Tragically, Cruise Hive reports that a passenger onboard the German cruise ship Mein Schiff 6 suffered fatal injuries in a fall earlier this month. According to the cruise industry publication, “During the morning hours, a guest fell from the cabin balcony and landed several decks down. Unfortunately, the guest did not survive the injuries sustained from the fall.”

Reports indicate that the passenger was staying in a stateroom with a balcony on the tenth deck of the cruise ship. For reasons that are currently unknown, the passenger fell “onto one of the lifeboats several decks down” and did not survive despite the ship’s medical team responding promptly.

Mein Schiff 6 is operated by TUI Cruises, which is a cruise line based in Germany. Royal Caribbean Cruises holds a 50-percent stake in the company. When the fatal accident happened, Mein Schiff 6 was reportedly underway to its homeport in Turkey after completing a seven-day cruise through the Greek Islands.

While Deaths Are Relatively Rare, Falls On Cruise Ships Are Not Uncommon

As Cruise Hive also reports, “Unfortunately, accidents such as what happened onboard Mein Schiff 6 do occur more often. One would wonder then what the cruise line could have done to prevent the accident from happening.”

While fatal falls onboard cruise ships are relatively rare, they happen from time to time. This includes both falls to decks below and falls overboard. Statistics from various sources suggest that there are between one and two fatal cruise ship accidents each year, with many of these accidents involving falls.

Of course, non-fatal accidents are far more common. In fact, it is fair to say that non-fatal falls on cruise ships are a relatively routine occurrence. While few of these accidents involve falls from balconies and falls overboard, these accidents do happen, and it is incumbent upon the cruise lines to do everything they can not only to prevent these accidents but to ensure that they do not prove fatal when they occur.

For example, some of the steps that cruise lines can (and should) take to prevent serious and fatal falls include:

  • Posting Warning Signs – Cruise lines should post warning signs throughout their vessels wherever there is a chance that a fall could result in a serious or fatal injury. This includes posting warning signs on balconies, near swimming pools, and in other high-risk areas. When temporary hazards present fall risks (i.e., spills or damaged flooring), cruise lines should place warning signs around these hazards as well.
  • Enforcing Occupancy Limits – Overcrowding on cruise ships presents several risks, including the risk of falls. To reduce the risk of passengers being knocked off balance or being pushed into stairways, escalators, pools or railings, cruise lines should strictly enforce occupancy limits both in private staterooms and in common areas.
  • Installing NonSlip and Non-Skid Surfaces – Cruise ships should have non-slip and non-skid surfaces anywhere there is a risk of a passenger slipping or falling. This includes decks, balconies, and staircases, among others. If a non-slip or non-skid surface becomes dangerous due to water or ice accumulation, the cruise line should post appropriate warnings so that passengers who have walked in the area previously are aware that the conditions have changed.
  • Keeping Decks Clear and Dry – While cruise lines should post warning signs around slippery areas when necessary, they should ultimately prioritize keeping all decks (and other walking surfaces) clear and dry. While trip-and-fall and slip-and-fall accidents are preventable, they are also among the leading causes of cruise ship injuries.
  • Repairing Trip Hazards – Along with items littering decks and walkways, trip hazards on cruise ships can also arise from damage and inadequate maintenance. When wood floors, carpeting and other walking surfaces become unsafe due to cracks, tears and other issues, cruise ships have a legal duty to fix these issues promptly in order to protect passengers’ safety onboard.
  • Ensuring Guard Rails are Sturdy and of Sufficient Height – Faulty guardrails can also be responsible for falls onboard cruise ships. This includes guardrails that are not sufficiently sturdy (i.e., due to being knocked loose or inadequately maintained) as well as guardrails that are too short to prevent falls to floors or decks below. All guardrails on cruise ships should meet certain safety standards, and if they don’t, the cruise line can (and should) be held liable in the event of an accident.
  • Avoiding Overserving Alcohol to Drunk Passengers – Drunk passengers on cruise ships are dangers to themselves and others. To prevent drunk individuals from bumping into other passengers and causing them to fall, cruise lines should have policies in place that prevent bartenders from overserving alcohol to passengers who are obviously intoxicated.

These are just some examples of steps cruise lines can take to protect passengers’ safety onboard. Any time there is a risk of a passenger suffering serious or fatal injuries in a fall, the cruise line must take appropriate steps to prevent an accident from happening. This applies onboard, on gangways and even in cruise terminals. Cruise lines have a legal duty to protect their passengers from unnecessary risks, and when they fail to meet this duty, they can be held liable under maritime law.

Taking Legal Action After a Serious or Fatal Fall On a Cruise Ship

While cruise lines can often be held liable for serious and fatal falls, passengers and their families must take action to assert their legal rights. Injured passengers should report their accidents and seek treatment onboard, and passengers and families alike should speak with a cruise ship accident lawyer. As unnecessary delays can lead to unnecessary challenges, anyone who has questions about their legal rights should seek advice as soon as possible.

Talk to a Lawyer About Your Legal Rights for Free

If you need to know more about asserting your legal rights after a serious or fatal fall onboard a cruise ship, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To speak with a lawyer at Brais Law Firm in confidence, call 800-499-0551 or send us your contact information online now.

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