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Cruise Ship Injuries: What are Your Rights?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Cruise-ship disasters like the deadly Costa Concordia accident in Italy raise questions for passengers: What are your rights when you're injured on a cruise ship?

The answer depends on what's in your cruise contract, and where the injury took place. Here are some general guidelines.

Your cruise contract

Your cruise tickets are probably the first place to look for contract terms that explain your rights. Many cruise lines impose requirements on passengers who seek to sue for cruise-ship injuries, for example:

  • A passenger often must provide written notice of a cruise-ship injury within six months of the injury.
  • A passenger often must bring a lawsuit within one year of a cruise-ship injury.
  • A passenger often must sue the cruise company in a specific court system -- usually the courts closest to where the cruise company is headquartered.

Why location matters

An international agreement called the Athens Convention limits a cruise line's liability to $71,400 per passenger, maritime lawyer Rod Sullivan tells Jacksonville, Fla.'s First Coast News.

Because the Concordia accident happened in Italy, passengers can pursue claims under Italian law. Many should be able to get compensation for injuries and a canceled vacation under Italy's laws, the International Business Times reports.

But the United States is not a party to the Athens Convention. Instead, if a Concordia-type disaster happened here, a 1920 U.S. law would kick in to compensate for potential cruise-ship injuries, Sullivan said.

"It's somewhat better than the Athens Convention," Sullivan told First Coast News. "If the ship goes down, there's a pool provided of $50 million in the case of a ship this size, and that would be split up among all the injured parties."

Of course, every cruise-ship injury is different, so you may want to consult an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights -- especially considering the short time period for passengers to pursue a claim.

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