Cruise Ship Accident and Illness Claims
Cruise ship carriers have a duty of care to passengers, and should therefore take steps to keep them safe from injury and illness. But accidents can and do still happen, and although cruise ships are arguably better contained than holiday hotels and resorts, it’s still possible to contract a gastric illness or a virus (norovirus) on a cruise ship.
So if you were injured in an accident or fell ill on a cruise ship holiday and can prove that it wasn’t your fault, you may have grounds for a successful compensation claim.
Get in touch with our Holiday Claims Solicitors for a free, no-obligation discussion about the details of your case. We may be able to handle your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis – ask us for details.
If you are injured in an accident while travelling on a cruise ship, you should seek medical attention straight away. All cruise ships will have facilities to treat personal injuries among passengers, and the cruise ship doctor can give you written details of their diagnosis and prescription if you request it.
You should also ensure you report your accident to a senior member of staff, and if necessary, the cruise ship carrier’s head office. Again, make sure you get a copy of the accident report that is produced concerning your accident.
Anyone injured in an accident on a cruise ship should also gather as much evidence as they can, so you can prove what caused the accident. This could include photographs of your injuries and the location where the accident took place. There may also be video or CCTV footage of what happened, in which case you can request a copy.
Other people on board ship may have witnessed what happened, in which case you should request their names and contact details, so they can back up your version of events if you decide to make a holiday accident claim.
Finally, don’t forget to log how your injury has affected you financially. That means keep hold of any expenses or losses you’ve incurred as a result of your accident, such as receipts for hospital bills, travel expenses and medical fees, and documents detailing your losses if you’ve been unable to go to work.
Cruise Ship Accidents
Cruise ship accidents can occur at any stage of the embarkation and disembarkation process, and it’s not uncommon for a passenger to be injured while the cruise ship is at sea. Common accidents include:
- Slips on deck
- Tripping over obstacles
- Falling down stairs
- Being struck by falling or unsecured objects
- Accidents in/near swimming pools, hot tubs or wave rider surf simulators
If the accident was the result of negligence by the cruise ship operator and could therefore have been avoided, you may be entitled to compensation.
Cruise Ship Illness
Many cruise ship illnesses are caused by neglect on the part of the cruise ship operator, usually in the preparation or storage of food, or from an overarching hygiene issue which leads to the spread of infection.
Gastric illness pathogens and infections which can breakout on cruise ships include:
- Cyclospora - A parasite which attaches itself to fruit and vegetables that have been contaminated with human faecal matter.
- Cryptosporidium - A parasite that can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, cramping and other related symptoms
- Dysentery (Shigella Sonnei) - An infection usually passed on through poor hygiene. It can cause very severe diarrhoea. The main types of Dysentery are Bacillary Dysentery and Amoebic Dysentery.
- E. coli - A waterborne bacteria that can cause stomach cramps, diarrhoea (potentially containing blood), gas, bloating, nausea and fatigue
- Legionnaires Disease - Legionnaires disease is also known as Legionellosis, is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by any type of Legionella bacteria.
- Salmonella - A type of bacteria that’s commonly associated with food poisoning. Symptoms usually include diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps
- Shigella - A bacterial infection that can lead to many unpleasant symptoms, from fever and bloody diarrhoea to inflammation of the intestines.
- Shigellosis - An infection caused by Shigella bacteria. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps. In many cases Shigellosis can resolve in under seven days.
Some of these illnesses can be caught by consuming contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.
While many people believe meat is the only type of food to pose a risk, this isn’t actually the case. Fruit and vegetables that have been stored incorrectly or grown in inadequate conditions, such as when human faecal matter is used instead of the correct type of compost, can also cause infection.
What to Do If You're Ill on a Cruise Ship
While it’s not uncommon to experience some mild seasickness on a cruise, if you experience any of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from food poisoning or have contracted a gastric illness pathogen.
In this case, you should report your illness to a member of the crew immediately and request to see the ship's doctor. They may be able to provide a diagnosis to you there and then, and in doing so, provide you with the correct treatment, potentially prescribing you with effective medication.
Gastric illnesses are usually diagnosed through a stool sample test, however. So if you don't get a diagnosis from the cruise ship doctor, it's important to get a stool sample from your GP upon returning to the UK. This will provide you with an indication of the pathogen you contracted.
As well as aiding your treatment, getting a diagnosis can act as evidence that may be useful if you plan to make a holiday sickness claim.
After you've taken the ship’s doctor's advice and treatment, try to rest and, if appropriate, drink plenty of fluids. Regaining as much of your strength as possible puts you in a far better position to enjoy what's left of your holiday.
Should you plan to make a claim against the cruise ship or your holiday tour operator, it’s also worth gathering evidence of any poor hygiene standards on-board ship that you are aware of. This could include photographic evidence or the testimonies and contact details of other passengers. They may be able to act as witnesses for you or even have had similar experiences themselves during the cruise.
What Does the Law Say?
Cruise liners are bound by the Athens Convention, a 2002 protocol which establishes liability for any sea ferrying vessel over its passengers. In other words, it lays out who is responsible for what on a cruise.
Under the Athens Convention, the carrier is liable for any damage or loss incurred by a passenger or to their luggage during any time of the voyage, and this extends to both accidents and illnesses.
The Athens Convention applies to any vessel making a journey that is considered an "international carriage by sea", meaning that it must meet one of the following criteria:
- Your ship's port of departure and destination must be different
- Your ship's port of departure and destination are the same but there is a port of call in a different country
If the Athens Convention applies to your case, there are time limits on when you can make a compensation claim. You have 2 years from the date you disembarked the vessel at the end of the cruise or were moved from the vessel to be taken to hospital in which to make a claim.
If your claim isn’t taken to the Admiralty Division of the High Court within this period, it may be time-barred, meaning that you may be unable to make a claim.
The Athens Convention also enables you to claim compensation for an injury or illness from your country of residence, regardless of where the vessel was at the time you became ill.
So if you booked your cruise ship holiday in the UK, but departed from Spain and then fell ill while your cruise was at port in Morocco, you’d still be able to make a claim through a British Holiday Claims Solicitor in a UK Court.
Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Bristol, Cardiff, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Southport.