Cruise ship crews work long hours in a unique and challenging environment. As a result, injuries are common among cruise ship workers.
In Dallas, many residents work on cruise ships that embark from nearby ports. When these workers are injured on the job, it can be devastating. They face medical bills, lost income, and an uncertain future. Many are left unable to access proper medical care and legal help.
At Husain Law + Associates — Houston Accident & Injury Lawyers, P.C., we understand the obstacles injured cruise ship workers face. We have seen the injustice firsthand. That’s why our experienced personal injury attorneys provide aggressive legal representation to these workers.
If you have been injured on a cruise ship, you can trust us with your case. You can trust that we will fight to get you the maximum compensation you deserve. We will also make sure that we hold the cruise line that is to blame for your injuries fully accountable.
What kinds of injuries are common among cruise ship workers?
Cruise ship crews work long hours in potentially dangerous conditions. Common cruise ship injuries include:
- Back injuries from lifting heavy objects like luggage, supplies, or equipment. Back strains and spinal disc injuries are very common since crews must bend, lift, pull, and carry items constantly.
- Slip and fall accidents on wet, slippery decks. Ocean spray, rain, and rough waves can make walking surfaces very slick. Crews work on moving ships, so balance issues lead to falls.
- Burns from working around hot kitchen equipment, grills, ovens, and dishwashers. The fast-paced galley environment leads to accidental contact with hot surfaces. Steam and grease burns are prevalent.
- Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) from doing the same motions over and over. This includes flaring ups of tendonitis, bursitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrists and hands from frequent cleaning tasks. Knee problems are also common from long periods of walking and standing on hard surfaces.
- Head injuries from falling objects, collisions, or getting thrown about by rough waters. Concussions often occur from blows to the head that then require monitoring for more serious brain trauma.
- Cuts from kitchen knives when chopping food or broken glass around the ship. Lacerations can be severe when accidental contact occurs with sharp objects. Infection is a high risk in unsanitary conditions.
- Broken bones from falls or accidents at sea. Fractures typically involve the arms and legs from falls, but rib and hip fractures also happen. Osteoporosis from inadequate nutrition/sunlight contributes to fragility.
- Vision injuries like corneal abrasions from working with harsh cleaning chemicals. Other eye trauma stems from flying debris, smoke, or splatter in industrial kitchens. Limited protective gear leads to eye damage.
What laws protect cruise ship workers from injury?
A few key laws provide protections for cruise ship crews who suffer on-the-job injuries:
- Jones Act – This federal law provides injury and death benefits for maritime crew members injured due to the negligence of a vessel owner. It covers medical expenses, disability pay, and lost wages for U.S. citizens working as seamen. Damages can exceed $1 million for serious injuries.
- Death on the High Seas Act – This law provides compensation for families whose loved ones die due to wrongful acts by a cruise line more than 3 nautical miles from U.S. shores. It does not cover injuries, only fatalities.
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act – This may cover injuries that occur when a vessel is docked at a U.S. port. It provides medical and disability benefits to dock, shipyard, and harbor workers. Cruise ship crews qualify if injured while working ashore.
- Maritime Law – These common law principles allow crew members to file personal injury lawsuits against cruise lines for hazards aboard ships. It covers negligence, unseaworthiness, maintenance and care, etc. Damages for pain, suffering, lost wages, and disability can be recovered.
However, some cruise ship employment contracts require arbitration agreements or impose other clauses to limit when, where, and how employees can file lawsuits over injuries and other disputes.
Crew members should fully understand their legal rights and restrictions under any employment agreement before signing on with a cruise line. Failure to do so could severely hamper recovery down the road.
Do cruise lines have to pay for medical treatment if I’m injured?
Whether cruise lines are obligated to pay for medical treatment depends on the employment status of the injured crew member:
- S. Citizens – Under the Jones Act, if a cruise line’s negligence causes injury to an American seaman, they are responsible for paying unlimited maintenance and cure. This includes all medical expenses, hospital bills, medication, nursing care, and any other costs associated with treatment, even for pre-existing conditions. The cruise line must also pay a per diem for food, lodging, and basic living expenses while the seaman recovers, for the duration of the voyage or contract.
