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If you listen to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), they will tell you that taking a cruise is one of the safest ways of enjoying a vacation. There is also no denying that they are popular. The state of Florida has five major cruise ports and accounts for over 7 million embarkments per year.

While it may be true that cruises, worldwide, experience only a 0.15 fatality rate and that CLIA loves to tout that number, they don’t care to discuss injury and death rates purely from their American carriers. If you have payed much attention to the news in the last few months it is easy to see why.

In the last two years, 41 people have gone missing from cruise ships and according to The Cruise Victims Association, in excess of 170 have disappeared since 1995.

Just recently, off the coast of Florida, a young lady only 26 years of age lost her footing and fell overboard. A paramedic who happened to be near by, sounded an alarm and went over the side to try and save the drowning woman. Neither of them were found, but what is truly astounding is they were not reported missing until the cruise ship docked in Sydney, Australia.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSS)

In 2011, the CVSS was signed into law. The CVSS, in essence, requires that cruise ships report “in a timely manner” all disappearances to both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Coast Guard. The CVSS also requires a similar reporting of all crimes committed at sea by a U.S. Citizen.

The hope behind this law was that early reporting would inevitably lead to more proactive searches for missing passengers and to the saving of more lives. By all appearances, this key phrase: “in a timely manner” has a different meaning to cruise lines, more worried about protecting their image and ticket sales than what was originally intended.

Non-Fatal Injuries

Of course, as tragic as these losses of life are, they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only risk involved with a cruise vacation. Lately, it seems that there is hardly a month that goes by where we aren’t hearing of either illness or (as happened just last month) a ship sailing into a hurricane.

What to Do if You Suffer a Cruise Ship Injury or Loss

The main thing to remember, if you suffer an injury or heaven forbid the loss of a loved one while on a cruise, is that standard Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Law does not apply to accidents at sea. There are a special set of federal and international laws, which apply to all events that happen aboard a ship. You will need an attorney with a background in Maritime Law to handle the case and you will need to find one quickly.

In many cases, your window for filing a lawsuit may be as short as 6 months and cruise lines are notorious for dragging their feet and transferring personnel, in order to avoid having to pay damages.

If an accident occurs, you can look on your ticket, which is a contract for passage, to see what the statute of limitations is that it imposes.