Arbitration Clauses – The Secret Weapon Used by Cruise Lines to Circumvent the Seventh Amendment


Cruise liners spend millions of dollars on advertising aimed at the “passenger experience” and portraying the cruise experience as one where your enjoyment and safety are paramount. What they do not tell you is the lengths to which they have gone to protect themselves from potential civil liability if an accident, attack, or other terrible incident occurs on their ship. If you or a loved one is seriously hurt on a cruise, our team of Miami cruise ship injury lawyers has some sobering news: The fine print hidden on the back of a cruise ticket, written in such small font so as to avoid practically anyone’s notice, protects most cruise liners from responsibility for their carelessness.

Limitations on Your Seventh Amendment Right to a Jury Trial

When you purchase a cruise line ticket, you are agreeing, probably unknowingly, to sacrifice your right to pursue punitive damages or to claim compensation for emotional distress against the cruise liner for the injuries or the death of a loved one. Furthermore, most cruise line tickets include an arbitration clause. This clause limits the right of passengers to file a civil claim in a court of law (in dereliction to the Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution) and have their case heard before a jury, in certain circumstances. Another abuse of legal chicanery are forum-shifting clauses that drastically limit where a cruise ship injury or wrongful death suit against the cruise line can be filed (e.g., some forum shifting clauses require you to file suit in a foreign country). These clauses are intentional hurdles put in place to stifle anyone from seeking significant restitution through the civil justice system.

Arbitration Clauses – How are They Legal?

In 1925, the Federal Arbitration Act was signed into law which forces courts at every level to enforce the arbitration accords that many businesses, including cruise operators, have utilized in numerous mundane contracts. It is no surprise that businesses that include these clauses in their contracts win over 95 percent of arbitration. Yes, you read that correctly. A business has a significant advantage over you in an arbitration setting. Why? Because the business has a say in selecting the arbitrator who will hear the dispute and routinely picks the one with a track record of deciding in favor of the business. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines has their legal team participate in hundreds of arbitrations per year. You, on the other hand, will probably participate in an arbitration just once in your entire life (hopefully). Common sense dictates that a professional arbitrator will have a financial bias towards favoring the cruise line since they want to generate more business. An arbitrator who decides in favor of the passenger probably will not get hired again by Carnival or any of the other big cruise lines.

Other Harsh Limitations on Your Right to Civil Restitution

Many cruise liners require injured passengers to notify them within six months of the injury of their intention to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the liner. Even if you meet this strict notice requirement, you are then required, according to the terms of the contract included with the ticket, to file the suit in a court selected by the cruise line within one year.

Time to Contact an Experienced Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer Today

As you can see, the decks are stacked against you when it comes to taking legal action against a cruise line. That is why you should not take them on alone. The cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, PA are here to help. The lawyers at this firm are licensed to practice law in all Florida state and federal courts and are affiliated with other lawyers in numerous jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and overseas. Contact the office today to set up a free, confidential consultation.

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