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Considering A Cruise Vacation? Know Your Rights

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Every year 23-million passengers embark on cruise ship vacations. Of course, those are pre-COVID numbers, but the good news is that ships are sailing once again. In light of this information, it is crucial to know your rights before you board, so you can cruise with confidence.

“The first thing passengers should do is read their ticket,” says Josh Ferraro, partner at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith Law Firm with offices in Stuart, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton. According to Ferraro, the back of the ticket contains your contract and vital information about your legal obligations in the event that something happens during your vacation. The ticket will outline where, when and in what court a claim for damages must be brought and important notice provisions depending on the type of claim that you intend to pursue. A passenger who is unaware of these limitations runs the risk of voiding any claim that he or she might have for compensation if they are injured, or lose property, due to the negligence of the cruise line or its staff.

Additional rights are also outlined in the Cruise Line Passengers Bill of Rights, which is comprised of uniform guidelines agreed to by each member of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). These rights are designed to ensure safe passage and address your rights if an accident, evacuation, cancellation or adverse event occurs during your vacation. You can find that list on your cruise line’s company website. It’s a good idea to review those before you step on the gangway.

Injuries on cruise ships are more common than one might think, according to Ferraro, who routinely represents vacationers that have been injured aboard cruise ships or during travel. “Primarily we see cases that involve a slip and fall on the deck or the failure of equipment such as a chair or barstool collapsing.”

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Ferraro says there are strict guidelines that can sink any plans for a lawsuit, if passengers don’t know them before they decide to sue. First, you must file a lawsuit within one year of your vacation. Second, a notice to file is required within six months of your trip. And third, lawsuits must be filed in the location and court specified in your cruise ticket. In most cases, that means you will be filing your claim in federal court in South Florida.

Those exciting shore excursions can create life long memories for adventurous passengers. But they can also be a reason for concern. “Most people think because the cruise line suggested the excursion, that it’s safe and the company has been vetted,” Ferraro said.

“The reality is most cruise lines aren’t looking at those companies, their employees or their business practices well enough to ensure that safe practices are being followed.” While most people won’t be able to investigate the company while they’re on vacation. Ferraro suggests the least you should do is Google the company before you decide to pay for their services. Make sure to read the reviews and check if they have complaints or lawsuits filed against them.

Before you pack your bags, Ferraro also suggests checking in with your health insurance provider.  “In case of a medical emergency, travelers should know if their insurance provides medical coverage outside of the United States.” If they don’t, Ferraro advises that some credit card companies will offer additional medical coverage, or even emergency transport services, if you pay for the trip using that credit card.

Now when it comes to COVID, the law is a bit murky. “Currently, there doesn’t seem to be a right to sue over COVID exposure on a cruise ship, because there’s little way to prove you contracted the virus on the ship.” Ferraro admits this is an evolving area of the law that needs further study. Cases are being heard in federal court now, but have yet to be finalized.

You should also know cruise lines operating from Florida ports are choosing to follow the CDC guidelines. So, you may be required to wear a mask and be tested for COVID and in many cases you will not be permitted on the ship unless you can establish your vaccination status. Ask these questions before you book your travel plans.

The Federal Maritime Commission regulates the cruise industry; however, its focus is on safety rather than consumer issues. Passengers who know their rights before they travel, can expect smoother sailing ahead.

Source: News release


Joshua D. Ferraro

Author Bio:  Joshua D. Ferraro, In addition to the litigation of traditional personal injury cases, Josh is the head of the firm’s Maritime & Cruise Ship Injury division representing passengers and crew members who have been injured on vacation or at sea.

About Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC

Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, (LLL&S) is one of Florida’s oldest law firms. established in 1927 by Joseph H. Lesser in West Palm Beach. Celebrating its 94th anniversary this month, the firm serves clients in The Treasure Coast, Palm Beach and throughout Florida. With a longstanding reputation for superior client services, outstanding verdicts, and settlements, the firm focuses on serious personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. All firm partners and associates are “AV” rated by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating in ethics and legal ability. LLL&S is active in the community, and has dedicated itself to numerous local and community organizations in addition to best serving its clients. The firm has obtained significant settlements and verdicts over the years and is well regarded among insurance companies and insurance defense lawyers. This experience and reputation enable the firm to obtain the best possible results for its clients. For more information on LLL&S with offices in Stuart, West Palm Beach, and Boca Raton, call 772-283-6839 or visit www.lesserlawfirm.com