Common Causes of Fall Accidents on Cruise Ships

On October 14, 2022, at around 2 AM, a passenger fell from his balcony on Deck 10 on the Mein Schiff 6 cruise ship onto the lifeboats. A medical team immediately reached the accident scene, but it was too late, and the guest died from the fatal injuries sustained during the fall. According to TUI Cruise Line, they are investigating the cause of the incident.

Ehline Law and our cruise ship attorneys have extensive experience investigating accidents and holding cruise lines responsible for their negligence. In the recent TUI cruise ship accident, let’s explore the possible causes of the accident and whether the passenger’s family can sue for falling from the top deck.

There are many probable causes of a passenger falling from their balcony, including the following.

Wet or Uneven Floors

Wet or uneven balcony floors can be a hazard for cruise ship guests as the balcony barriers are usually made from glass and are relatively low, making it easy for passengers to fall over the balcony after tripping or slipping. Someone could have spilled their drink from the top balcony onto the bottom, or the guest did not see the uneven flooring due to inadequate lighting at 2 AM.

Broken Balcony Rails

A poorly built cruise ship balcony can be a serious hazard, especially if the passenger leans on it to enjoy the view. The balcony guardrails may collapse due to the guest’s weight, causing him to fall from the balcony and onto the lifeboats.


Although sexual assault is one of the most common crimes on cruise ships, with the Department of Transportation reporting 101 allegations on cruise ships in 2019, assault and battery are also prevalent between employees and cruise ship guests. There have been many cases in the past where fights break out between passengers and crew members.

For example, in 2018, several fights broke out between passengers and crew members on a Carnival cruise ship. One involved a crew member kicking a guest on the floor repeatedly. Fights broke out among the guests during the 10-day cruise arranged by Carnival Cruise Lines.

It could be possible that the guest falling from the balcony was a victim of assault, and the perpetrator could be another guest or a crew member.

Alcohol-related Impairment

Cruise ships are all about having a good time, and the expression “booze cruise” comes from the massive supply of alcohol aboard. Drinking alcohol on a cruise ship is not a problem, but getting seriously intoxicated can lead to accidents and injuries.

In 2013, Sarah Kirby was on her dream cruise vacation and was celebrating her birthday with her friends on the stateroom’s balcony knocking down one Long Island Ice Tea after another. The bartender kept encouraging her to buy more drinks and incentivized her by giving her $5 casino tokens.

After a few drinks, Sarah leaned on the balcony and fell onto the lifeboats below before falling five more stories into the dark sea. Her friends tried to convince the captain to turn around, but the captain insisted on finding Sarah on the ship as that’s where most people are found.

When Sarah was not found onboard, the captain turned the ship around and eventually found Sarah 90 minutes later, badly injured in the cold water. Sarah and her attorney soon sued Carnival Cruise for making bad decisions and delaying efforts to save Sarah.

Sarah is one of many fall cases where passengers went overboard after the bartenders overserved alcoholic drinks. It could be possible that the man falling overboard onto the lifeboats was a victim of a bartender overselling drinks.

Can Passenger’s Family Sue for Fall from Top Deck?

The passenger’s surviving family members could sue for wrongful death if their loved one’s death occurred due to the cruise ship’s negligence. Whether it was a wet or uneven balcony floor resulting in a cruise ship slip and fall accident or an overly intoxicated passenger going overboard, the family must reach out to an experienced cruise ship injury attorney to investigate the cause of the accident.

An attorney can get access to security camera footage, reach out to witnesses, and collect other evidence to help reconstruct how the accident took place. It is the responsibility of the cruise line to ensure that their cruise ships are safe for all their guests. That includes having adequate security onboard to prevent assaults, cleaning crew members mopping wet surfaces, and responsible bartenders refusing to serve drinks to intoxicated guests.

If the evidence suggests that the passenger fell overboard due to the cruise ship’s negligence, the family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the cruise line to recover compensation.

If the passenger had purchased a cruise ship insurance policy, an attorney can also help determine whether the surviving family members can recover anything from the insurance to maximize compensation.

