Cruise tourism is a popular form of leisure travel in the UK. In 2021, the UK was the second largest country for cruise passengers in Europe, totalling roughly 479,000 passengers, a 76% drop compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Cruise ship holidays are supposed to be fun, relaxing and exciting. Whether you choose the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords, a cruise holiday gives you a chance to visit multiple destinations.
Most cruise passengers have a great time, but sometimes accidents can happen, and some have severe and long-lasting consequences. If you or a loved one suffered an injury or illness on a cruise, you might be able to make a cruise ship accident claim.
The most common reasons for claiming compensation include slips, trips and falls, swimming pool accidents and food poisoning. If the cruise ship owner or operator breached their duty of care towards you, you should be able to take legal action whether you were injured as a passenger or crew member.
Unlike other personal injury claims, there is usually a two-year time limit to claim for a cruise ship accident or illness, starting from the moment of disembarkation.
If you want to find out if you have a valid claim for compensation, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser. If your case has merit, they will offer you a no win no fee agreement. This means there are no upfront costs, and it won’t cost you a penny if you don’t win compensation.
Can I make a cruise ship accident claim?
If you were injured in a cruise ship accident or became ill due to someone else’s negligence, you should contact a solicitor as soon as possible. They will ask you questions about your circumstances and let you know whether you are eligible to make a cruise ship accident claim.
As a general rule, you should have a valid claim for compensation if:
- The cruise ship staff or operator breached their duty of care towards you
- As a result, you suffered an accident or illness, such as cruise ship food poisoning
- This caused you pain, suffering and financial losses
- Your accident took place within the last two years
Accidents do happen at sea, and there are several ways in which you could be injured. As cruise ships often travel in international waters, you will not necessarily be protected by UK laws. Instead, cruise ship accident claims are often made under the Athens Convention 1974.
The Athens Convention is an agreement between many nations to make claims for cruise ship accidents easier. It establishes liability for damage suffered by passengers and requires carriers to have insurance to cover personal injuries to staff and other members of the public.
The Convention does not apply to domestic cruises around British Islands or Scotland. For the Convention to apply, your journey must meet one of the following criteria:
- The ship’s port of departure and destination are different
- The ship’s port of departure and destination are the same, but there is a port of call in a foreign country
When making a cruise ship illness claim under the Athens Convention, your case will be heard in the country which is most favourable to you. If you live in the UK, you can usually pursue compensation here, even if your cruise departed from another country.
What are the main types of cruise ship accident claims?
Sea travel and cruise ships are generally safe, and serious accidents are rare. The cruise ship operator has a duty of care towards the crew and passengers and must take all reasonable steps to keep you as safe as possible. Failure to uphold their obligations would make them liable in a cruise ship accident or illness claim.
A variety of accidents could happen at sea, but the most common causes for claiming injury compensation include:
- Slips, trips, and falls on deck or while embarking and disembarking. These could be due to slippery surfaces, missing handrails, objects and luggage left in walkways, and other preventable hazards.
- Swimming pool accidents can be caused by defective steps leading into the pool, slippery surfaces, broken tiles, chemical burns or water contaminants.
- Injuries suffered during recreational activities offered on the ship, such as rock climbing, sky rides or water activities. In some cases, you may have a claim for product liability against a manufacturer, while in others, your cruise ship claim may be against the cruise company.
- Misdiagnosis, incorrect or negligent medical treatment by the ship’s doctor or failure to spot a serious condition that later worsened.
- Falling overboard or injuring yourself during storms due to a lapse in adequate safety measures onboard.
- Collisions are not uncommon and occur when a ship crashes into another vessel or object at sea or in a port. Such accidents can be due to the negligence or wrongdoing of the captain or crew and may entitle you to make a cruise ship claim if you are injured as a result.
- Fires are usually the result of equipment malfunctions or neglect of safety protocols and can cause severe burns, scars and disfigurement to passengers.
- Burns and scalds from the negligent service of hot food and drink.
- Injuries caused by defective equipment, such as malfunctioning elevators or escalators, damaged or poorly maintained furniture, or sliding glass doors that do not work.
- Mechanical malfunctions that can cause safety issues for passengers; engines may fail, blackouts can happen, and ships can list and lean violently, which may lead to injuries or extreme seasickness.
- Physical and sexual assaults by crew members or other guests, which can cause the victim both physical injuries and long-term psychological trauma.
- Food poisoning, allergic reactions and other illnesses such as legionnaires disease caused by poor hygiene standards and lack of proper inspections and maintenance.
- Fatal accidents due to overboard falls, drowning in ship pools, critical traumas, severe illness and other fatal injuries.
- You may also be eligible to file a cruise ship accident claim if you injured yourself during excursions arranged by the cruise ship company, even if it occurred on land.
However your cruise ship accident has occurred, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible to determine if you could be eligible for compensation. If you have a valid cruise chip claim, your solicitor will help you gather evidence to support your claim and offer you help and advice at every step of the process.
What should I do if I suffer an injury or illness on a cruise?
