Millions of individuals and families go on cruise ship vacations every year. The advertisements for popular cruise lines boast countless onboard activities, shore excursions, and fun for all ages, but these vacations often come with a false sense of security. Many passengers trust that the crew members are thoroughly vetted and trained, but Maritime Law and cruise line liability have multiple gray areas, making it difficult for victims of sexual assault and rape on cruise ships or injuries from cruise ship accidents to press charges and achieve justice.
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, rape, or assault of any kind, our Miami sexual assault lawyer can help you through this devastating time. Contact the Hickey Law Firm in Miami today at (305) 371-8000 for a FREE consultation. We provide legal services nationwide on a contingency fee basis. If we don’t recover compensation for your personal injury, maritime, or cruise ship claim, you don’t pay.
John H. (Jack) Hickey—Was a Lawyer for Cruise Lines, Now a Lawyer for You®
Cruise lines have an obligation to provide a safe environment for passengers. John H. (Jack) Hickey specializes in cruise ship assaults and injuries and has experience on both sides of these claims. He understands the shameful tactics these cruise lines employ to discredit victims and witnesses and will fight on your behalf to make sure the perpetrator and associates are held liable and prevent harm from coming to another cruise passenger in the future.
We understand that there is no way to turn back the clock on what happened but reducing your financial burden and demanding accountability from those who failed to protect you can help you find a sense of closure after such a traumatic event. Cruise ship rape and sexual assaults happen more than many realize. It’s important to understand your rights and options including:
- Cruise Ship Sexual Assault and Rape
- Passenger Rights on a Cruise Ship
- What to Do After Rape or Sexual Assault on a Cruise Ship
- Why and How Sexual Assault Happens on a Cruise Ship
- Statutes of Limitations and Other Barriers for Sexual Assault Victims
- Recovering Damages and Justice After Cruise Ship Rape
- Contact a Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Lawyer
Cruise Ship Sexual Assault and Rape
Cruises often market the “family atmosphere” and closed environment, which gives the illusion of safety, but in actuality, very little of the high price passengers pay for the cruise experience is put toward security. Many cruise lines attempt to pay as little as possible when it comes to hiring crewmembers and medical staff. The cruise lines select their crew members, many of whom are young men in their 20’s, from third world countries or from countries like Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have been ravaged by war and suffer from high rates of unemployment. They choose young men from these countries because often these people are desperate for jobs and accept less than minimum wage.
The countries from which many of these crewmembers hail oftentimes do not have complete or accurate criminal or employment records. Therefore, an individual’s history of employment or crime may not be accurate or complete. This creates issues for employers, such as cruise lines, in terms of conducting background checks, which leads cruise lines to conduct very minimal screening on potential employees, relying instead on the cruise lines’ “hiring partners”—agents in other countries—to perform these duties.
The result is that these young men are surrounded onboard the ship with female passengers who are all on vacation and many of whom are relaxing and drinking as cruise lines often over-serve alcohol to passengers. This creates a volatile situation in which rape, sexual assault, and sexual battery occur.
Crewmember on Passenger Sexual Assault and Rape
The cruise lines are strictly liable for sexual assaults committed by its crewmembers on its passengers. These crimes hold the cruise lines to a higher standard because of their responsibility to provide reasonable care and safety for the duration of the cruise at sea and on land. These cases only require proof that the rape or assault happened and that it was not consensual as well as the complete details of damages. This also applies to crewmember on crewmember sexual assault and rape.
Passenger on Passenger Sexual Assault and Rape
Rape or sexual assault perpetrated by a cruise passenger on another cruise passenger requires an additional burden of proof. The cruise line is responsible for providing reasonable care given the circumstances, which means we must prove that the company knew of the dangerous condition or person or should have known. That can be established by providing examples of “red flags” or circumstances and practices that lead to the dangerous situation such as over-serving alcohol.
Passenger Rights on a Cruise Ship
In the past, cruise lines were not required to report crimes such as rape and sexual assault because of the wide range of locations and ports around the world, and in some instances, companies such as Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean didn’t even have to let authorities onboard the ship to do an investigation. That changed in 2010 with the Cruise Ship Vessel Security Act of 2010 (CVSSA), which was enacted to address safety concerns and crimes on cruise ships and this language included sexual assault prevention and the appropriate actions to take to help the victims.
The law necessitates that the cruise ship operators provide logs for room key access, video surveillance (including preserving the video footage), and a rape kit complete with medications to stop sexually transmitted diseases. The CVSSA holds cruise lines responsible for reporting all incidence of rape, sexual assault, and battery each quarter, making these statistics available to the public. These mandated cruise line incident reports to the U.S. Department of Transportation revealed shocking numbers of violent crimes, jumping 550% January through June in 2016 compared to the same period of 2015. It’s unfortunately well known that sex crimes often go unreported, and the CVSSA sought to rectify these hidden figures, giving passengers the right and a process by which to pursue justice.
Under the Cruise Ship Vessel Security Act of 2010, cruise passengers have the right to:
- A copy of the security guide, which provides a summary or where and who to report a crime to and criminal law procedures for crimes committed on any waters the ship may travel through and a list of U.S. embassy locations.
- A sexual assault forensic exam.
- Confidentiality should you need to request and receive support services aboard a ship. Any information given to the ship’s medical staff, counselors, and support staff must be confidential.
Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has jurisdiction over sex crimes committed at sea as long as:
- The vessel is wholly or partially owned by a U.S. company, or
- The victim or perpetrator is a U.S. citizen, or
- If the voyage involves a United States port, or
- The crime took place outside any nation’s jurisdiction (international waters) and involved a U.S. national, or
- The crime was committed within 12 miles of the U.S. coast.
