As an attorney who practices maritime law, I often take cases against cruise lines. These cases often involve trip or slip and fall where my client has been injured. These cases are often very difficult to prove negligence on the part of the cruise line. One such way is to use the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
SOLAS established proper safety standards governing the design and maintenance of oceangoing ships and has been ratified by 155 countries. Case law states that SOLAS safety regulations have been described, correctly, as “the law of… the United States.” Under maritime law, a defendant’s breach of official, legally binding safety regulation is negligence per se.
What is “negligence per se”?
Negligence per se generally means that the plaintiff will be deemed to have established a conclusive presumption of duty and breach of duty. However, the plaintiff must still establish causation and damages to complete the case for negligence.
A cause of action for negligence requires four elements (with examples):
- Duty – such as the duty to warn of a dangerous hazard (such as spilled liquid on the floor)
- Breach of that duty – not putting out wet floor signs
- Causation – plaintiff slipped on this liquid and was injured as a result
- Damages – plaintiff broke their arm and incurred medical expenses as a result
By using a violation of SOLAS or other regulations such as those promulgated by the US Coast Guard, half the battle against the cruise line is done. All that is left to do is to prove that the cruise line’s breach caused your damages (injuries). While this is still an uphill battle, at least part of the heavy lifting is done.
The law on land is different than that on the water. It takes an attorney that practices in the area of maritime law to know these differences to get the best result on your case.