Our maritime lawyers receive many calls from passengers who visit cruise doctors for routine medical problems but, due to medical malpractice, are left in a weaker condition. Often times improper medical treatment by cruise doctors’ leads to prolonged hospitalization, organ damage, amputation or death. The question on many passengers’ minds who are victims of medical malpractice is, “Are the cruise lines responsible?” This article is meant to explain passengers’ rights when injured by a cruise doctor.
Every major cruise line has doctors aboard their ships. Cruise lines in fact make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year selling doctors’ services to their passengers. Cruise ship doctors, dress in officers’ uniforms, have name badges with the cruise lines’ name and logo and are introduced as officers at cocktail parties and other ship functions. However, if the ship’s doctor commits medical malpractice, the cruise lines immediately claim the doctors are “independent contractors.” The reason for this is to exploit the current state of maritime law which holds cruise lines not responsible for the medical malpractice of independent contractors.
Passengers who fall victim to cruise doctors’ medical malpractice, in limited circumstances, do have recourse against the cruise lines. Maritime law requires cruise lines to select competent doctors to treat their passengers. This means cruise lines are charged with researching the qualifications of potential doctors as well as insure the doctors applying for shipboard services have good treatment records. Cruise lines are also obligated to replace doctors who, while working on their ships, prove to be incompetent. If cruise lines fail to conduct an adequate vetting process or do not replace incompetent doctors, the law makes the cruise lines responsible for medical malpractice.
If you were injured as a result of a cruise doctor’s negligence and would like to discuss your options, feel free to contact our Florida Bar board certified maritime attorneys.