Every state places deadlines on the time within which one must file a legal claim to protect a legal right or seek compensation after an injury. The deadlines are different in each state, and depend on the type of legal claim. However, what happens when you’re injured on a cruise ship and standard laws no longer apply?
If you want to file a lawsuit against a cruise line after an injury, it is important to know that your contract with the cruise line dictates the deadline within which you must file your claim. Each cruise line forces its passengers to enter into a “ticket contract” that drastically alters the right of passengers once they board the ship. These ticket contracts severely restrict when and where a passenger can sue a cruise line in the event of an accident and typically win over any statute of limitations set by law.
Within the verbiage of the ticket contract, most cruise lines restrict when a passenger can sue them by shortening the statute of limitations from the traditional maritime law of three years to one year. This means that if you were injured while on a cruise, you have one year from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. If the passenger is a minor or mentally incompetent, this one year limitation period is extended to three years. However, if a legal representative is appointed or the minor reaches adulthood, the time period to file a suit is shortened again.
For example in Florida, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit after an injury is four years. Nonetheless, if you’re injured on a cruise ship while docked at a Florida port you must file a suit within one year. Any delays could mean losing your right to file or have your case be dismissed.
Make sure to pay attention to not only the time which the cruise line needs to be informed about injuries, but also the intent to file a claim and where it may be filed. Most cruise line ticket contracts specify in its fine print that you have to give them “notice” of your claim within six months of the date of the accident and the case be brought to the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, in Miami-Dade County.
Due to shorter deadlines it is imperative to find qualified and experienced legal help as soon as possible after an injury on a cruise ship. In some cases, you may not want to wait until you return to shore to contact an attorney. Even while you are still aboard a ship, a personal injury lawyer can give you advice about how to preserve evidence and what to say to cruise line representatives.