The jury instruction reads “Just because an accident happens, does not mean someone is to blame". This instruction is a major stumbling block to plaintiff's recovering in cruise line slip and fall accident cases. The law is clear that a foreign substance must have been on the floor for a period of time long enough for the ship to either know or should have known of his existence and failed to clean it up. Alternatively, the ship created a dangerous condition and did nothing to warn its passengers or remedy the situation. Most cruise line slip and fall cases involve transitory substances on the floor, such as water, ice cream, coffee or soft drinks. At or near the food vending areas and the buffet lines there may be food on the floor. The difficulty in establishing liability on the ship is being able to show that the substance was on the floor for a substantial period of time, at least sufficient for someone to of seen it and cleaned it up. This is where most cases fail.
If you or someone you know is injured in a slip and fall case on a cruise ship, it is important that you look around at the surroundings and immediately document the area. Was the transitory substance or liquid in a place where you might expect that such as a pullback or outside Jacuzzi or by the service area of the bar? This is important because the ship will use it as a defense that a reasonable person would expect water to be on the deck in those particular areas. However, if the water is in an area where one would not expect it to be and that would be important because these areas are routinely patrolled and notice is easier to establish. Also, obtain the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses. Most people are willing to help but if you don't have their particulars then their information will be of no assistance.
Oftentimes, passengers believe that the threshold areas that separate one portion of the ship from the other are tripping hazards. However, the thresholds generally fall within the acceptable height deviations from the deck. Again, if you or someone you are traveling with trips over one of these thresholds, it will be important to photograph the area immediately. If, for any reason, the threshold area is damaged or defective, the ship has an obligation to inspect the area and correct any dangerous conditions. Photographic evidence is very important in the trip and fall, slip and fall cases. Every passenger has a camera or knows someone who has one. Have a member of your party photograph the area of the incident thoroughly and immediately thereafter. This evidence may be very useful in litigating a claim against the cruise line.
Obviously, the passenger’s level of sobriety and type of footwear will also come into play. Remember, you are given a folio charging card at the beginning of the cruise. The cruise line knows exactly how much alcohol you purchased with that card. If you are injured after a day of heavy drinking, you better believe that that will be a defense. Additionally, the footwear being worn at the time will also come in to play. It is, after all a ship, sensible footwear is a must. Sometimes you have to sacrifice facts fashion for safety.
Finally, every passenger has an obligation to look after his or her own safety. That means, you are charged with the responsibility to look where you're going and appreciate open and obvious dangers. Not every accident can be avoided but not every accident means someone said fault either. Each case turns on its own set of facts and circumstances. The more facts that are gathered immediately after the incident, the better chance you have to successfully prosecute a slip and fall or trip and fall claim against the cruise line.