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Sea Injury Claims

Accident at sea personal injury claim

If you’ve had an accident or illness at sea that wasn’t your fault, you could be eligible to make a compensation claim.

People take to the seas every year to enjoy an exotic holiday of travel and decadence. According to Statista, in 2021 alone, 479,000 UK residents went on an ocean cruise, with many more embarking on daily boat trips or using ferries.

By law, every boat operator must keep each passenger safe and secure, as well as provide an excellent experience. Unfortunately, accidents at sea can – and do – happen.

While many passengers believe they can’t claim compensation if an accident occurs in international waters, options are still available.

The best way to determine your eligibility is to seek legal advice for free by calling 0800 234 6438 and speaking to a trained legal advisor, or using the online form to request a callback.

Accidents at sea

While the majority of people embark on a cruise and have a wonderful time, some find their dream holiday soon becomes a nightmare.

While ferries are more of a travel option for getting to nearby destinations such as France, cruise ships offer a touring experience, with passengers often being on the boat for three weeks or more.

These ships have a range of amenities and activities for passengers, including swimming pools, sports activities, theatres, cinemas, spas and children’s clubs.

Along with those amenities are thousands of cabins, restaurants, bars and staff accommodation, so there are plenty of potential hazards on the average ship.

Here are some of the most common accidents we regularly see:

Slipping and falling

Two of the most common – and avoidable – accidents at sea are trips, slips and falls. The crew have a duty to ensure they regularly clean the ship and place hazard signs in applicable areas. If the sign isn’t clear and someone suffers a slip or fall, they could claim compensation.

Other causes of these accidents include tripping over luggage left in corridors and falling due to defective stairs. Escalators and elevators might malfunction, which can cause head injuries, broken bones and back problems.

Recreational accidents

The ship’s crew must keep people safe during general activities such as swimming and climbing rock pools. If someone slips due to a wet poolside area or drowns because no staff members are around, this could count as negligence.

Also, if faulty recreation equipment causes an injury, the manufacturer and the cruise ship operator could be considered negligent.

Potentially fatal ship problems

If a person falls overboard due to an issue on the ship (such as severe damage to safety railings), it could be fatal.

It might seem unlikely, being on water, but fires can still happen at sea, and when they do, with nowhere safe to escape to other than open water, serious injuries such as severe burns, facial scarring and deaths due to the fire, can unfortunately occur.

Illnesses on ships

Illnesses can also be considered an accident at sea – especially if the illness occurred due to negligence. The cruise ship or boat operator must follow health and safety laws, but when they don’t, and passengers become unwell as a result, they could be held accountable.

Food poisoning

The kitchen team and waiting staff are responsible for handling food properly and ensuring they cook it safely. If bacteria enter the food, it could cause sickness, stomach upsets and – in severe cases – food poisoning.

Numerous symptoms and difficulties are associated with food poisoning, so it counts as a personal injury claim.

Legionnaire’s Disease

Bacteria in and around hot tubs and swimming pools on cruise liners are the leading cause of Legionnaires Disease. The pneumonia-like symptoms can cause breathing complications and even be fatal – especially in older adults.

Are you eligible to make an accident at sea claim?

All successful compensation claims must prove negligence by a responsible party. It could be the ship’s captain, the crew members, or anyone helping passengers board the ship. However, if you could also be deemed responsible for the accident, you might not be eligible for compensation.

For example, if there’s a clear sign telling you to avoid the wet floor and you walk over it and suffer a minor or severe injury, the ship operator isn’t negligent.

Similarly, if you ignore specific warnings in place, it will be difficult to prove the accident happened due to someone else’s negligence.

Claiming compensation without established fault

Some sea accidents occur where there’s no clear negligent party. If this happens to you, you can still claim if one of the following incidents results in an injury or fatality:

  • Collisions with other vessels or rocks
  • Defective or malfunctioning ships
  • Shipwrecks and capsizing
  • Explosions

You can also claim for accidents on the following vessels:

  • Cruise ships
  • Ferries
  • Yachts
  • Sailboats/Motorboats
  • Floating Restaurants

What if the accident happened in international waters?

