He mentioned the skate and the gouges in the ice, but there could have been a million factors. Maybe the ship adjusted course at precisely the wrong time, sending him off balance. Perhaps the lighting was just slightly dimmer in that part of the rink. The point is that the more factors you introduce into the situation, the harder it becomes to prove – and therefore win – your case.
Do keep it short. You have a legal obligation to provide your contact information and government identification to the cruise ship for a formal accident report. Beyond that, you do not need to say anything else beyond the obvious – you fell, you’re hurting. One thing you should absolutely do, however, is get in touch with an experienced cruise injury attorney and explain the entire situation to them in detail.
The Four Elements of a Successful Cruise Injury Case
If you are injured on a cruise ship and wish to receive compensation, your lawyer must be able to prove the following four elements.
Duty of Reasonable Care
As a passenger of a specific cruise line, you can expect reasonable care to be provided to you. In the case above, reasonable care may be defined as an ice rink free from gouges, for example.
Breach of Duty
For liability to apply, the evidence must show that the cruise line breached the duty of reasonable care. This could take several forms, as in failing to post warnings of hazards or failing to correct a hazardous situation in a reasonable time period. Sometimes negligence is due to a cruise line’s reckless behavior.
There must be a direct link between the breach of duty and the cause of injury. For example, a passenger would not have broken his leg had he not slipped and fell on a freshly waxed floor that was not cordoned off.
A successful case depends on the fact that actual damages occurred in the case. If your injury resulted in medical expenses, lost income, property damage, or pain and suffering, you will need to provide documented evidence of these.
The bottom line here is that less is more. You don’t owe a story or explanation to the cruise line, so save it for your lawyer. After you talk over what happened with them, they will advise you on the best avenue to pursue to ensure you receive the compensation you need and deserve.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.