- Foreign Crew – Medical coverage depends entirely on the terms of the employment contract. Some contracts state that the cruise line will provide treatment and even repatriation back home if a worker suffers serious injury or illness. Others require crew members to purchase private health insurance or maritime insurance before starting work. Broader national health insurance in some countries may pay for the treatment of foreign cruise workers as well. Workers should be sure to verify exactly what medical coverage is available before leaving home to start employment. Being stranded at sea or in a foreign port with no insurance or access to care would be devastating.
Bottom line – cruise lines cannot deny mandatory medical maintenance and cure for U.S. seamen. However, they can deny responsibility for foreign crew if contracts do not specify medical obligations. Lack of clarity around benefits leaves many workers vulnerable if accidents occur far from home.
Can cruise lines deny responsibility for my injury?
Yes, unfortunately, cruise lines very commonly deny liability when crew members report on-the-job injuries. Their knee-jerk reaction is often to blame the worker rather than acknowledge any breaches of safety, training, or supervision.
Some of the common defenses cruise lines use to shift responsibility to the crew member include:
- Comparative Negligence – They argue the injury was primarily the worker’s fault due to their own negligence or misconduct. For example, knowingly violating safety rules or acting beyond their training. This concept allows blame to be apportioned, reducing damages based on the degree of fault by both parties.
- Open and Obvious Hazard – Cruise lines claim the worker should have recognized the dangerous condition and avoided it. For instance, knowingly going on a wet deck in high winds despite an obvious slip risk.
- Failure to Request Help – Employers may argue the crew member tried to lift something too heavy alone without asking for assistance from coworkers.
- Violation of Training/Policies – The cruise line can claim the worker acted in a manner explicitly prohibited by rules and training, like trying to repair machinery without qualifications.
- Intoxication – Cruise lines will argue the crew member was drunk or impaired by drugs, causing an accidental self-inflicted injury. However, proving actual intoxication versus just an alcohol smell on breath requires evidence like testing.
- Horseplay – If injury occurs while joking around with coworkers in a manner prohibited by policy, the cruise line will deny responsibility.
However, cruise lines still owe a duty of care to provide reasonably safe working conditions, proper training and policies, adequate staffing levels, supervision of hazards, etc.
An experienced personal injury lawyer in Houston can often argue comparative liability, where both the seaman and the company bear some percentage of fault. Just because the worker could have been more careful does not relieve the cruise line’s responsibility to protect crew safety.
Some liability can be placed on the employer’s failure to provide proper training on recognizing risks, responding appropriately in hazardous weather conditions, getting help lifting, enforcing policies consistently, and addressing dangerous working conditions aggressively.
How much is my injury claim worth?
The total value of a cruise ship injury claim depends on many factors, including:
- Cost of medical expenses already incurred from the injury – This includes hospital bills, doctor and specialist fees, surgery, medication, devices like knee braces or crutches, ongoing therapies, etc. High-end spinal fusion surgery can easily top $100k alone.
- Income and benefits lost during the recovery period and time off – For many crew, lost wages while unable to work may be the biggest financial impact. Calculating precisely what was lost requires paying stubs, deductions, and tax returns.
- Estimated costs of anticipated future medical treatments – Some injuries like amputations require lifetime prosthetic care. Back fusions often fail after 5-10 years, necessitating additional surgery. Long-term physical therapy is common for major joint/bone damage.
- Pain and suffering damages – Compensation for physical pain, mental and emotional distress, trauma, suffering, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life varies based on the severity of the injury. More catastrophic harm merits higher payouts.
- Loss of future income – If the injury impairs the ability to return to work or reduces future earning capacity, the lost income can be calculated and claimed. Experts may provide vocational assessments analyzing the impact on job skills.