There are conventions to ensure that people can still claim compensation for accidents in international waters. The Athens Convention has clear guidelines regarding the rights of international passengers, and your lawyer will be able to explain them to you in more detail.

Seek legal advice today and get the ball rolling on your claim

Cruise ship accidents or any incident at sea that results in you or a loved one suffering an injury that causes long-term pain, complications and even death, could mean you’re eligible to claim compensation. If you’d like to know whether you can make a claim, call 0800 234 6438 for free and speak to trained legal advisor, or request a callback through the online form.

A specialist legal advisor will learn more about your case and if they believe you have a claim, will refer you to experienced solicitors who will help you make your claim.

Find out more about making holiday injury claims.

The claims process

When dealing with sea claims, no win no fee personal injury solicitors are better than traditional legal services, as there are no outright fees to pay. When you enter into a no win no fee agreement, you’ll only pay fees if your personal injury lawyer successfully wins compensation.

It’s also an excellent way to see whether your claim will likely be successful, as no win no fee legal professionals don’t take on a case if they think you might not secure compensation.

Gathering evidence

Evidence is essential, as it proves that you weren’t at fault. All vessels have CCTV, so the first step for your lawyer is to request any footage of your accident.

You can also boost your chances of winning by asking witnesses for their contact details and seeing a medical professional on the vessel as soon as possible after your accident occurs.

The negligent party might also want you to attend a medical evaluation, which will verify your injuries sustained and any complications they cause.

Calculating compensation

When determining how much compensation you could be entitled to claim, your personal injury solicitor will look at the degree of negligence and how the injuries you’ve sustained impact the quality of your daily life when coming up with a compensation calculation. They’ll then put that amount forward to the vessel operator or insurance company.

Court proceedings are always a last resort, but they are possible if both parties can’t agree on an amount.

Settling your claim

Once both parties reach an agreement and you receive your compensation amount, the lawyer will take their fees out of the award, and the rest of the money is yours.


How long do I have from the accident to claim compensation?

The general time limit for personal injury claims is three years from the initial accident. However, incidents in international waters are more complicated, so it’s best to seek legal advice immediately.

Doing this means you can avoid wasting time depending on another country’s laws and secure the compensation you deserve.

How much compensation could I receive?

There isn’t a set amount for compensation, as it depends on numerous factors. They include:

  • The extent of your injury: Minor injuries that result in a full recovery will receive less compensation than serious injuries and those that result in long-term care needs.
  • The degree of negligence: Your lawyer will also determine how much someone else’s negligence contributed to the injury.
  • General damages: General damages refer to the injury and any loss of amenity.
  • Special damages: Special damages include travel costs, financial hardship due to time off work, any adaptions you need to make and anything else that’s had a negative impact on your life.
  • Psychological injuries: Along with your physical injury, you can also claim for any psychological symptoms as a result of the accident or illness—for example, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

You can use a compensation calculator to get a general idea of what you can claim, but the best way to get an accurate estimate is by asking your lawyer.

Can I claim on behalf of someone else?

Yes, if you have a loved one who died due to a sea accident/illness, you can make a compensation claim. Parents can also claim on behalf of their children, but if they don’t do this, the child can also claim for three years from the date they turn 18.

What can I use the compensation for?

It’s entirely up to you. Some people pay for private medical treatments or adapt their cars/homes, while others replenish their finances after time off work. Some settlements are lump sums, but you might also get money each year for a specified period.

How long will the claims process take?

That depends on the circumstances surrounding the claim and whether the negligent party’s legal team is willing to settle. Your solicitor will want to get you the maximum compensation amount in the shortest time possible, but it’s best to claim as soon as the accident occurs.

That way, you won’t have to worry about time limits, and your solicitor can initiate court action if neither party can agree on a sum of money.

To learn more about claims process, or to find out whether you can make a claim, call 0800 234 6438 for free and speak to trained legal advisor, or request a callback through the online form. The specialist legal advisor will listen to your experience carefully and if they believe you have a claim, they’ll refer you to experienced personal injury solicitors who will help you make your claim.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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