Can I Sue a Cruise Line if I Was Sexually Assaulted by a Crew Member?

Can I Sue a Cruise Line if I Was Sexually Assaulted by a Crew MemberMost of the cruise lines promise the vacation of your lifetime. But often the cruise ends in tragedy because the cruise line failed to provide the security passengers need from sexual assaults by crew members.

If you have been sexually assaulted on a cruise ship or by a crew member, you can sue for damages in a lawsuit. Hickey Law Firm specializes in representing cruise passengers who have been the victims of sexual assault and rape by crewmembers. We have represented numerous women and children who have been the victims of sexual assault and rape onboard cruise ships.

Any place on the ship can be a location for a sexual assault – but some places such as the spas, passenger rooms, private rooms, empty corridors, and dark places are more likely targets for unscrupulous crew members than other places.

Can the cruise line be legally responsible for the actions of its staff?

The answer is yes. In sexual assault claims, the assailant (the crewmember who did this) is subject to criminal charges of the FBI or other authority decides to prosecute. Often, the U.S. attorney decides for whatever reason not to prosecute. But that does not affect your ability to bring civil claims in court against the cruise lines.

The cruise ship company may be liable for many reasons, including:

  • Not properly vetting the cruise ship personnel including background checks for sex offenders
  • Not properly training the staff members
  • Not responding to complaints by passengers or other crew personnel
  • Not implement a sexual assault safety and response strategy
  • Not monitoring youth and adult activities
  • Selling alcohol to minors or anyone who is visibly intoxicated
  • Not implementing other sexual assault negligent security protocols

How long do I have to file a lawsuit against a cruise ship company for sexual assault?

Generally, you have just 6 months to provide certain notice of the claim to the cruise line in writing. And you have only one year from the date of the assault to file the complaint in court. The best course of action is to contact us as soon as possible after the assault occurs.

Why are sexual assaults on cruise ships so common?

Sexual assaults include rape and any type of unwanted sexual contact. Sadly, sexual assaults of passengers by crew members are all too common on cruise ships. In 2019, USA Today reports, there were “101 allegations of sexual assault on cruise ships embarking and disembarking in the United States” alone. What makes these tragedies even more unbearable is that they could have been prevented if the cruise line had taken more proactive measures to stop sexual assaults and had responded more quickly to complaints about the misdeeds of individual crew members. The assailants are often crew members.

Cruise ships have thousands of passengers each week. But they do not have an independent police force onboard. The security onboard are all direct employees of the cruise lines. And the cruise lines train them their physicians and security staff on how to complete reports and medical record notes which minimize the event and its effects on you. The security onboard are not your friend and not looking out for your interests. (We do). In short, a security badge on a staff member is sometimes useless because the security member is ill-trained, has no incentive to protect passengers, and little or no ability to respond to any assaults.

Alcohol is a large contributor to sexual assaults. Cruise ships derive a significant portion of their income from selling drinks and gambling. Because they make so much money from the drinking onboard, the cruise lines encourage and even push excessive drinking. Drinking can include mixed drinks, wines, beers, and other intoxicating liquors. Alcohol often encourages crew members and other passengers to take advantage of passengers. And the over service of alcohol by the bartenders and servers onboard can lead to passengers such as you becoming impaired or drunk. Then you the passenger are incapable of giving consent.

Many sexual assaults go unreported. This only encourages wrongdoers more because there’s little likelihood of being fired or disciplined for their behavior. Some of the people who commit assault may even think that they won’t be held accountable because they live in a country outside of the United States. Prove them wrong. Let’s hold the cruise lines accountable. Call us and together we will.

What rights do I have as a victim of sexual assault on a cruise ship?

Thanks to the Cruise Ship Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA), cruise ships are required to comply with certain specific requirements to protect passengers from sexual assault and to respond to complaints by victims. The Federal statute was enacted because Congress found the following:

  • Sexual violence, the disappearance of passengers from vessels on the high seas, and other serious crimes have occurred during luxury cruises.
  • Over the last 5 years [from the date of the law], sexual assault and physical assaults on cruise vessels were the leading crimes investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding cruise vessel incidents.
  • These crimes at sea can involve attacks both by passengers and crewmembers on other passengers and crewmembers.
  • Except for United States-flagged vessels, or foreign-flagged vessels operating in an area subject to the direct jurisdiction of the United States, there are no Federal statutes or regulations that explicitly require cruise lines to report alleged crimes to United States Government officials.

The law applies to all major cruise lines. This includes including well-known cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Disney, and Virgin.

Some of the provisions of the CVSSA require that the cruise operator:

  • Provide logs for room key access
  • Have video surveillance available
  • Have a rape kit for victims of rape
  • Have medications for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases

The law holds the cruise lines responsible for reporting all acts of rape, sexual assault, and battery on a quarterly basis. These reports should be made available to the public.

