Accidents At Sea And Cruise Injury Claims

How to Claim for Accidents at Sea & Cruise Injuries

Ferries, cruise-liners and boats must comply with health and safety legislation. Most accidents can be avoided with adequate safety, training and planning

Contact us


Whether you are on the water for travel, work or pleasure, it is good to know that safety is the number one priority for vessel operators. However, things can and do go wrong. For example, this year 28 people died after their sightseeing boat capsized on the Danube. A month later, a 13-deck cruise ship crashed into a canal wharf and tourist boat in Venice, injuring five.

Setting aside these headline-grabbing boating accidents, there are many more common types of boat accidents, which may be more low-key but impact victims just the same. This month, we heard about INXS guitarist Tim Farris who lost a finger in a boating accident in 2015. The injury impacts on his ability to make a living. He said, ‘I don’t know if I will be able to play properly again’.

Common causes of accidents at Sea

Sadly, yet inevitably, accidents often arise from the most mundane causes. Outlined below are a few of the many causes of boating accidents throughout the world.

  • Inexperienced crew: just like driving a car well, operating a boat requires practice and experience. Inexperienced crew are more likely to make mistakes are less likely to skillfully manage emergency situations.
  • Inappropriate speed: again, just like driving, boating speeds should be adapted to their environment. Busy waterways will have slower speed limits to ensure that the operator has time to react to obstructions. In open water, the current, time of day and tide will need to be considered when determining a safe speed.
  • Failure of equipment: all machines must be properly maintained to ensure that they operate safely and as they are designed to. Boats are no different. It is no good discovering during an emergency, that vital equipment is faulty.
  • Disregarding weather warnings: poor visibility, changes of wind direction and storm warnings should be noted and acted upon. A sudden change in the weather could cause a small boat to capsize.

Other causes of injury caused by boat accidents may be due to slips, falls, trips, scalding from hot liquids or vapour, being struck by loose luggage and equipment and any other number of ways.

What is the Athens Convention?

For international shipping accidents, the relevant convention is known as the Athens Convention. It applies when you are travelling on a ship, ferry or other vessels.

The 1974 Athens Convention and its successor, the 2002 Protocol are agreed European Union regulations to do with the liability of water-going vessels and their insurers, and the values of any compensation awards.

Under the 2002 Protocol, vessels licensed to carry more than 12 passengers must hold liability insurance. In addition, the liability limits were also raised for death and personal injury, to between SDR 250,000 to SR 400,000 depending on circumstances.  Finally, it was determined that an advance payment must be made to a victim or their family, to cover any financial shortcomings in the immediate aftermath of a death or injury.

Under the Athens Conventions, the shipping company is responsible for any injuries suffered while on the vessel or during embarkation/disembarkation. It works in much the same way as the Montreal Convention, except there is no ‘strict liability.’

This means you will have to show that the accident was caused by the fault or negligence of the shipping company or its employees to make a successful claim.

Can you claim compensation for an accident at sea?

The ins-and-outs of claiming compensation for an injury arising from an accident on board a vessel can be tricky, depending on the cause of the accident and where in the world it happened and whether the boat was moored or not.

It could be that you are covered under the Athens Convention and the 2002 Protocol or that you fall under the jurisdiction of a particular country. For this reason, it is strongly advised that you speak to an informed, specialist lawyer as soon as possible if you think you may have a valid claim.

What if my travel was part of a package holiday?

If you booked your sea travel as part of a package holiday, then a claim may be made against the tour operator under English law.

Your solicitor can help you decide who to claim against for the best chance of securing compensation.

How long do I have to make a claim?

The Athens Convention has a strict time limit of two years from the date of disembarking the vessel.

If the claim is not issued in this time period, the right to compensation is extinguished. This is absolute; no exceptions. Therefore, it is important to act quickly if you are thinking about making a claim.

How do I make a claim?

If you have been injured on board a ship, try to gather as much evidence as you can to give yourself the best chance to secure compensation. You can do this by:

  • Taking photographs of the area where the accident happened
  • Recording the names and contact details of any witnesses
  • Reporting the incident to the carrier
  • Recording details of any medical treatment you received, either on board, at your travel destination, or when you return home
  • Keeping receipts to prove your expenses

The next step is to contact a solicitor who is experienced in international travel accident claims as soon as you return home. Both the Montreal and Athens Conventions give UK-based passengers the right to claim compensation through the English courts, no matter where the accident happened. You will not need to hire a foreign lawyer or issue proceedings overseas.

Proof of liability

For a higher value claim to be successful, liability must be proven. This means that intentional fault must be attributed to the vessel company. This liability is not always clear or proven in court, despite obvious deaths or injuries. Last month, a Paris court rejected a compensation claim rising from the sinking of an Estonian ferry in 1994, in which 852 people were killed. More than 1000 survivors and the relatives of the victims were seeking £36 million in compensation.

An investigation found that the locks on the ferry’s front door had breached under the force of the waves, resulting in flooding of the car deck, but the French court determined that compensation claims were not lawful as there was no attributable intentional fault.


Contact us today

For a free initial conversation call 020 7485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you

    • The outcome for me was positive, so ultimately I'm extremely happy and thankful!!!

      Housing and Social Care Client

    • “I have greatly appreciated your help, guidance and support throughout the whole process of dealing with the estate. It has been a real pleasure working with you and in particular being able to discuss my thoughts and questions on how particular aspects should be handled; and I have valued as your common sense approach as well as your technical/legal knowledge. I know I speak for all the family, nieces and nephew included, when I express our heartfelt thanks for all you have done and, not least, your sympathy for the family.”


