Late last week, on its approach to the Faroe Islands port of Klaksvik, Royal Caribbean cruise ship Jewel of the Seas struck an aerial cable that links the Islands of Bordoy and Eysturoy. The ship’s mast was damaged, and a crew member was heavily battered by falling debris. The cause of the Jewel of the Seas accident has yet to be determined, but an investigation, now pending in consultation with local authorities, will inevitably attempt to identify any faulty decisions or operating procedures that led not only to the cable collision, but also to the dislodging of items that ultimately struck the vulnerable crew member. Maritime accident law will then govern any damage claims that are pursued.
Anticipating questions about possible navigation error, Florida-based Royal Caribbean International issued a statement, reported in the September 6, 2012 edition of USA Today, insisting that all available navigation information, including information received from the Klaksvik harbor master, had pointed to the ship’s clear passage under the cable. This assertion, however, is not likely to put navigational concerns to rest, coming only months after the fatal grounding of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which, it is now known, was triggered by disastrously bad navigation decisions.
Navigation Mistakes and Other Potentially Compensable Errors
In any maritime accident, both passengers and crew members stand to suffer potentially serious injury when errors are made by those in control of the safety conditions of the vessel. While a captain and other ship officers may commit navigation errors that lead to traumatic injuries, on a cruise ship, housekeeping and other maintenance staff may commit errors that expose passengers and fellow crew to additional types of hazards, such as slippery floor surfaces, obstructed passageways, tainted food, dangerous conditions in recreational areas, and inadequate security that invites criminal activity.
As indicated in Royal Caribbean’s public statement on the Jewel of the Seas accident, when it comes to making navigation decisions, cruise ship officers, like the officers of any maritime operation, are subject to a duty to proceed on the basis of ‘all available information.’ While this would seem a straightforward standard to uphold, it has been understood, for some time, that human nature can interfere with a dictate even this simple. A study disseminated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2002 concluded that the overwhelming majority of maritime accidents involve human error, and that in particular, 89%-96% of collisions may be traced to human error. The same study noted that rather than consulting with all available information, personnel in charge of navigation decisions often choose one metric or piece of equipment on which to rely. Compounding this problem is the absence, in many cases, of readily available, precise, and easy-to-understand operational procedures aboard ship, which would reinforce the obligation to rely, in navigation, on all available information.
Special Procedures and Preliminaries in Cruise Ship Claims
Regardless of whether a passenger or crew member experiences injury through a navigation error, or through some other breach of duty on the part of a cruise ship officer or crew, an analysis of whether the injured individual has some hope of redress can only be provided by sophisticated and experienced maritime accident attorneys. This is because maritime accidents are governed by legal principles significantly different from those that cover accidents and injuries in other contexts. Cruise ship accident claims are likely to be subject to short filing deadlines, and there may be a need to iron out complicated questions regarding where a claim may be filed. An injured passenger may need special help overcoming an invalid waiver of claims that a cruise line may have obtained as a condition of issuing a ticket. All in all, these factors make it imperative that individuals who have been injured in connection with cruise travel contact only competent Florida cruise ship accident attorneys, and that they do so very soon after their injuries occur.
To help with these issues in our area, be sure to contact cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz P.A. We can be reached at (305)371-6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.