The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the daily lives of people nationwide, but even those far from home have not been spared. Hundreds of passengers on cruise ships—particularly those owned by Carnival Cruise Lines—have been exposed to coronavirus, stranded at sea in quarantine, and otherwise put at risk.

Our maritime injury attorneys are partnering with special counsel working with our passenger and crew member clients who were affected by the coronavirus outbreak who are entitled to make claims for their injuries due to the cruise company’s negligence. Most passenger tickets by contract require lawsuits for passengers to be brought either in Miami, Los Angeles or Seattle. We are working with a network of special maritime attorneys in these ports whom we trust working for our clients. If you believe you have been injured by the cruise company’s negligence, contact us immediately.

Shipowner Negligence May Have Led to Coronavirus Exposure

If you lost a loved one because of coronavirus on a cruise ship, or if you were a passenger or crew member on a cruise with a COVID-19 breakout, you may be eligible for compensation. Cruise lines have a duty to do everything in their power to minimize injuries on their vessels, including containing and controlling potential infections on board. Recent lawsuit filings indicate that Princess Cruise Lines and its parent Carnival Cruise Lines did not take adequate measures to prevent the spread of the virus, nor respond adequately when it became aware of the problem.

So far, several cruise ships have been identified as COVID-19 carriers:

  • cruise ships and coronavirusThe Diamond Princess was stranded off the coast of Japan with more than 700 passengers infected with the coronavirus.
  • The Westerdam circled the sea for days, trapping passengers aboard with nowhere to dock.
  • The Grand Princess docked March 9 in Oakland, California with at least 21 people testing positive for coronavirus.
  • The Costa Luminosa set sail across the Atlantic Ocean despite three people testing positive for coronavirus, trapping the remaining passengers on board for seven days.
  • The Zaandam was turned away from several ports at the end of March, finally docking at a port in Florida with four dead passengers on board.
  • The Coral Princess kept passengers aboard the ship after docking in Miami, despite news reports that Miami-Dade area hospitals were equipped and able to receive COVID-19 patients.

Steps to Take If You Traveled on One of These Cruise Ships

If you could have been exposed to COVID-19 on a cruise ship, it is vital that you:

  • Self-quarantine. Staying at home and away from others can prevent the spread of infection to loved ones. Wear a mask and wash your hands often.
  • Call a doctor if you develop symptoms. If you have a fever or cough, call your doctor to determine your next steps. Always follow the treatment plan you have been assigned, even if your symptoms improve.
  • Keep a log of your illness. While in quarantine, it is a good idea to note your symptoms and effects of your treatment day-to-day, as well as anything you can remember about your experience on the vessel. This can be useful during your recovery and your legal case.
  • Speak to an attorney. Unfortunately, the time limit for bringing these types of claims is extremely short. Passengers must provide notice of a claim within six months of the event and file their lawsuit within one year of the incident. By speaking with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible, you protect your right to take action against the cruise line.

Holding Cruise Lines Responsible for Coronavirus Deaths

At Hofmann & Schweitzer, we believe it is unconscionable for companies to put their profits ahead of their customers’ lives. At Hofmann & Schweitzer, we believe it is unconscionable for companies to put their profits ahead of their customers’ lives. That is why, with our partnering law firms, we are proud to help cruise ship passengers who have contracted the coronavirus, as well as relatives of those who died after contracting the virus on a cruise ship, assert their claims. We also assist crew members on these ships who could collect benefits under general maritime law and the Jones Act.

While damages in these cases may vary, pending lawsuits are seeking compensation to cover medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages related to the cruise lines’ negligence.

  • Failure to screen passengers before boarding. Plaintiffs have alleged that cruise lines did not have proper screening protocols in place, as passengers were only required to fill out a piece of paper confirming they were not sick—without further questioning—prior to boarding.
  • Knowledge of COVID-19 outbreaks on previous voyages. A lawsuit involving the Grand Princess alleges the cruise line was aware that a passenger who had been on a previous leg of the cruise had died from COVID-19, and that over 60 people from that leg remained on the ship for the cruise bound for Hawaii.
  • Failure to keep passengers safe during the quarantine. Once the risk was identified, passengers were ordered to remain in their rooms but were not kept informed about the spread of the virus. Passengers remained confined to their rooms after the ship docked, and received no instructions about quarantine or any communications about when they would be allowed to disembark or where they would be taken.
  • Failure to do adequate testing once they knew people were sick. Attorneys in pending cases indicate that only 46 out of 3,500 people on board the Grand Princess were tested for coronavirus once the risk was identified. Half of those tested positive, including 19 crew members and two passengers. When passengers were finally evacuated, they were grouped onto buses with 40 or more people, none of whom were tested.
  • Failure to provide the right onboard medical help for patients. Onboard doctors should follow strict procedures if a patient is sick with a communicable disease, including wearing protective equipment, quarantining the patient to prevent contamination, and recommending emergency evacuation if the patient’s life is at risk.
  • Failure to evacuate sick patients after the vessel was docked. Patients suffering from symptoms of coronavirus need life-saving medical care, and delays in treatment can be deadly. Unfortunately, many patients who were not permitted to leave the ship later died due to virus complications. If your loved one passed away because the cruise line failed to perform medical evacuation in a timely manner, you may be entitled to sue the cruise line for negligence. 
  • Continuing to operate and market cruises. The cruise ship line could have prevented infection—and saved lives—if it had recalled all of its ships after the Diamond Princess quarantine. However, the company chose to keep the outbreaks quiet in order to keep making a profit. 

Remember, the best way to protect your rights is to call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to speak with a maritime injury lawyer. We can listen to your story, advise you on your next steps, and work to get you the compensation you deserve.

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Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.