Passenger Rights to Sue for Medical Malpractice Occurring on Cruise Ships
While no one expects to become ill or get injured while on vacation on a cruise, accidents can happen or a passenger can develop a medical condition while at sea. Until recently, cruise ship owners, doctors, and other medical professionals had immunity from being sued for medical malpractice under centuries-old maritime laws. However, a recent court decision has given passengers the right to pursue a claim for medical malpractice if they suffer injuries due to a cruise ship’s negligence in providing medical treatment.
What Are Your Rights to Pursue a Medical Malpractice Case If You Are Injured While on a Cruise?
In 2014, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision for passengers in Franza v. Royal Caribbean. In that case, an elderly passenger fell while the cruise ship was docked in Bermuda. He sought medical care on the ship, but the treatment was so negligent that he fell into a coma and died a week later. In ruling that the cruise line and doctor could be liable for medical malpractice, the court noted that cruise lines provide many luxurious amenities and state-of-the art medical facilities that include intensive care units. The court ruled that the cruise company and medical providers could be held liable as long as the person injured could prove that the doctor or other health care worker was acting as an employee and not an independent contractor.
The judges in Franza relied on a number of factors in finding liability that could apply to other passengers’ claims of medical malpractice. These include the following actions by the cruise line:
- Advertising that the cruise ships provided a medical center or medical staff.
- Retaining the right to hire and fire medical staff.
- Requiring the medical staff to wear ship uniforms and sail under the ship’s officers.
- Paying the salaries of doctors, nursing, and other healthcare providers.
- Arranging the stocking of medical supplies and equipment.
- Billing passengers for medical services.
How Does Medical Malpractice Happen Aboard a Cruise Ship?
Passengers can suffer many injuries or medical conditions while on a cruise ship, such as traumatic brain injury, internal bleeding, organ damage, broken bones, heart attack, back and spinal injuries, and stroke. Ways that doctors and other medical professionals may commit malpractice include:
- Failure to properly diagnose a medical condition.
- Delay in properly making a diagnosis.
- Failure to provide prompt medical care.
- Failure to provide the correct medical care for the passenger’s condition.
- Denial of needed medical treatment.
Medical malpractice claims against doctors, hospitals, and other care givers are challenging in general and can be more complex when the negligence occurs on cruise ships because of the maritime laws that could apply. You need the assistance of an experienced maritime attorney to obtain the compensation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call our office today.