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Accidents on cruise ships

Emergency lifeboats on a cruise ship

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  • Overview
  • Our Experts
  • See Our 10 Simple Steps

For British holidaymakers, the idea of opting for a cruise instead of a traditional resort holiday seems more and more appealing. Similarly, many holiday makers choose to travel by ferry to their chosen destination, rather than fly. Sadly though, as the sheer number of people who decide to spend all or part of their holiday at sea rises, so does the risk that one of these people will suffer an illness or injury.  The most common types of passenger accidents on cruise ships or ferries are: 

Slips, trips and falls

Passengers can suffer an accident even before they leave port. Gangway injuries may occur as passengers embark and disembark. Slips and trips are common in the restricted space of a passenger cabin or shower / bathroom. Tripping up on stairways, in dining areas and near swimming pools is also a frequent hazard onboard a moving ship.

Falling objects

Ship movements or sea conditions can sometimes put passengers at risk from falling objects, which are not adequately secured on main decks, in dining areas and cabins. A sudden change in speed or course can cause passengers to lose their footing or create hazardous waves in the ship’s swimming pools.

Swimming pool accidents

Poorly maintained pools and Jacuzzis are a potential safety hazard. Not only do ‘wet areas’ present a  serious risk of slipping on tiled surfaces but also uneven, cracked or broken tiles can cause stubbed or broken toes and tripping up incidents.

Pool depth markings are not always clear which can cause passengers to misunderstand where they can safely swim and lead to potentially fatal difficulties while in the water.

Many of the leading cruise lines do not employ lifeguards to supervise swimming pool areas and have indicated they have no plans to change their policy. Instead, they claim to follow the lead of hotel and resorts by providing clear and visible signs, which inform cruise ship passengers that a lifeguard is not present.

Drowning or near drowning accidents

Falling overboard is always a potential risk. Of the 96 passengers reported to have fallen into the sea from a cruise ship between 2009 and 2013, only one in five (20) were able to be saved, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

Barriers surrounding decks should be properly maintained and checked, and life jackets and floats should be readily available.

Faulty equipment

Preventable accidents include mechanical defects with the ship itself, as well as any equipment available to use, such as:

  • Climbing walls
  • Flow Rider Surf Simulators  - where a thin stream of water shoots up a sloped platform to create a wave-like flow of water.
  • Gym equipment
  • Bowling alleys

If you have an accident onboard a cruise ship the law is different to the law that relates to making a holiday injury claim which occurred at a hotel or resort. The Terms and Conditions contained in your holiday contract, which are supplied by both tour operators and cruise lines, are bound by regulations set out in the Athens Convention.

The Athens Convention – what you need to know

The  Athens Convention applies to EU member states and has been in force in the UK since 1996.

Seagoing vessels owe a “duty of care” in the carriage of passengers and luggage by sea, and to passengers who are either getting on or off the boat.

The Convention operates in favour of the consumer. The fault is automatically presumed to be on the part of the carrier unless they can prove otherwise.  This is different to claims under the Package Travel Regulations 1992, which require you to prove the carrier was at fault.

A cruise ship accident claim will almost always be in accordance with the Athens Convention and not under Package Holiday Regulations 1992.

You can still make a complaint for a ‘spoilt holiday’, according to Package Holiday Regulations 1992, but this will be a completely separate action.

It is also important to be aware that, under the Athens Convention, the Terms and Conditions:

  • Only apply to cruises that start and finish in a UK port
  • Do not apply to domestic cruises around the British Isles and the coast of Scotland.

If your cruise departed from a foreign destination, you may be able to proceed with a claim under the Package Travel Regulations 1992 but only if:

  • There were no ‘stop-off’ ports of call in between
  • Your tour operator is a UK company

Time Limit

A further important difference is the time you have to make a claim from when the accident occurred:

  • 2 years - Athens Convention  
  • 3 years - Package Travel Regulations

Compensation Limit

A limit is imposed on the amount of compensation that can be claimed for personal injury or death.


All sea carriers must have insurance as they have a strict liability for passenger personal injury, fatality or any shipping related incident unless there is evidence to show the incident was caused by:

  • Natural phenomenon of an “exceptional, inevitable and irresistible character”, or
  • Wholly caused by a third party.

How Your Legal Friend can help you

We specialise in acting on behalf of anyone who has suffered from a holiday accident through no fault of their own while on board a cruise ship and wishes to claim compensation against a UK tour operator / cruise line.

With over 30 years’ experience in all aspects of international personal injury law, we can provide you with expert guidance and support every step of the way to secure you the best possible compensation.  We can also help you to claim back any additional expenses you have suffered as a result of your accident, such as:

  • Any medical expenses you had to meet while on holiday
  • Time taken off work on your return from holiday
  • Missing out on any holiday activities that your injury prevented you from participating in. 

Throughout your claim, Your Legal Friend will help you every step of the way

  • Work for you with no upfront fees
  • No win, no fee - guaranteed
  • 95% success rate for personal injury claims
  • Over £200,000,000 successfully won in the last ten years alone
  • Help and support you with your claim
  • 30 years’ experience in personal injury compensation

Talk to us today

For an informal, confidential chat about making a claim with one of our expert personal injury solicitors, call us now on 01515505228 (calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.

