Deaths on cruise ships are more common than most people realize. While the cruise lines work hard to avoid negative publicity following deaths onboard, statistics show that hundreds of people tragically lose their lives on cruises every year.

If you have lost a loved one on a cruise, it will be important for you to understand what will happen—and what won’t happen—next. Unfortunately, while the cruise line might express its grief if your loved one’s death makes headlines, the cruise line will not act with your family’s best interests in mind. Instead, the cruise line will focus on protecting itself from liability, and it will be up to you to hire a cruise ship accident lawyer to ensure that your family’s situation is handled fairly.

What to Expect After a Loved One’s Death During a Cruise

Here is an overview of what you should expect following a loved one’s death during a cruise:

1. The Cruise Line Should Place Your Loved One’s Remains in the Ship’s Morgue

Following a cruise passenger’s death, the cruise line should place his or her remains in the ship’s morgue. All cruise ships have morgues, though this is not publicized. The passenger’s remains should be kept in the morgue undisturbed until the cruise ship gets to its next port which accepts human remains, at which point the body will be unloaded from the ship and transferred to local authorities.

Sadly, while this is what should happen, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, the Miami Herald recently reported on a case in which a passenger’s body was allegedly left to decay in a drink cooler instead of being placed in the ship’s morgue.

2. It is Up to the Family to Have Their Loved One’s Remains Sent Home

Once the passenger’s body is removed from the cruise ship, it is up to the family to make arrangements to have their loved one’s remains sent home. This can be challenging—especially if the passenger’s body is located in a far-away foreign country—and it can also be expensive without insurance. Even though the cruise line made the decision to leave the passenger’s remains behind, it will not assist with this process. But, if you hire an experienced cruise ship accident lawyer, your lawyer can help you take the necessary steps to bring your loved one’s remains home as quickly and safely as possible.

3. The Cruise Line Will Investigate

Following a death onboard, the cruise line will investigate to determine the cause of death. But, here too, the cruise line will be acting with its own best interests in mind. As a result, the cruise line is likely to find that the passenger’s death resulted from “natural causes,” even if the totality of the circumstances at hand suggests otherwise.

This reflects one of the harshest realities of losing a loved one on a cruise. Following a passenger’s death, the cruise line’s sole goal is to minimize its risk of facing a wrongful death lawsuit from the passenger’s family. The cruise line does not have to disclose its findings, and it won’t disclose its findings if they suggest that the cruise line may be liable.

4. Federal Authorities May Investigate

If the circumstances surrounding a passenger’s death appear suspicious (typically as reported by other passengers or the passenger’s family), then federal authorities may conduct an investigation as well. This was the case with the recent death of a passenger onboard the Carnival Cruise Sunshine departing from Charleston, South Carolina. While Carnival Cruise Line released a statement saying that “all indications pertaining to the death . . . suggest that it was a natural death due to a medical condition,” the FBI nonetheless initiated an investigation based on reports of suspicious circumstances.

5. The Family Will Need to Hire a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

Even if federal authorities investigate the accident, the family still may not receive all of the information it needs to pursue a claim. Investigating a suspicious death for federal law enforcement purposes and investigating for purposes of filing a wrongful death claim are very different. So, while the government’s investigation may lead to criminal charges if charges are warranted, the passenger’s family members will still need to hire a cruise ship accident lawyer to gather evidence that proves their legal rights.

What to Expect When You Hire a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

When you hire a lawyer following a loved one’s death on a cruise ship, your lawyer will work quickly to protect and preserve your family’s legal rights. While different situations call for different approaches, in a typical case, an experienced cruise ship accident lawyer will take steps such as:

  • Obtaining access to your loved one’s cell phone to review any photos or videos that may be relevant to your family’s wrongful death claim;
  • Speaking with cruise ship passengers who witnessed your loved one’s accident or who have reason to believe that your loved one died under suspicious circumstances;
  • Deposing cruise ship crewmembers and other cruise line employees who have information about your loved one’s death;
  • Obtaining accident reports, emails, text messages and other records from the cruise line through the formal discovery process;
  • Communicating with federal agents who investigated your loved one’s death;
  • Working with medical experts to determine your loved one’s cause of death; and,
  • Using all of the available information to assess liability and file a claim against the cruise line before the deadline to assert your family’s legal rights expires.

Talk to a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer About Your Family’s Legal Rights

If you have lost a loved one in a fatal cruise ship accident, we offer our deepest condolences. No one deserves what you and your family have endured. We also encourage you to speak with one of our lawyers about your family’s legal rights. Cruise lines can be held liable for passengers’ deaths in many cases; and if your family has a claim, hiring an experienced cruise ship accident lawyer will be the first step on your family’s road to recovery. Call 800-499-0551 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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