If you suffered an injury or contracted an illness on a cruise, you might be entitled to make a cruise ship accident claim. There are several steps you should take that may help secure compensation if you decide to take legal action:
- Depending on the extent of your injury, the first thing you should do is report the accident to the ship staff. Ask for a signed copy of the accident report form to prove when and where it happened.
- Seek immediate medical treatment for your injury or illness by visiting the ship’s doctor. Their medical report will serve as proof of the type and extent of your injury and what treatments you received.
- If you do not recover or your condition worsens, visit your GP or the hospital as soon as you return home. Your medical records will help prove the extent of your injury and whether you suffered from medical negligence on board.
- If relevant, take photographs of the accident scene as soon as possible, preferably before the cause of your injury is removed.
- If the area was covered by CCTV cameras, ask for a copy of the footage that has captured your accident. You should do this as soon as possible because the CCTV data is not usually kept for too long.
- Take the names and contact details of any witnesses to your accident who may provide a statement if the ship’s operator does not admit liability for your injuries.
- Document all the financial losses and expenses you incurred due to the cruise ship food poisoning or accident. These may include hospital bills, the cost of physiotherapy and rehabilitation, lost wages during recovery and other care costs.
- Keep a diary of how the accident occurred and how it affected your life and family.
If you are thinking of making a cruise ship accident claim, you should be aware of the most common mistakes claimants make:
- Failing to read and understand the terms and conditions of your cruise ticket;
- Failing to report the accident to the ship crew immediately after its occurrence;
- Not seeking proper medical care;
- Settling for less than your cruise ship illness claim might be worth.
To make sure you are fully compensated for your accident, you should contact a personal injury solicitor as early as possible. They will know exactly how much compensation you are entitled to and will help you collate all the evidence you need to secure a successful claim.
Can I claim for food poisoning on a cruise ship?
Many cruise ship illnesses are usually caused by poor hygiene standards or improper preparation or storage of food. Foodborne illnesses are typically mild and resolve within a few days, but some cases of food poisoning may require hospitalisation and lead to long-term health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
If you developed an illness due to negligence, you might be able to claim compensation for cruise ship food poisoning. The Athens Convention does not cover claims for foodborne illnesses; instead, your claim will be brought under Regulation 15 of The Package Travel Regulations 1992.
Some of the most common reasons leading to food poisoning on a cruise include:
- The kitchen staff not washing their hands before cooking
- Using dirty kitchen tools or appliances
- Preparing food in an unsanitary environment
- Not cooking the food at the right temperature or amount of time to kill germs
- Not washing the ingredients thoroughly
- Using ingredients past their expiration date
- Mixing cooked meat or vegetables with raw meat
Certain foods and ingredients are more likely to cause cruise ship food poisoning than others. These include raw or rare meat, poultry, unpasteurised milk, shellfish and undercooked eggs. There are over 250 types of foodborne illnesses, and most of them are caused by the following organisms:
- Campylobacter is usually found in poultry, meat or unpasteurised milk and causes around 630,000 illnesses per year in the United Kingdom.
- Cyclospora is a microscopic parasite that spreads through food or water that has been contaminated and is typically linked to raspberries, basil, snow peas and lettuce.
- Escherichia coli is found in meat, fruits and vegetables and can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhoea, and vomiting and can lead to life-threatening complications in some patients.
- Shigella is usually passed on through poor hygiene and can cause very severe diarrhoea and other symptoms like fever, abdominal pain and feeling down or depressed.
- Salmonella can be found in meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and is one of the top causes of food poisoning fatalities, with 57 deaths recorded in both 2017 and 2018 in the UK.
- Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Norovirus can be found in fresh fruit and leafy greens that are not properly washed. It is highly contagious, causing inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
If you suffered a foodborne illness after eating onboard a cruise ship, you might want to make a cruise ship food poisoning claim. There are several steps you should take where applicable to help build a strong case, such as:
- Seek immediate medical assistance from the ship’s doctor;
- Take photos to show the hygiene standards at the restaurant;
- Inform the cruise ship operator and your tour operator if you booked your cruise through a holiday company;
- Take the contact details of any other guests who got sick;
- Report your illness to the Food Standards Agency.
Who is responsible for cruise ship accidents?
Under maritime law, the cruise line company will usually be held liable for cruise ship accidents. However, to have a valid compensation claim, you must be able to prove negligence and that the ship’s operator knew or should have known about unsafe conditions on the vessel.
When you are on a ship, the owner has a duty to ensure you are safe from injury. This duty of care extends to accidents, intentional harm and, up to a point, unforeseen events. If you suffered an injury or illness due to a lack of safety or protective measures, you might be able to claim compensation.
Usually, your passenger ticket stipulates the terms and conditions of your trip and lists important cruise ship accident claim information. For example, you may not be able to take legal action if:
- You tripped or fell due to drinking too much alcohol
- You did not follow the proper safety instructions
- You provoked another passenger who assaulted you
- You were fooling around in an area that was off-limits to passengers
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may also be able to file your cruise ship claim against the following:
- The owner of the cruise ship
- The company that charted the cruise ship
- The company that operated the cruise ship
- The tour operator or holiday company who sold you the ticket
A solicitor experienced in pursuing cruise ship accident claims will help establish liability and gather evidence to ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.
