If your loved one died in an accident on a cruise ship, surviving family members may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the cruise line. These types of claims fall under the terms and conditions of your passenger contract, maritime law and other relevant federal laws. 

Learn more about proving liability and other aspects of a cruise-related wrongful death claim. 

Death on High Seas Act 

This 1886 statute covers deaths that occur within three nautical miles of United States land. The law defines who can bring a claim, including the decedent’s surviving spouse, child, parent or another dependent family member. It also provides for the proportional division of fair compensation among the survivors. Under this federal law, the survivors can claim compensation even when the person shared some responsibility for his or her death. Some of the incident types that could result in a wrongful death suit on a cruise ship include: 

  • Fall injuries 
  • Drowning 
  • Injuries that occur during recreational activities 
  • Traumatic brain injury resulting from a fallen object 
  • Assault 
  • Medical malpractice 

Cruise ship operators must abide by a heightened duty of care. The company holds responsibility for preventing incidents caused by third-parties with cameras, background checks and other security measures. 

Types of compensation 

Damages available to survivors under DOHSA include the value of both financial and nonfinancial contributions the family has lost. This includes the person’s parental support and encouragement, household services such as maintenance and child care, emotional and practical support to his or her spouse, loss of projected inheritance, and medical expenses and funeral costs associated with the incident. DOHSA does not cover loss of companionship, emotional anguish, the decedent’s lost wages or his or her pain and suffering. 

Most wrongful death claims involving cruise ships have a statute of limitations of three years according to federal law. However, the person’s passenger contract with the cruise line may shorten this time frame to one year, which means that you should act quickly to gather evidence and seek witness statements when pursuing this type of claim.