Alison Saul, Director of Personal Injury leads our Personal Injury and Road Accident teams. A fully qualified solicitor with over 15 years of experience and expertise, Alison is dedicated to achieving the highest levels of compensation for her clients as well as ensuring high quality client care.

Alison is assisted by her team managers, Philip Waters Lee Quinn, Jenna Hargreaves, and Kathryn Langton. Philip, Lee, and Jenna lead legal teams focussing on Road Traffic Accident cases while Kathyrn leads our Personal Injury team. Together they have a wealth of experience in personal injury compensation.

  • There are many people injured in accidents each year through no fault of their own and the circumstances will be difference in each instance. Our team has extensive experience of successfully managing a wide range of personal injury claims, so we can help you secure the maximim compensation you deserve. 

    Alison Saul,
    Director of Personal Injury

Philip, a qualified solicitor, has over 18 years’ experience in personal injury compensation. Having previously worked for a large insurance company, he has extensive insights in how to engage effectively with insurers to achieve the level of compensation our clients deserve. Philip deals with cases of high value, complex cases, and recently secured £1.6 million in compensation for one of his clients who suffered catastrophic injuries in a road accident.

Lee has over 15 years’ specialist experience in Personal Injury claims and also manages a wide variety of high value, complex cases. Lee has extensive experience of working with insurance companies, acting for both claimants and defendants, and so understands how to secure the highest levels of compensation for the victims of road traffic accidents.

Jenna is a qualified solicitor and has studied to become a barrister. Jenna leads the internal reviews of our case management processes to ensure excellent, efficient case handling and high levels of client satisfaction.

Kathryn, also a qualiied solicitor, specialises in accidents at work, public liability and accidents abroad. Kathryn deals with a wide variety of cases, often including accidents that involve serious, complex injuries.

Talk to us today

For an informal, confidential chat with one of our expert personal injury solicitors about making a claim, call us now on 0808 149 4227 (call free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.

Accidents & Illnesses abroad - 10 simple steps to achieving your compensation

For most people, a compensation claim isn’t an everyday occurrence so we thought it would be helpful to explain how we manage your claim and the steps that we both need to go through.

Step 1 - Obtaining a full description of your accident or illness

We need to understand as much as possible about your accident or illness – exactly how it happened or what caused you to be ill and why, the injuries you suffered, what happened immediately afterwards and how your life has been affected as a result.

Step 2 - Obtaining your medical records

We will ask your GP and hospital for your full medical records so that we can establish the extent of your injuries or illness, the treatment you received, and how long it will take you to recover.  If your treatment was carried out abroad, we can obtain and, if need be, translate those records.

Step 3 - Contacting the company responsible for your accident or illness

Once we have decided who is responsible for your accident or illness, we will inform them that you intend to claim compensation and send them the details you have provided.  We will let you know their response and, if they dispute the case, we will ask you to provide your comments on their response. 

Step 4 - Arranging your medical assessment

We will arrange for an independent clinician to evaluate the extent of your illness or injuries and whether they will affect your ability to work in the short or long term.  In holiday illness claims, it may sometimes be possible to obtain a “desktop” report that can be done based on your witness statement and any medical records so that you don’t have to go for a medical examination.

Step 5 - Collating details of your financial loss

In addition to compensation for your injuries or illness, you can claim for another other expenses you have incurred as a result, including lost earnings, expenses travelling to medical appointments, and the cost of care and help with everyday tasks.  

Step 6 - Providing you with our valuation of your losses

Once we have received all your medical reports, we can provide a valuation for your illness, injuries and associated losses.  We will send this to you along with your medical report. You then need to complete and sign the medical slip and schedule of losses and return them to us.

Step 7 - Sending your valuation to the other party's insurer

Once we have received your signed medical slip and schedule of losses, we send these to the defendant’s insurer and ask for their best offer to settle the case. Often the insurance company takes 4 – 6 weeks to get back to us.

Step 8 - Negotiating the maximum settlement possible

We work hard to achieve the maximum possible settlement for your case, which can take some time to negotiate. So we text and email you to keep you up to date with our progress.

Step 9 - Issuing Court proceedings

If the defendant’s insurer refuses to make a realistic offer, then we issue Court proceedings for a hearing.  It is very unlikely that you need to attend this hearing, so there’s no need to worry about it. 

Step 10 - Sending you your compensation payment

Once we receive your compensation payment from the defendant’s insurer, we let you know.  Most important of all, we send you your compensation payment straight away!

How long does a claim take?

Because the circumstances surrounding every claim and their effects are different, it’s very difficult to give a definitive answer on how long it takes to settle a claim.  Often it depends on how quickly our clients provide us with essential information, how quickly we can get medical records and assessments, and whether the insurance companies are willing to provide realistic offers to settle the claims.

Whilst we aim to settle your claim as quickly as possible, we also want to ensure we secure the maximum compensation for you.  This often means we have to do some hard negotiation with the defendants – which takes extra time. Our aim is to balance progressing the claim as fast as possible with getting you the maximum settlement.

We realise that you’ll be keen to know about the progress of your claim so we will send you regular emails and texts to keep you up to date, and also to remind you if there is any information we’re waiting for from you.