Medical Malpractice on Cruise Ships

Serving Miami, Florida and Nationwide


The cruise lines are in the business of providing medical care to crewmembers and passengers.  The cruise lines advertise and market the fact that they provide medical care onboard their ships.  They market to older people and to parents of children - all of whom want the security of medical care onboard. Additionally, the cruise lines know that their passengers rely on the representations about medical care onboard the ships.    

The cruise lines market heavily and almost exclusively to citizens of the United States, with photos and videos of the ship showing first class accommodations and amenities. From all of this, Americans expect first world medical care on par with medical care in the U.S. Unfortunately, that is rarely - if ever - what they actually receive.

If you have been a victim of medical malpractice on a cruise ship, please call us today at (855) 375-3727 for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced Miami cruise ship attorneys.

The Truth About Medical Care on a Cruise Ship

Cruise ships sail the waters off of what amounts to third world countries.  These countries and island nations have limited, and sometimes third-world, substandard medical care.  For that reason alone, the cruise line knows that passengers expect that the cruise line will provide high standard medical care onboard the ship.

Over half of the passengers who end up seeking medical treatment during a cruise are over the age of 65. Many of these passengers have pre-existing medical conditions, and are at risk of complications on cruise ships. Advertising that a cruise ship has a competent medical facility, and then failing to provide the standard of care that patients expect is an egregious form of negligence and fraud. When cruise lines say that they are not responsible for the quality of their medical care, this is like to saying that they are not responsible for providing a safe environment to passengers.

People who take cruises rely on the cruise line's promise to keep them safe from harm, and provide them with adequate care in the event of an illness or injury. When ship doctors make medical mistakes, cruise lines should be held accountable.

Further, the cruise lines benefit from having medical care onboard; they can provide for passengers who are sick or injured without altering the route of the ship. If they alter the route of the ship for a sick or injured passenger to receive medical care at a port with a hospital, to fulfill their obligation under the maritime law, this can cost the cruise line tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues from lost shore excursions, added port charges, added fuel charges, and ticket refunds.

Cruise Lines Should Be Held Accountable for Substandard Medical Care

The cruise lines control the actions of the onboard physicians.  The cruise lines select the physicians. The cruise lines can test them although the cruise lines do not test them.  The cruise lines make the doctor a part of the officer staff and make the doctors appear to be officers.  The cruise lines also control whether passengers can get off of the ship at a port for medical care or whether the ship will re-route to get the passenger to a port where there is some higher standard medical care.  And the cruise line pays a U.S. trained and licensed physician to consult with and advise the shipboard physicians in their decision making. 

With rare exceptions, the majority of the staff is not licensed in the United States, and they are provided only with basic equipment. When a passenger becomes sick or injured, cruise ship medical staff often are not equipped to treat the patient's condition - either because of inadequate training or lack of the tools necessary to make a proper diagnosis. Despite advertising that the ship has a medical facility onboard, cruise lines provide inadequate care and then deny responsibility for medical malpractice.

Who is Liable for Medical Malpractice at Sea?

If a passenger is seriously injured due to medical negligence on a cruise ship, an action against the cruise line is possible but a challenge under the current state of the law. That is why a specialist in the area is not just a luxury but a necessity. 

An action against the cruise ship physician may not be an option.  As the cruise lines know:

  • The doctor inevitably does not live in the United States.
  • It is difficult or impossible to serve a ship doctor with a lawsuit.
  • Many ship doctors do not have liability insurance and do not have sufficient assets to pay a claim.
  • It is difficult or impossible to file suit in the U.S. against these physicians if they live abroad and have not contacts with the U.S.   

If you have been seriously injured, or if your loved one has died due to medical negligence on a cruise ship, please contact Hickey Law Firm, P.A. online today or call (855) 375-3727 to speak to one of our experienced Miami cruise ship lawyers. We represent victims of cruise ship medical malpractice worldwide.