Is a Cruise Ship Liable for Overserving Drinks?

The landmark 2004 case Hall v Royal Caribbean Cruises helped establish cruise ship liability for overserving drinks to its passengers. The Royal Caribbean asked the Third District Court of Appeal to follow Florida’s Dram Shop Act, which, if they did, would restrict the cruise line’s liability.

However, the court refused and followed the general Maritime law that held the cruise line liable for overserving alcohol to the plaintiff, who suffered serious injuries after falling from the stairs drunk.

Since the 2004 decision, an injured guest can now bring a personal injury lawsuit against the cruise line for overserving alcohol and suffering injuries in a fight due to another intoxicated guest.

Although cruise lines are training their crew members to identify intoxicated guests and handle their requests for more drinks in the right manner, they are also introducing all-you-can-drink deals for a small fee allowing guests to drink alcoholic beverages all day long.

Injured passengers can hold the cruise ship liable if they suffer injuries after being overserved alcohol on the vessel.

Recoverable Damages in a Cruise Ship Fall Accident

When guests suffer injuries in a cruise ship accident due to the cruise line’s fault, they can recover compensatory damages, including the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation and therapy
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Reduced quality of life.

The damages an injured passenger can recover in a cruise ship accident depend on the nature of the accident and the severity of the injuries. In some cases, where the defendant can prove the cruise ship’s gross negligence, the court may also award punitive damages.

An experienced cruise ship accident attorney can help assess your case, calculate the damages and pursue the cruise ship’s insurance company to get you the compensation you deserve.

What to Do After Your Cruise Ship Accident?

Whether on a Norwegian cruise ship or any other cruise ship, the steps you take after your accident can help ensure a good outcome for your accident claim.

Here are some steps you should immediately take after a cruise ship accident:

  • Call for help immediately.
  • If you can move around, take photographs of your injuries and the accident scene.
  • Ask witnesses for their names and contact numbers.
  • Take down the details of crew members around you.
  • Request the captain to file an accident report and share a copy with you.
  • Seek medical treatment for your injuries and request a cruise ship medical report.
  • Once the cruise is over, head to a hospital for medical evaluation.
  • Contact experienced cruise ship, accident attorneys.

If you’re seriously injured on a cruise ship and cannot collect such details, ask a family member or friend to do it.

A Cruise Ship Accident Claim Is Much Different than a Car Accident Claim

Whether it is a passenger slip and fall accident or any other accident on a cruise ship, the legal process is much different than if you were to file a car accident claim. The deadline and the details of how to go about a claim in case of injuries are often mentioned in your cruise ticket’s fine print, which is why it is important always to read the ticket to know your rights. In most cases, victims of cruise injury cases have one year from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit.

However, there are other conditions that the victims must satisfy prior to the lawsuit. For example, passengers must give a notice of claim within six months of the incident before they can pursue a suit. Injured victims must also file the notice of claim in the venue of the cruise line’s choosing, and in most cases, these are locations the cruise company headquarters are.

For example, for claims against Florida-based cruise companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and others, injured victims must send a notice of claim to their head office in Florida. For Florida-based cruise companies, passengers injured must file lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Do You Need an Attorney for a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against a Cruise Line?

You don’t necessarily require an attorney to file a claim and pursue legal action against a cruise company, but your chances of securing maximum compensation are much higher with legal representation. For example, in fall cases where injured victims suffer serious fall injuries, a slip and fall lawyer can investigate the circumstances of the accident and collect relevant evidence to strengthen their case.

An experienced cruise ship attorney also knows the laws that may apply to your case. Three types of laws, state, federal, and international, may be applicable. An experienced attorney can assess the details of your case and help navigate the complex legal waters.

Maritime laws are complex, and cruise companies have lobbied for laws in favor of the industry, which makes it challenging to pursue these claims without legal representation. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help protect your rights as an injured guest and hold the cruise company liable for the damages.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

Whether you suffered injuries in a cruise ship slip and fall accident or any other accident, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.


Michael Ehline

Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of the largest maritime law settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.

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