Who Pays for a Death at Sea?

Article Placeholder Image
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 04, 2017 2:00 PM

It may surprise you to learn that Congress is now considering a bill that would require cruise ship companies to report crimes and death on their vessels, even if it's only surprising to learn that cruise ship operators weren't already contacting authorities if a passenger was robbed, assaulted, or died at sea.

It may also surprise you to learn a similar bill has been floating around the federal legislature since 2013, and has yet to be passed. So will the most recent version fare any better? And who should be liable for deaths on the high seas?

Thar She Blows!

The new/old statute would revise currently passenger vessel security and safety requirements concerning, particularly in forcing cruise line entities to create and maintain log book entries and reporting of deaths, missing individuals, thefts, and other crimes. The Act would require cruise lines to ensure that each vessel is fully-staffed at all times with a number of sea marshals as well. Lines would also need to maintain exactly who has access to records, and install video surveillance equipment to monitor crime.

Without these tracking and reporting systems in place, it was far easier for cruise lines to skirt wrongful death liability, and the goal of the new bill was to give consumers more information and protection when booking cruise time. "I'm convinced that the only way we're going to make a meaningful difference for consumers is by taking legislative action," the bill's 2013 sponsor and former senator from West Virginia Jay Rockefeller said four years ago. "We need to make sure this industry gives consumers all the information they need to make a fully informed decision before they book a cruise vacation."

What Happens on the High Seas...

While the three biggest cruise lines -- Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line -- have begun to voluntarily publish a list of major crimes allegedly committed aboard their ships on their Web sites, the new law would require cruise lines with more than 205 passengers to report homicides, suspicious deaths, missing persons, kidnappings, assault with "serious" injury, theft of more than $10,000, rape, and sexual assault.

The Cruise Passenger Protection Act would also increase cruise operator liability for damages stemming from passenger deaths and allow the families of passengers who die in international waters as a result of negligence to more easily recover damages for their loss.

If you or a loved one has been injured on a cruise, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.

Related Resources: