luggage on dock next to cruise shipCruise ships may not haul cargo, tow disabled vessels, or support oil rig workers, but the crew aboard the ships are considered seamen and are covered by U.S. maritime law. Whether the crew member is actively involved in operating the vessel or works to serve or entertain passengers, as long as the ship is owned by an American company and sails under a U.S. flag, they are covered by the Jones Act if negligence played a part in sustaining an injury.

If you were injured while working on a cruise ship, the maritime injury legal team at Hofmann & Schweitzer would be happy to hear your story and advise you of your rights.

How Do Baggage Handlers Get Injured on the Job?

Baggage handlers on cruise ships perform physically demanding tasks that can put them at risk of various injuries. As they lift and load passengers’ bags onto carts and deliver them to cabins, they can strain muscles, sprain joints, and tear ligaments.

If an injury is caused by negligence on the part of the cruise ship operator, the baggage handler might be able to file a Jones Act claim for damages in addition to applying for maintenance and cure if the bag handler is a member of the crew. The baggage handlers on the shore are longshoremen and are not seamen. Therefore, they are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act rather than the Jones Act.

Baggage handlers are at risk of suffering the following types of injuries:

  • Back strain. Lifting and carrying heavy luggage can lead to back strain and cause chronic back pain, herniated discs, and reduced mobility—all of which could render a baggage handler unable to perform their job for an extended period of time.
  • Shoulder injuries. Repetitive overhead lifting and handling of luggage can cause shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tears, tendonitis, and reduced arm strength, impacting a baggage handler’s ability to lift and reach.
  • Knee injuries. Frequent bending, squatting, and kneeling while handling luggage can put tremendous strain on the knees. Ligament damage and osteoarthritis are common in workers with physically demanding jobs such as baggage handling.
  • Wrist and hand injuries. Gripping and maneuvering heavy or awkwardly shaped luggage can lead to wrist and hand injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries, and reduced dexterity. A wrist or hand injury could affect an employee’s ability to handle objects.
  • Slips, trips, and falls. Slippery or uneven surfaces on cruise ship decks or in cargo areas can result in falls. Falls can cause fractures, sprains, head injuries, and more, potentially limiting mobility and causing lasting discomfort.
  • Crush injuries. Accidents involving luggage carts or equipment can result in crush injuries to limbs, causing nerve damage, fractures, or loss of limb function, which may lead to permanent disability.
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs). The repetitive nature of baggage handling can lead to RSIs in the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, or hand. The chronic pain, reduced range of motion, and difficulties with everyday tasks caused by an RSI can make baggage handling impossible.
  • Heat-related illnesses. Working in hot and humid conditions while loading or unloading luggage can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. In a worst-case scenario, the result of heatstroke could be organ damage, particularly if heat-related illnesses are severe and untreated.
  • Falling objects. Baggage may shift or fall during handling, potentially causing head or facial injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, facial fractures, or vision problems that can affect overall well-being and continued employment.

Injuries sustained by baggage handlers on cruise ships can vary in severity, and the long-term complications can range from mild discomfort to permanent disability. A safe working environment, including clear and dry walkways, ergonomic equipment, frequent breaks, and baggage weight limits, is essential to prevent injuries in workers. If an employer has not taken these safety measures, a seriously injured baggage handler who is a member of the crew might have a Jones Act claim.

Are You Eligible for a Jones Act Claim?

It’s important that you talk to an experienced maritime lawyer about the injuries you sustained on a cruise ship. Most cruise lines are flagged outside the U.S. to avoid the stringent maritime requirements—including Jones Act injury laws—so a call to our New York office could save you a lot of time in pursuing an injury claim.