Most people sign up for a cruise to escape the pressures of daily life.
However, if you are assaulted while on a cruise, your peace of mind can be destroyed, and you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
That’s exactly what happened to one woman who was sailing on a Celebrity Cruise ship in August 2017 and decided to agree to a crew member’s offer for a complimentary massage. The crew member led her to the ship’s spa area and allegedly convinced her to undress and fondled her before she escaped the room.
She is now seeking $75,000 in damages for physical and psychological suffering, along with expenses for hospitalization, therapy, and counseling. Her lawyer says that both the spa and the cruise line were negligent because they did not properly screen the assailant before he began working there.
The Celebrity Cruise line has been sued before in similar circumstances – a claimant won a $1 million settlement in a 2005 jury trial after saying she was raped by a crew member. Another woman settled outside of court in 2012 on grounds that a Celebrity crew member fondled and kissed her against her will. In 2016, yet another woman settled with Celebrity in a case where she claimed to be raped by a crew member. Finally, another 2017 sexual assault case against Celebrity is pending in which a woman was allegedly groped and forced into sexual contact with a crew member.
Not every case involves sexual misconduct from crew members, though. In one recent case, a 27-year-old passenger is denying claims that he sexually assaulted a fellow passenger on an August cruise. The case is pending in court.
Who Is Actually Being Sued in Cruise Assault Cases?
Generally speaking, of someone attacks you, they are responsible for their own actions. At least, that is the way that it works in criminal law cases. Civil injury cases are different, though.
The argument in injury claims is that the negligent actions of another caused you damages. Who is negligent when someone attacks you?
The attacker. Negligence can mean that someone made a mistake, that they were reckless, or that they purposefully engaged in behavior that harmed you. Because of this, it is possible to sue your attacker for damages. It does not matter whether they are a crew member or another passenger.
The cruise line. This is big one in these types of cases. Cruise lines have what is called a duty of care to their passengers. They are required to make sure that their ship is well-maintained and safe – including the people they let onto it.
You could sue the cruise line for letting a dangerous passenger or crew member on board, or you might be able to sue them for negligent security in terms of the design of the ship, arguing that there wasn’t enough light, that locks were too easily accessible, and so on.
What do you need to file a cruise injury claim and win?
Cruise Ship Assault Claims
If you are assaulted aboard a cruise ship, it can be tough to know exactly what to do. After all, it’s not like there are any police on board to turn to. To protect your rights, it is important to take these steps.
- Report the incident to the ship’s management. In the absence of police, the management on board is the closest thing to a law-enforcing body. Besides, telling them is the only way to get a record of the incident down for any future legal action you might want to take. You are protected from sexual assault and rape on a cruise ship by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. When you make a report to the ship’s authorities, they are bound by this act to report your incident, so a criminal investigation can begin.
- Gather evidence. You should take down names, addresses, and other contact information of anyone who witnessed the assault. Get written statements if possible and take photos of any injuries you sustained. Make sure to check your ticket or registration information to know the filing limitations for a claim.
- Get medical help. Having someone poke and prod you is probably the last thing you want after an attack, but it is important to have a medical professional check you out to ensure you haven’t suffered any serious harm. Additionally, by seeing the ship’s doctor, you a record of any physical injuries sustained due to the attack.
- Talk to a lawyer. Enduring an assault on a cruise can be a devastating experience. You need to consult an attorney who specializes in maritime assault cases to defend your rights.
Your attorney will be able to explain your protections under maritime law and what you can expect to receive as compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. A knowledgeable lawyer can also help you file a claim, whether it is against a crew member or a fellow passenger.
Seeking compensation from an individual isn’t like seeking compensation from an enormous corporation like a cruise line. They are going to have armies of expensive lawyers fighting to protect themselves and push you into giving up. You need someone one your side who understands how to fight this type of battle if you really want to win it.
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 cruise victims who have suffered all kinds of injuries and illnesses due to negligence. 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.