Sea accident claims

This category includes accidents on cruise liners, ferries and ships and covers all eventualities. It also applies to oil rigs.

Many people travel by ship or boat for a variety of reasons, such as a holiday cruise or as a means of transporting themselves to a destination, e.g. cross channel ferry.

Then there are smaller boats used to travel between islands, for example ‘island hopping’ whilst on holiday or to get to work or school, e.g. small inter-island ferries.

Owner’s duty of care

Whatever the reason, people expect there to be safeguards in place when they travel on board a boat or ship to reduce the risk of an accident. These health and safety guidelines are designed to protect the passengers from harm and should be adhered to on a regular basis.

The owners of a boat, ferry or cruise liner have a duty of care to their passengers. This means ensuring that your journey runs smoothly and with the minimum of fuss.

But if any of this fails and you develop an injury or illness as a result of negligence then you may be entitled to compensation. This includes injuries sustained as a result of a collision with another boat or an onboard illness such as food poisoning.

Examples of sea accidents

There have been several high profile accidents at sea which include:

  • The Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster
  • Piper Alpha oil rig disaster
  • The Marchioness pleasure boat disaster
  • The Sea Princess food poisoning

In reference to the last item: there have been several outbreaks of food poisoning on cruise ships which include the Aurora, Boudicca and Van Gogh.

Food poisoning occurs as a result of contamination of food by bacteria or viruses, e.g. salmonella or norovirus. It is transmitted through contact with infected surfaces and spreads very easily in confined areas.

Whilst many people expect to develop ‘traveller’s tummy’in the first day or two of their holiday they do not expect to contract a full blown case of E coli food poisoning.

If this has happened to you then consider making a claim for compensation.

Effect of a sea accident

The effects of this type of accident include not only the physical injury but mental and emotional distress. This can be severe and in some cases result in post traumatic stress disorder.

The consequences can be life changing –for both you and your family.

Your injuries may taking time off work or even having to give up work completely. This causes anxiety and stress for your family who are faced with a drop in income and living standards. In some cases this may mean financial hardship.

There may be additional expenses such as the cost of rehabilitation, medication, specialist aids, nursing care and support. Plus travel fares to hospital or car parking charges.

Whilst individually, these may seem like small amounts, when added together they are large enough to cause additional worry and stress.

A compensation award can help. If you have sustained a serious injury then the award will be substantial which can be used to cover these costs. Whilst this will not turn back the clock in regard to the accident it may improve you and your family’s quality of life.

Making a claim for compensation for a sea accident

Cases such as these can be complex, time consuming affairs. They may involve a variety of legal processes such as an inquest, criminal proceedings and possibly a public inquiry. This is more than likely if this is a high profile case in which large numbers of people have been injured.

But whatever the extent of the accident, you will need to find a personal injury law firm or solicitor who has experience in these large types of claims. He or she will have knowledge and understanding in respect of the various legal processes that this type of claim entails. He/she will conduct an initial review of your case before proceeding any further.

If there are sufficient grounds for pursuing a claim and evidence to support it then he/she will take this on and advise you at each step of the process.

Athens Convention: The Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea

In 1974 a conference was held in Athens which adopted the following protocol:

The Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea protocol refers to the issue of liability (or fault) in accidents at sea. If passengers suffer injuries due to an accident at sea, for example a fire onboard then they can claim compensation due to a lack of care.

In many cases they can do so without having to prove that negligence was the cause of their injuries.

There have been several changes to this protocol since then which includes injury or death of a passenger due to acts of terrorism or other hostile intentions.

(Source: International Maritime Organisation)

It may be possible to pursue a claim against the owners of the cruise ship or organisers if your injury occurred whilst on holiday. There are guidelines set by the Athens Convention in regard to these types of claims which include the location of the cruise owner, your country of residence and your departure and destination points.

Ask your lawyer or solicitor about this.

Important legislation

If you were on a cruise as part of a package holiday then your tour company has a responsibility to ensure that passengers do not become injured or ill whilst on holiday. This means taking reasonable care to protect you and other holidaymakers.

This comes under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.


In cases involving cruise ships a claim can be made against the tour company but in other types of sea accidents, claims may be made against the ship owners or boat builders.

It is important to determine what caused the accident but the issue of ‘fault’is a complex one. Your lawyer or solicitor should explain this to you.

If you want to know more about the general process of claiming compensation then visit our making a claim for compensation section.

Time limit for claiming compensation for a sea accident

Many types of personal injury claims have a 3 year time limit. However, this differs in cases such as these.

Your lawyer or solicitor will explain about the time limit for your claim. If you are pursuing a claim for compensation then ensure that you do so within the time limit.

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