If I Get Sick on a Cruise Ship Can I Sue?

Getting sick on a cruise is the last thing most people expect. If this were to occur, travelers often wonder if the cruise line can be sued for the costs of medical care and other losses incurred by the illness. This incident could potentially be grounds for a personal injury case. The liability of the cruise line is determined by two questions mainly:

  • Was the cruise line or one of its employees negligent in some way?
  • Did the illness result from that negligence?

The Question of Negligence

Negligence is defined as “failure to take proper care in doing something.” Getting sick on a cruise ship does not necessarily mean that the cruise line or employee was negligent. The claimant must work with their attorney to show that the illness was the direct result of a failure to take proper care.

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Examples of cruise ship illness that may be caused by negligence include:

  • Food poisoning and other illnesses related to how cruise staff handle food. This may result from a food preparer working while sick or failing to follow hand-washing guidelines. This illness may also result from poor food handling such as undercooking or leaving food unrefrigerated for too long. There’s a vast number of ways food can be mishandled, but food service workers should be properly trained to avoid such errors.
  • Norovirus or other gastrointestinal illnesses. Norovirus causes nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is a highly contagious illness that can be spread through physical contact, contaminated water or food, or being in close quarters with an infected person. This can be a challenging illness to tie to negligence on the part of a cruise line or employee because it is such a common illness.
  • Legionnaire’s disease. This very serious health condition is caused by the Legionella bacterium. This is a common bacterium that may thrive in warm water. It may be found in expansive plumbing and heating systems like those in office buildings, hotels, and cruise ships. While the bacterium thrives in warm water, it is destroyed by hot water. This characteristic of the disease may help prove negligence if, for instance, hot tubs and pools are not properly heated.

With the exception of Legionnaire’s disease, illnesses that originate on a cruise ship may be very difficult to prove if only one person is affected. This is because illnesses can occur anywhere and, without a massive outbreak among cruise ship passengers, there is little evidence to support the claim of negligence. It’s especially difficult to prove that influenza or other viruses originated as a direct result of cruise ship negligence; nonetheless, if you think you may have a cruise ship case, call our attorneys. We will review the details of your illness with you, and help you decide what to do next.

Evidence is the Backbone of a Strong Case

Although each case is unique, some of the following conditions could support the case that an illness was a direct result of cruise ship negligence:

  • Whether other people on the cruise also exhibit the same symptoms. This may be better understood by asking the ship’s doctor or other staff, though they may not release such details.
  • Whether the cruise ship employees are taking extra measures to prevent illness, such as serving passengers at the buffet rather than allowing them to serve themselves.
  • Whether a large number of people seem to be visiting the ship’s medical facility.
  • Whether health warnings or announcements are being made by the crew.
  • Whether any passengers on the ship have been quarantined.
  • Whether the ship’s itinerary has deviated from its original plan.

Timing Matters

The courts have a statute of limitations on filing lawsuits. The deadline for filing a suit against a cruise line is relatively strict, limited to 12 months or fewer. Additionally, people seeking financial compensation from a cruise line for medical expenses may also have to provide formal written notice within a specific timeframe.

There are several important aspects that need attention when filing a lawsuit against a cruise ship. To ensure nothing gets overlooked, it is beneficial to contact a personal injury lawyer with maritime experience as soon as possible after the illness occurred.

The team at Hickey Law Firm makes sure that our clients’ rights are protected and that they understand all of the legal options available to them. For more information or for a free case evaluation, call us at 305-371-8000.