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While many may not realize it, the period between the first of August and the Christmas Holidays is one of the busiest times of the year for the cruise industry. True, family focused cruises see a sharp drop in participation due to schools being back in session, but with the combination of cooler weather setting in (in northern locales) and the many discounts that cruise lines offer during the storm season, keep the majority of staterooms filled and passenger manifest overflowing.

To many people, this is their last gasp at summer fun; their final chance to get away before settling in for the winter. Unfortunately, it is also for many, their last gasp period. Of all the different sectors of the travel industry, it seems that cruise lines have one of the spottiest safety records.

Deaths at Sea

According to in 2015 alone, there were 451 deaths reported worldwide on cruise ships and according to the U.S. Coast Guard, 23 deaths have already been reported on cruise ships served by U.S. ports in 2016. These are just the incidents that have been reported to the authorities.

Considering that the majority of cruise ship companies are incorporated outside the United States and their ships flagged overseas, mostly in countries with less than sterling record keeping systems or reporting requirements, and it easily becomes apparent that these numbers may only be scratching the surface.

Outside the U.S., Outside the Law

As you can imagine, if the number of deaths is nearly impossible to calculate or track, then the number of non-fatal accidents is beyond even attempting. One of the major causes of this situation is that cruise lines operate outside the law, as most people understand it, and as Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has been quoted as saying “Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the wild west of the travel industry.”

U.S. Ported Ships

Ships that embark passengers at U.S ports are required to meet several criteria beyond those demanded by their country of registration. Among these is the requirement to pass a coast guard health and safety inspection to assure they meet the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea standards, as well as any other state and federal regulations that might come into play.

From the number of deaths noted, by the coast guard, and reported above, there is still a lot of room for improvement, but ships leaving from U.S. ports are, in general, safer than those leaving from ports with less diligence.

When Things Go Wrong

As noted, accidents at sea don’t fall under the same laws as those you may be familiar with. Maritime Law is a completely different world that has very different filing requirements and burdens of proof than those found in the state of Florida or any other state.

If you should be unfortunate enough to be hurt or heaven forbid, lose a loved one while they are on a cruise, you are going to need to be represented by an attorney that is not only familiar with Personal Injury Law, but with Maritime Law as well.

Generally speaking, your time to file a case involving an incident on a cruise ship, whether it is a death, injury, illness or criminal act is very limited. It is best to find qualified representation as soon as possible after returning to port.