Aside from FBI involvement, a cruise ship assault attorney can help you pursue civil action and hold the cruise line financially responsible.
What to Do After Rape or Sexual Assault on a Cruise Ship
The General Maritime Law applies to any personal injuries and sexual assaults and rapes onboard cruise ships. John H. (Jack) Hickey is double board certified by the Florida Bar as both an admiralty and maritime lawyer and a civil trial lawyer. If you have been a victim of cruise ship sexual assault or rape anywhere in the world, it is important to remember that what happened to you was not your fault. It was the fault of two parties only: the person who committed the crime and the cruise line whose negligence allowed that crime to happen.
Below are important steps you should take if you have been sexually assaulted or raped on a cruise ship:
- Report the crime immediately to the security officer onboard the ship.
- Go to the ship’s infirmary to report the incident and to obtain treatment for any physical injuries. Although it may seem against your natural instincts, it is best NOT to shower or wash your clothes/bedding until you have had a forensic examination by qualified medical personnel. Doing so could destroy valuable evidence.
- Collect the names of the crewmembers who were involved (that is, the perpetrators).
- Gather names and contact information from passengers with any information. This would include anyone who heard or saw any of the events leading up to, during, or after the incident.
- Call the FBI to report the crime. Demand that the cruise line allow you to call the FBI and speak to an agent. The cruise lines are obligated to allow you to speak to the FBI and you have the right to speak to them.
- Upon arriving at your port in the U.S., go immediately to the nearest rape treatment center. Every hospital in the U.S. has one. The ERs of U.S. hospitals have rules and protocols for treating and testing for rape.
- Get proper medical care as soon as possible for your physical injuries. This may include a gynecologist, orthopedic surgeon, plastic surgeon, an internist, or family doctor.
- Take photos of any physical injuries or bruises. These can be incredibly powerful evidence in your case.
- Seek psychological counseling.
- Call the Hickey Law Firm, P.A. We can help. We have experience in representing victims of rape, sexual assault, and sexual battery on cruise ships.
Why and How Sexual Assault Happens on a Cruise Ship
Cruise vacations get more popular every year because of the “ease” of an all-inclusive experience and the ability to see several countries during the voyage. The excitement men, women, and their families have when the cruise begins are palpable. Passengers view the enclosed environment as safe and secure, which is far from reality. There’s a severe lack of security on most cruises. There’s no police force, but crewmembers wearing “security” uniforms give that impression. As we noted above, these employees are typically from third-world countries, paid far less than minimum wage, and have no real incentive to provide safety and care to passengers.
Excessive alcohol service is another reason why rape and sexual assault occur on cruise ships. From the moment you step on board, you’re bombarded with drink and bar options on this “floating city.” Combine this over-service with the false sense of security passengers feel and it’s a recipe for disaster.
While the laws are changing and more victims come forward, there’s still a high rate of unreported rape and sex crimes and foreign perpetrators may assume that he or she will not face consequences due to legal options for crimes on international waters.
Cruise ships sometimes house thousands of passengers, but even these highly-populated ships have dark corners and empty areas where sexual assault and better may happen. The isolation and weeks or months at sea also make it “easy” for evidence (even bodies) to go missing.
Statutes of Limitations and Other Barriers for Sexual Assault Victims
The statutes of limitations for cruise ship injuries, cruise ship rape, and other crimes or incidence that occur at sea can be as short as 180 days (six months) to file a civil lawsuit against the cruise line. Additionally, there are requirements for where and how to file a claim against cruise lines for rape and sexual assault. Regardless of where your cruise took place or where you bought the ticket, most of these cases have to be filed in Federal Court in Miami, Florida. It’s crucial to your case that you begin the claims process immediately and gather all evidence and witness testimonies.
Our cruise ship rape attorney in Miami understands firsthand the shameful tactics cruise line attorneys use, which may involve saying the sexual assault never happened, that it was consensual if it did, or the crime was committed by another passenger, limiting the company’s liability.
At the Hickey Law Firm in Miami, we know how to undercut these appalling strategies and can establish liability such as:
- Negligent Hiring of Cruise Ship Personnel
- Negligent Training Practices
- Failure to Monitor Heavy Traffic Areas of the Ship and Corridors
- Failure to Employ an Adequate Security Plan
- Failure to Run Background Checks for Sex Offenders
- Negligent Supervision of Youth Activities
- Providing or Selling Alcohol to Minors
- Failure to Establish Crime Deterrents on Cruise Ships
- Failure to Provide Sufficient Security and Number of Security Guards
- Sexual Assault by Crewmembers
- Rape by Crewmembers
- Assault, Battery, or Robbery by Crewmembers
Recovering Damages and Justice After Cruise Ship Rape
Cruise ship rape or sexual assault claims are different than your average personal injury case. These crimes leave the victim with physiological and psychological trauma that can’t be represented with a dollar amount. Your life or the life of your loved one has been forever changed because of the incident. In cruise ship claims involving sex crimes, we pursue damages from emotional and physical harm, and in some cases, punitive damages can be awarded to prevent future injury to passengers. We can seek compensation for all past and future medical expenses, lost wages, actual physical harm, pain and suffering including PTSD, depression and other common psychological damages, and other associated costs.
Read More About Litigation for Assault and Rape on a Cruise Ship in Our Blog
Contact a Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Lawyer
Please contact Hickey Law Firm, P.A. at (305) 371-8000 or contact us online to speak with one of our experienced cruise ship sexual assault attorneys. We provide the advice you need, the representation you want, and the compensation you deserve. Our firm represents the victims of cruise ship crimes and negligence in Miami, Florida, and worldwide.