Where Do I File My Cruise Ship Accident Case?

When you’re on a cruise, the last thing you want to worry about is an accident. But if something does happen, you need to know where to file a claim. While this may seem straightforward, most times, it’s not. That’s because a lot of different factors come into play. Talk to a reputable cruise ship attorney to learn more or find out how you can hold a cruise line accountable.

All the same, many cruise ships are registered in foreign countries. This can make it even more difficult to determine where to file a claim. Not to worry – Aronfeld Trial Lawyers have prepared a mini guide to help you figure things out. Keep reading for an inside scoop on how to go about it, including where you can file your case.

What is Vessel’s Flag?

Determine the vessel’s flag. This is the country in which the cruise ship is registered. The crew will prominently display the flag on the ship. If you’re unsure, ask a crew member or look it up online.

Often, the flag will help you determine where to file your case and plays a pivotal role in maritime law. For example, if a cruise ship is registered in the U.S., then you would file your case in the said country. The same applies to other nations. 

Your Ticket

Boarding a cruise ship typically means buying a ticket. This document usually has all the information you need about the vessel – including its flag state. The flag state is also the country that provides the vessel with its operating license. In most cases, the country of registration is also where the company behind the cruise ship is based.

For example, Royal Caribbean is a Miami-based company. But, most of its ships are registered in the Bahamas. But not all of them – some are registered in Malta. As such, they fly those countries’ flags. The country of registration has a lot to do with the law that applies to your case. In other words, it determines where you should file your claim.

Typically, your contractual agreement with the cruise liner will be governed by the law of the flag state. For example, if you were injured on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, your contract is likely governed by Bahamian law as their vessels are registered in the Bahamas.

Venue Selection Clause

Your ticket typically contains various clauses intended to protect the cruise line. One of them is the venue or forum selection clause. This clause dictates where legal disputes between you and the company must be resolved. In short, it determines where you will file your lawsuit.

Most times, the venue selection clause points to the flag state. But, as you now know, the ship might be registered in a country other than where the company is based.

And that’s not all – sometimes, the venue selection clause will also require that legal proceedings be brought in a specific court located in the said state. As such, failure to adhere to the clause could result in the dismissal of your case before it even begins.

For these reasons, it helps to look closely at the venue selection clause before deciding where to file your lawsuit. If you’re unsure what it says or need help interpreting it, reach out to a well-informed cruise ship attorney to assist you.

That said, the venue selection clause is only enforceable if it’s reasonable. If the court finds that it would be unfair or inconvenient for you to litigate in the specified country, the clause won’t be enforceable. 

Your cruise ship attorney can help you determine whether the clause in your ticket is reasonable. Even so, they can file a motion to move the case to a convenient location.

The Timeline for Filing Your Case

Mostly, you only have a limited time to file a lawsuit after sustaining injuries in a cruise ship accident. The clock starts running on the day of the accident or when you knew or should have known the incident caused your injuries.

In most cases, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of the accident – although this varies by state. Even so, a clause in your ticket contract may reduce this time to as little as six months. Failing to file your case before the time expires could result in dismissal, implying you’d be left without legal recourse.

Clearly, determining where to file a cruise ship accident case varies based on multiple variables. Your attorney can review your ticket contract and help you determine the right action. Besides, given their understanding of maritime law, they can help you avoid common pitfalls and maximize your chances of success. Don’t wait too long to speak with them about your options.

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