- Disfigurement or permanent partial disability – Compensation can be awarded for permanent limitation, like loss of limb use or mobility. Scarring and cosmetic deformities from burns, cuts, or crush injuries can merit additional damages. The more disfiguring, the higher the value.
As a general rule, severe injuries with high medical bills, long recovery times, and lasting impacts usually have substantially greater total claim values. However, even in the case of minor injuries, a qualified cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas can procure all necessary financial documentation to maximize final compensation.
How much can I get for pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering is considered general damages – there are no fixed limits or tables to dictate set payout amounts. The figure awarded is highly individualized based on the evidence presented in a particular injury case. Factors affecting pain and suffering compensation include:
- Type and location of bodily injury and specific parts affected. Certain injuries are considered more subjectively painful, such as burns, crush injuries, broken bones that jut through the skin, injuries requiring skin grafts or amputation, etc. Injuries causing disfigurement tend to increase pain and suffering awards.
- Medical procedures performed, especially types known to be very painful. For example, multiple skin graft surgeries for burn victims or spinal fusion procedures that are initially very painful until healing occurs. Higher medical invasiveness often equates to higher general damages.
- Length of hospitalization and recovery – More severe injuries frequently require longer hospital stays and rehabilitation periods involving frequent painful therapies. Extended damage equates to extended suffering.
- Subjective testimony on impact – Detailed descriptions of how much pain the victim experiences, the mental trauma and anguish, and the limitations to normal activities and quality of life tend to generate greater sympathy and higher awards.
- Expert testimony – Doctors can attest to the likely severity of pain based on the type of injury, standard healing processes, and required treatments. Family and friends can describe observable manifestations of pain and changed behaviors.
- Plaintiff credibility and likeability – Jurors tend to award higher damages if the victim is sympathetic and credible. Testimony perceived as an exaggeration of pain for money tends to backfire.
In serious injury suits, pain and suffering awards reaching $1 million or more are quite common when the factors above demonstrate extreme suffering. Juries are more generous when robust evidence proves extensive pain. With cruise industry negligence, ongoing medical care, and permanent disability, pain and suffering payouts can exceed seven figures.
Who will pay my lost wages while I’m out of work?
Who covers lost income during time off work while recovering depends on the employment status of the injured crew member:
- For American maritime workers protected by the Jones Act, compensating lost wages is the responsibility of the cruise line found negligent for the injury. Lost income would be a primary component of any Jones Act lawsuit seeking damages. The cruise company must cover any sick leave, salary, and benefits the injured seaman would have earned while undergoing medical treatment, hospitalization, surgeries, therapy, and recuperation related to the incident. The exact amount may require reconstruction based on work hours and earning records.
- In contrast, foreign crew members not subject to U.S. maritime laws must rely on personal insurance, contractual benefits, or savings to replace income interrupted by an injury. Some cruise ship employment contracts do incorporate limited sick pay or wage replacement for overseas workers injured on the job. But these provisions are rare. More often, the foreign crew needs private disability or maritime insurance to cover gaps in income before returning to duty. Lack of wage protection leaves foreign workers at major financial risk if injuries occur far from home. Seeking lost income can be much more difficult.
The key is understanding precisely what wage replacement is mandated or voluntary before signing employment paperwork. Too often, crews assume certain protections apply when they do not. This results in crushing lost income burdens after incidents.
How will my injury affect my ability to work in the future?
How an injury sustained aboard a cruise ship affects longer-term employability and career options depends heavily on the exact type and severity of damage. Some common examples:
- Traumatic brain injuries often cause cognitive deficits impacting memory, concentration, reasoning, communication, information processing, and judgment. These challenges make returning to mentally demanding jobs very difficult. Victims may be permanently barred from professions like healthcare, finance, engineering, etc. that require strong intellectual functioning.
- Spinal cord injuries frequently cause at least partial paralysis and loss of mobility. Victims may permanently require wheelchairs or walkers, heavily limiting physical roles. Many become entirely unable to work depending on the extent of paralysis. Even non-paralyzing back injuries often restrict lifting, bending, standing, etc. hampering manual labor potential.
