Medical Negligence and Cruise Ships

Going on a cruise is the vacation dream of many. Even with cruise ships being shrouded in negativity with recent stories of passengers coming down sick, cruise ships losing power or the Costa Concordia’s tragic negligence.

When people set sail on a cruise ship, they don’t expect to sustain any injuries or come down with any illnesses. Unfortunately, the recent events have opened people’s eyes, and as a result, medical negligence attorneys are stepping up to hold these vacation cruise companies responsible for the happenings and treatments their passengers receive while aboard. As a result, passengers that may be harmed by medical negligence while aboard a cruise ship now have legal rights to hold parties responsible.

Medical Negligence and Cruise Ship Ruling

A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that cruise ship companies are not exempt from lawsuits for medical negligence saying, “We can discern no sound reason in law to carve out a special exemption for all acts of onboard medical negligence.”

Cruise Ship’s Negligence Causes Death

So how and where does this new ruling apply? Take for example the case of an elderly man, a cruise ship passenger, who slipped and fell on the dock while trying to board a trolley. The man sustained injuries and was immediately rushed back onto the ship to their onboard medical center. He allegedly received negligent care over the course of the next few hours that contributed to his death a week later. The victim’s daughter has filed a case for medical negligence against the cruise line, its employees, nurse and doctor.

Originally dismissed, the case went to the court of appeals which determined the exemption that led to the dismissal of the case was outdated and should no longer apply. Given that the doctor and nurse both donned “cruise line uniforms,” were listed as ship employees and worked in a highly-promoted onboard medical center, the cruise line should not be exempt from legal liabilities.

What’s Next

Next comes a precedent from the federal court. The federal court’s decision could set new precedents for future cruise ship medical malpractice claims. It also forces cruise ships to ensure they offer quality care as they are no longer able to hide behind outdated exemptions. In an industry where more and more cases of illness, injury and negative experiences are becoming public, victims of medical negligence may now have the opportunity to seek compensation as a result of their suffering.

The decision will also likely force cruise lines to adopt American College of Emergency Physicians’ Healthcare Guidelines for Cruise Ship Medical Facilities. These guidelines, specifically established to guide cruise lines and provide them the structure to create adequate care providing centers aboard their liners, would likely reduce the chances of medical negligence and increase the standard of care one receives aboard a cruise ship.

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