We all know that if you’re injured while on a cruise, there’s a good chance that if anybody is liable for your injuries, it’s the cruise line. Inside the confines of the ship, it is the cruise line’s responsibility to make sure there’s nothing that’s going to injure you. But what about once you leave the ship, for the so-called excursions? Getting injured while on an excursion presents an entire host of difficult legal questions.
The Danger of Excursions
Excursions are the off-ship adventures that you take when the ship docks at a port of call. Excursions can include scuba diving, snorkeling, watersports, caveing/spelunking, traversing waterfalls, interacting with wildlife, or organized tours of the locale.
It’s easy to think that the cruise ship runs these excursions. The ship will promote them, collect payment for them, will sometimes have lectures about them onboard and will sometimes transport you from the ship to the excursion. From the outside, it seems like the cruise line and the excursion are one and the same. But they’re not.
In fact, most cruise lines don’t run, operate, manage or oversee the companies that are running these excursions. The excursion companies are usually completely separate entities from the cruise ship.
Many of these excursion companies are not licensed or insured, and may not even be required to be by the country they are operating out of. Some of their practices may be blatantly dangerous. For example, in the U.S., certification for scuba diving is a rigorous process. But on a Mexican cruise, you may be “certified” to scuba in a matter of 2 hours.
Excursions may have little or no emergency procedures or medical experience to deal with emergencies. And while many have a business interest in keeping their customers safe, many operate without any safety standards at all.
This is all while often engaging guests in highly dangerous activities.
The Difficulty in Recovering if You’re Injured
Uninsured, and likely with little assets or at least none that can be traced or collected by a U.S. court, accident victims may find any judgment they do get against an excursion company uncollectable.
Worse, even if some argument can be made linking the cruise ship to the excursion, any recovery from the cruise lines is made more difficult by your cruise ticket, which often expressly disclaims any liability for the cruise line for injuries suffered when on an excursion.
Some courts have ignored these releases, finding them to be unfair, or the result of the cruise line’s one sided bargaining power, or simply against public policy. And there may be some argument that they are unenforceable if an excursion company has a long history of accidents, yet the cruise line continues to send passengers to them. But many courts have upheld these waivers, finding them binding contracts.
The traditional advice is to make an inquiry into the safety history of the excursions, but there may be little information available, and certainly the cruise line can’t be trusted to disclose such information. Some travelers do procure separate travelers insurance, which may cover such injuries.
Complex laws and multiple players can make cruise injuries a very complex matter. If you are injured on a cruise or by the negligence of a cruise line, don’t wait to get help or retain attorneys that don’t have maritime law experience. Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. about a free consultation to discuss your rights.