- Orthopedic injuries like broken hips, damaged knees, or shoulder tendon tears greatly reduce physical capacities once healed. Victims lose strength and range of motion, preventing their return to physically strenuous jobs. Ongoing chronic pain makes even sedentary jobs untenable. Arthritis often follows joint injuries, worsening over time.
- Loss or limited use of hands/fingers from crush or cutting injuries drastically reduces dexterity. Many manual duties become impossible, especially for craftspeople, tradesmen, artists, and healthcare workers. Typing, writing, and fine motor activities are hampered long-term.
- Visual impairments like blindness or loss of depth perception from traumatic eye injuries restrict any job requiring keen sight. Vision loss often requires major career shifts.
- Hearing loss or tinnitus from working in extremely noisy engine rooms causes communication and concentration issues. Victims struggling to filter sounds have limited prospects in customer service fields.
Vocational experts can analyze how specific impairments functionally limit someone’s ability to perform previous jobs or related occupations. Knowing injury impacts on career potential strengthens damages claims, especially future earnings loss. Counseling facilitates necessary retraining.
Who pays for my return transportation home after an injury?
Getting injured crew members safely back home is a duty that falls on cruise lines for U.S. seamen, but is riskier for foreign workers:
- Under the Jones Act, cruise lines are legally obligated to provide any sick or injured American crew member free transportation home, in addition to ongoing maintenance and cure. This includes arranged emergency evacuation from a ship as well as more routine return transport after completing treatment. Cruise lines must also cover personal items and wages lost due to the injury and repatriation.
- However, for foreign crew without Jones Act protection, return travel depends entirely on provisions within employment contracts. Some cruise companies agree to provide free injury repatriation as a benefit, while others make no guarantees. Before signing on, foreign nationals should verify if return expenses are covered following an accident or illness. If not, private travel insurance becomes essential. Getting stranded abroad by cruise lines is sadly common and very costly.
- In dire cases where a cruise line abandons an injured foreign worker at a foreign port against their will, legal action may be possible to recover evacuation costs. But the evasion of duty must be extreme and provable. Relying on private evacuation insurance is wiser than hoping for legal mercy later.
Don’t assume cruise lines will repatriate injured foreign crew – always demand contractual clarity upfront. Also, as soon as an incident occurs, immediately contact an experienced cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas and then organize transportation if the cruise line won’t fulfill the obligation.
How do I choose the right cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas for my case?
Choosing the right cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas is critical to maximize compensation after a cruise industry injury. Key credentials and qualifications to look for in a cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas TX include:
- Specialization in Admiralty and Maritime Law – This niche sector has unique laws and rules that general personal injury or worker’s comp lawyers often don’t know. While a skilled and experienced car accident lawyer in Dallas may competently represent you in a cruise ship worker injury case, they won’t offer you the best odds of winning your case. Find someone well-versed specifically in the Jones Act, Longshore Act, and other seafarer laws. They should belong to maritime lawyer associations.
- Years of Experience Handling Crew Claims Against Cruise Lines – Don’t let your case be a lawyer’s training ground. Look for extensive prior casework holding cruise lines accountable for injuries and negotiating favorable settlements. An inexperienced cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas could tank your case.
- Willingness to Hire Expert Witnesses like Doctors – Medical and vocational experts are often needed to prove causation and economic losses. Seek lawyers who regularly retain reputable specialists without hesitation.
- No Upfront Payment Required – Most maritime lawyers work on contingency, collecting a percentage (30-40%) of any final settlement or award. Avoid any demanding retainers or upfront fees.
- History of Favorable Verdicts and Settlements – Research a firm’s case results securing substantial compensation for clients. Look for multi-million settlements in similar injury cases.
- Responsive Communication and Client Service – You need an available cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas TX who promptly returns calls and emails to guide you through the claims process. Disorganization and inattention are red flags.
Don’t gamble on attorneys with questionable credentials or disengaged attitudes. Research thoroughly to protect your rights. Ask trusted locals in the maritime community for referrals to a vetted cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas.