Can I claim for an accident while working on a cruise ship?
Cruise ship staff members are entitled to fair treatment and a safe working environment. Every cruise line is expected to follow the Health and Safety guidelines dictated by the Government under which jurisdiction the cruise line operates, but this only applies within local waters.
Once the ship is in international waters, the maritime law applies, which makes cruise ship accident claims following a workplace injury a complex challenge. If you were injured while working on a cruise ship, you will need expert legal advice to secure compensation.
Cruise ship employees often work long hours and in potentially dangerous conditions. This frequently leads to injuries that can range from minor to life-threatening, of which the most common are:
- Slip and fall injuries, such as broken bones and soft tissue trauma
- Sprains and strains
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Injuries from fights and assaults by passengers or fellow crew members
If you suffered an injury or illness as a member of the cruise ship staff, there are some things you should do to significantly increase your chances of receiving compensation:
- File an accident report with your employer detailing your injury;
- Seek immediate medical help and request a medical report from the doctor;
- If other crew members or passengers saw what happened, request their contact details;
- Write down the date, time, circumstances, and the exact location where the injury occurred;
- Take photographs of the conditions where your accident occurred;
- Do not return to work while injured or feeling unwell, even if your supervisor insists;
- Contact an experienced personal injury solicitor as soon as possible.
If you suffered a cruise ship accident, your employer could be held responsible for your injuries if they failed to:
- Carry out risk assessments to identify hazards in the workplace
- Follow or enforce safety measures
- Take adequate measures in poor weather conditions
- Provide you with proper protective clothing or equipment
- Provide sufficient training and information on safety procedures
- Make sure that the cruise ship is safe to operate
- Carry out regular inspections and maintenance
How long do I have to claim for a cruise ship accident?
Unlike other personal injury claims, there is a two-year time limit to start cruise ship accident claims under the Athens Convention. The time begins to run from the date the injured person has gotten off the ship.
It is important to note that the Limitation Act 1980 does not apply to the Athens Convention. This means that the time limit to make a cruise ship accident claim is still two years even if:
- The victim is a child under 18;
- The victim lacks the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings, either due to a pre-existing condition or an injury caused by the cruise ship accident;
- The victim passed away due to a fatal injury suffered on a cruise ship.
Claims for cruise ship food poisoning are made under The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. In this case, the time limit for bringing a cruise ship illness claim is three years from the date you became aware of your condition and:
- The three-year period starts to run once the victim turns 18; before that, a parent or another litigation friend can pursue compensation on behalf of the victim at any time.
- The time limit to claim is suspended if the victim lacks the mental capacity to handle their case.
In any case, it is vital that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. This will allow your solicitor enough time to speak to witnesses, arrange for medical reports and collect supporting evidence to secure compensation for your cruise ship accident.
How much compensation could I claim for a cruise ship illness or injury?
There is no set rule for how much compensation is awarded in personal injury claims. Your settlement will depend on several factors, such as the type and extent of your injuries, if you had to take time off work and whether you were partially at fault.
At the beginning of your claim, your solicitor will consider all you have been through to work out a fair compensation award. This is designed to help you get back on your feet and put you in a position similar to where you would have been without having the accident.
General damages are awarded for the physical injury or illness and how it affected your life, taking into account the following:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional and psychological distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of amenities, including the inability to pursue a hobby or social event
- Loss of enjoyment of your holiday
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium or companionship
Special damages are awarded for any costs and financial losses incurred as a result of your accident, which could include:
- Lost wages during recovery
- Loss of earning capacity if your injuries do not allow you to return to work
- Medical expenses, such as hospitalisation and treatments
- Care costs if you needed someone to support you whilst injured
- Adaptations to your home or vehicle to help you cope with any ongoing disabilities
- Travel expenses related to your injuries
In England and Wales, the compensation for general damages is calculated according to the guidelines published by the Judicial College. Examples of potential compensation awards recommended by the Judicial College include the following:
- Up to £3,790 for a minor finger injury
- £24,740 to £171,920 for severe hand injuries leading to amputations or permanent disability
- £6,080 to £10,350 for mild wrist injuries with expected full recovery within two years
- Up to £11,820 for moderate elbow injuries that do not cause significant long-term problems
- £5,630 to £36,770 for mild arm injuries causing a restriction in movement but with substantial recovery
- £15,320 to £46,780 for moderate leg injuries with some long-term mobility issues
- £78,800 to £189,110 for very severe foot injuries, including amputation of one or both feet
- £1,760 to £11,200 for minor head injuries with no brain damage
- £40,410 to £85,150 for moderate brain injuries that affect concentration and memory
- £59,120 to £70,490 for severe back injuries causing loss of sensation and mobility
- £910 to £3,950 for mild food poisoning that causes pain, cramps and diarrhoea lasting from several days to weeks
- £3,950 to £8,180 for PTSD with complete recovery within a year or two
To start a cruise ship accident claim or find out more about how much compensation your claim could be worth, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to receive a free consultation with an experienced legal adviser.