The CVSSA provides that passengers:

  • Should receive a copy of the security guide, which summarizes how to report the crime and the procedures for processing the crime.
  • Have the right to a sexual assault forensic exam.
  • Confidentiality regarding asking for and receiving support services

The CVSSA also provides that the FBI has proper jurisdiction for sex crimes committed at sea if the victim or assailant is a US citizen, the vessel is fully or partially owned by a US business, and other specific requirements are met that generally involve the United States.

In addition to the rights set forth in the CVSSA, victims of cruise ship sexual assaults have the right to file a civil personal injury claim against the assailant, the cruise ship owner, and any other responsible parties.

What steps should I take after this has happened to me or someone in my family?

If you are the victim of a sexual assault or rape, first know that you are not at fault. A crime has been committed. This is true even if you got drunk and willingly went off with or back to the cabin of a crew member.

Report the crime. You should report the crime to the security officer on the ship (unless the security officer is the assailant), seek help from the infirmary, and obtain a forensic examination by qualified medical personnel. You should try to obtain the names of the crewmember or crew members who committed the assault and the names and contact information of anyone else (such as other passengers) who have information about the assault.

Contact the FBI. You should contact the FBI yourself. Don’t grant the cruise line the right to speak to the FBI for you. The cruise line will protect their interests, not yours.

Get examined and treated. When the ship arrives at port, you should go to the nearest rape treatment center at the nearest hospital. You should also seek a medical review of your assault by a family doctor, gynecologist, or another doctor.

Take photos – or have someone in your family or a friend take photos- of any marks, cuts, or bruises from the assault. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is strong evidence, and these outward injuries will not be visible forever.

See a therapist or counselor right away. Report this assault to the counselor. And get the counseling on a regular basis.

Finally, call us. We at Hickey Law Firm have the skills and experience to guide you through this difficult time. We are here for you. Call us and tell us what happened. Yes, we can and will hold the cruise line responsible for the rape or sexual assault by its crew members.

Why Hickey Law Firm can help if you have been raped or assaulted on a cruise ship

John (Jack) H. Hickey is double Board-Certified by The Florida Bar in Civil Trial and Admiralty and Maritime law. And all of our attorneys come to us with experience at government agencies or law firms and are then trained by our lead trial lawyer, Jack Hickey.

We are nationally recognized for our work on behalf of injured cruise ship passengers. We hit the cruise lines where it hurts. We get the evidence and get record breaking results. In one case, we obtained a $9 million dollar award for a cruise line passenger who was sexually assaulted by a crew member. In another sexual assault case, we obtained $2.5 million for a passenger who was raped by a crew member.

We assign a team to every client at Hickey Law Firm. That team is Jack Hickey, one of our other attorneys, a case manager/paralegal, and a medical case manager/paralegal. That means you will have a team of specialists on your side, fighting for you.

Three out of our four attorneys are women. Our lead trial lawyer, Jack Hickey, has testified in Washington, D.C. before a Congressional subcommittee investigating the cruise lines for sexual assaults onboard cruise ships.

We are experienced in representing the victims of trauma. The trauma caused by a sexual assault or a rape can be physical and involve physical injuries for which there was significant medical treatment and surgeries. And it always involves psychological trauma which can include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  PTSD is real and affects the brain. PTSD can be severe and it can be permanent. We have experience with rape victims who have severe PTSD and forever see the world through the lens of the experience of the rape. PTSD causes these people to relive the rape and trauma over and over. People who suffer from PTSD must be treated intensely and right away.

What damages can I claim if I have been sexually assaulted on a cruise ship?

The maritime law, which applies to all of these cases, provides for recovery of both “economic damages” and “non-economic damages.” Economic damages include:

  • Lost wages and other compensation in the past (from the date this happened until now) and in the future (from now through your life expectancy
  • Medical and counseling expenses again for the past and the future

Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Mental anguish
  • Scaring and disfigurement
  • Physical injury and impairment

If a physician testifies that the injuries are permanent, we demand compensation for these issues for the rest of your life. In any settlement or recovery through a jury verdict or through the judgment of the Court, there is a recovery only at one time. You cannot come back later and demand more if the money runs out or your injuries get worse. So we estimate what you will experience and go through for your remaining life expectancy.

At Hickey Law Firm, our cruise line sexual assault lawyers have earned the respect of former clients, insurance companies, and defense lawyers for our ability to hold cruise lines accountable and to obtain strong recoveries for our clients. We’ll fight to hold the assailants and the cruise lines liable for these horrific life-changing assaults. At Hickey Law Firm, our legal team is big enough to handle any case and small enough to care. We understand your physical and emotional pain. Complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation.

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