Can I pursue a claim even if I signed an arbitration agreement?
Many cruise employment contracts require arbitration, restricting employees’ ability to file lawsuits. However, an experienced cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas may find ways to challenge or bypass arbitration, such as:
- Arguing the arbitration provision is invalid or unenforceable
- Proving the cruise line violated employment laws
- Claiming the cruise line committed fraud
- Showing arbitration would cause unfair hardship
There are limited grounds to avoid arbitration, so legal expertise is essential. A competent attorney can strategically maneuver arbitration clauses.
Do I need to keep records of my medical treatment and expenses?
Absolutely. Thorough records help maximize compensation. Be sure to keep copies of:
- Medical reports from the date of the Dallas cruise ship worker injury onwards
- Test results like X-rays, MRIs, CT scans
- Logs of doctor visits, specialist appointments, physical therapy
- Prescriptions, medical devices, assistive equipment
- Receipts for treatment costs, medication, equipment
- Ongoing rehabilitation and projected future treatment
Detailed medical records prove the extent of the injury and justify the damages sought.
Can Facebook posts affect my injury claim?
Yes, cruise lines scour social media looking for evidence to undermine claims. Posts showing activities that appear beyond your medical restrictions can weaken your case.
Avoid posting details about your injury or activities during recovery. Set profiles to maximum privacy. Remove/unfriend co-workers who could share your posts with the cruise line. Vigilantly monitor your online presence until the claim resolves.
When should I settle my claim versus go to trial?
Most injury claims are settled out of court.
Settlement avoids delays and unpredictability of a trial. However, sometimes pursuing a jury trial is beneficial. For example, it is beneficial in cases such as when:
- The cruise line denies liability and refuses a reasonable settlement
- Compensation needed exceeds what’s offered
- Want to publicly prove the cruise line’s negligence
- Damages are extensive and warrant jury award
An experienced Dallas cruise ship worker injury law firm can advise you on the best option based on the specifics of your case.
How quickly do cruise lines have to respond to my injury claim?
For Jones Act cases, cruise lines must respond within 60 days of receiving the notice of claim, or a court can impose penalties.
Other maritime injury lawsuits proceed like regular civil complaints. Defendants have 20-30 days to provide an initial response under court procedural rules.
Failure to respond suggests the likelihood of settling. Quickly engaging counsel speeds the claims process.
Is it too late to take action if my injury happened months ago?
Probably not. Time limits depend on the type of claim:
- Jones Act claims – 3 years from injury date
- Cruise ship negligence – 2-6 years, depending on jurisdiction
- Unseaworthiness – 3 years
The clock starts ticking on the date of injury. However, cruise lines often argue time limits based on when symptoms appeared, versus the actual accident date. Consult an attorney immediately so you don’t risk blowing deadlines.
Act now to protect your rights after a cruise industry injury. Schedule a free, no-obligation case review with an accomplished cruise ship worker injury lawyer in Dallas for trusted advice on maximizing compensation.
Why Choose Husain Law + Associates — Houston Accident & Injury Lawyers, P.C. for Your Cruise Ship Injury Case
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while working on a cruise ship, the experienced attorneys at Husain Law + Associates — Houston Accident & Injury Lawyers, P.C. can help. Our firm has a proven track record of fighting for the rights of injured maritime workers.
Here are just some of the many reasons we are the top choice for cruise ship injury victims in Dallas:
- We have recovered over $100 million for injury victims. Our results speak for themselves. We have the experience and resources to take on major cruise lines.
- We handle cases nationwide. We represent cruise ship workers from across the country. Location is not a barrier.
- We offer free, no-obligation case reviews. Contact us today to have an attorney review your potential case at no cost.
- We work on contingency. You pay nothing unless we win your case.
- Our lawyers have decades of experience. We know how to thoroughly investigate cruise ship accidents and build strong cases.
Don’t wait to get the experienced legal help you need and deserve. Schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, by calling us at (713) 804-8149 or contacting us online. We are ready to fight for you.
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