The last thing on a person’s mind when they depart for their dream cruise vacation is the possibility that they will become the victim of a crime while sailing the seas. However, many cruises ships are essentially floating cities, and, as such, often experience incidents of criminal activity.
According to a statement made by Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Salvador Hernandez to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in 2007, 207 criminal incidents were reported to the FBI by the U.S. Coast Guard and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) that year. The reports were broken down into eight categories according to the nature of the incident: homicide, suspicious death, missing U.S. national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, sexual assault, firing or tampering with vessels, and theft greater than $10,000.
At the time of the statement, there had been no reports of homicide, suspicious death or kidnapping aboard CLIA ships, however, disturbingly, there were 41 reported instances of sexual assault accounting for fifty-five percent of the violent crimes that were reported. Further, there were a reported thirteen assaults resulting in “serious bodily injury.”
There are a number of problems that cruise ship officials face in attempting to investigate and prevent such crimes from occurring on board ships. Because most ships have no formal police force, any evidence of a crime will likely not be properly preserved, the scene of the incident may be contaminated, and if an investigation does occur, it will be delayed until the actual police become involved which, some cases, may take days.
As this blog has discussed before, all businesses owe patrons a certain duty of care. However, because cruise liners are considered “common carriers,” they owe their customers a greater duty of care. Cruise companies have a duty to provide a safe environment for their passengers, and the failure to do so may entitle the injured party to compensation.
There is, however, a different standard for criminal acts committed against passengers by cruise ship employees. Under general maritime law, cruise liners are strictly liable for the intentional, wrongful, and criminal acts of their employees, such as in a rape or sexual assault. This means that a cruise ship company may be found liable for the criminal acts of its employees without a finding of fault, such as negligence.
As this blog has mentioned before, because cruise ship claims are subject to different laws and much shorter statutes of limitations, sometimes as short as one year, they are best handled by experienced cruise ship accident attorneys.
The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing the victims of cruise ship negligence for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident or has been the victim of a crime while on a cruise ship, contact the attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today.