    • "Osbornes has a hugely experienced mediation team with Andrew Watson, Bridget Thompson and Lisa Pepper who are able to offer financial and children mediation for a range of cases including those that are highly complex involving challenging clients."

      Legal 500 2023

    • "Mark Freedman receives a lot of instructions from clients based abroad, often relating to complex divorce proceedings. Sources say: “His main strengths are his enthusiastic passion for the job in hand and his total dedication to his clients.”

      Chambers UK

    • "Client-focused. Ready to fight the clients’ corner, but also ready where possible to steer client from unnecessary dispute. Mark Freedman – very experienced, with good instinct for the eventual result. Clients love him and he thinks ahead and directs the client to the best result for the client."

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    Related InsightsVIEW ALL

    1. international map and money

      Will Dispute Case Law

      New Births And New Relationships? Review Your Will To Avoid A Dispute You’d imagine a wealthy businessman with assets...

      Read more
    2. diamond held by tweezers

      Proprietary Estoppel Case Law

      On A Lick And A Promise? The First Hurdle In Proprietary Estoppel Claims Solicitors are increasingly instructed by clients who...

      Read more
    3. new born baby

      Early Notification Scheme – is it helping or failing...

      What is the Early Notification Scheme? The NHS Early Notification Scheme (“ENS”) has reached its sixth anniversary. Established in April 2017,...

      Read more
    4. man cycling past London underground station

      London Cycling Injury Case Studies

      Successful claim by cyclist injured after a hit-and-run Our client had been playing volleyball in the New Cross area of...

      Read more
    5. 5.6.2023

      Are pharmacy closures putting patients at risk?

      It has been reported in the press that chemist closures will have an impact on patients living in deprived or...

      Read more
    6. lady holding a cup

      Case Law: Dementia-Induced Mild Cognitive Impairment

      Dementia is a harsh reality for increasing numbers of families. Sadly, it means the disputed wills solicitors at Osbornes Law...

      Read more
    7. House-Finsbury-Park

      Declaration of Trust for Property

      If you are buying a property jointly, you may want to consider making a declaration of trust to record your...

      Read more
    8. kensington apartments

      Lease Extension Negligence

      What is Lease Extension Negligence? Solicitors Negligence when a Tenant claims a new lease of a flat under the Leasehold...

      Read more
    9. tate modern london

      Overlooking Nuisance Claims

      Overlooking Nuisance Claims – net curtains not necessarily! I refer to the article which concerned...

      Read more
    10. cars on portobello road

      Rent Repayment Order: Rakusen v Jepsen

      Rakusen v Jepsen & Others 2023 Judgement was given in this case on the 1st March 2023 and when it was settled...

      Read more
    11. 10.5.2023

      Leasehold Reform expected by end of 2023

      The government announced in 2021 the introduction of various leasehold reforms which will affect the leasehold system for properties in England...

      Read more
    12. cyclist in camden, london

      Cycling Accident Claims: Client Stories

      GP Awarded £1m Settlement Kate Milton, a Senior Associate at Osbornes Law settled a cycling accident claim for a 52-year-old...

      Read more
    13. eu flags

      German Court Rules on EU Succession Regulation

      Succession laws vary from country to country which historically made the administration of cross-border estates potentially complex. Since 17 August 2015, the...

      Read more
    14. Man is making audit of household expenses

      Success in Court of Appeal in child disability...

      The Court of Appeal has today handed judgment in the case of Harrington v Secretary of State for Work and...

      Read more
    15. forklift truck

      £250,000 settlement for client injured in forklift truck accident

      Sophie Davies, a specialist personal injury lawyer at Osbornes Law, recently represented a client who suffered life-changing injuries following a...

      Read more
    16. Confidential file

      Osbornes Instructed After Local Authority Data Breach

      Osbornes Law have recently negotiated a settlement on behalf of two clients who had their personal information inadvertently released to...

      Read more
    17. Accidente en almacén

      Accident at Work Client Stories

      £20,000 for Industrial Injury Claim Enviro-Strip (UK) Ltd have been ordered to pay £20,000 in accident at work compensation after a worker...

      Read more
    18. rainbow image

      Parenting Talk With Noël Janis-Norton

      Osbornes Law are delighted to be hosting internationally known parenting expert, Noël Janis-Norton, who will be delivering the talk:...

      Read more
    19. union jack

      Divorce Jurisdiction

      Is England/Wales the Right Jurisdiction for Your Divorce? When it comes to getting divorced, London has a lot of...

      Read more
    20. pregnant lady

      Private Pregnancy Scans and Substandard Care

      In the news, it has been reported that private clinics that offer pregnancy scans to women are not meeting the...

      Read more
    21. cohabitation agreement

      Cohabitation agreements

      Unmarried couples who live together do not have the same legal protection as married couples and civil partners when they...

      Read more
    22. two people walking

      Does it matter if you’re a breadwinner...

      When it comes to deciding how wealth is split, English courts do not discriminate based on your role within the...

      Read more
    23. lady with two children

      Parental Responsibility

      Understanding Parental Responsibility Parental responsibility is the legal term used to describe the duties and responsibilities that parents have for...

      Read more
    24. couple holding hands

      Are trusts protected from divorce?

      Can trusts protect an inheritance from your spouse? A trust is a separate legal entity. Neither spouse owns its assets. ...

      Read more