What Happens If There Is A Medical Emergency on a Cruise Ship?

Posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2024 at 6:24 pm    

What Happens If There Is A Medical Emergency on a Cruise Ship

If a medical emergency on cruise ship arises, reach out to the onboard medical center immediately. Following this crucial first step, it’s important to understand the medical support available to you, as well as insurance and legal aspects that might apply. This guide will swiftly walk you through these essentials, so you’re prepared in advance or can act quickly if the need arises.

Understanding Cruise Ship Medical Emergencies

Being prepared demands a clear understanding of medical emergencies on cruise ships. Although cruise ship medical emergencies can be complex, a comprehensive understanding of the types of emergencies, onboard medical facilities, and staff can help passengers navigate any situation smoothly.

Types of Medical Emergencies on Cruise Ships

Cruise ship passengers may face a variety of medical emergencies, ranging from minor injuries to more serious medical conditions. A cruise ship medical emergency can vary from minor cuts and broken bones to serious conditions requiring evacuation for hospital care. Most commonly, cruise ship medical staff are tasked with treating respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, motion sickness, and injuries.

Falls are the leading cause of injuries on cruise ships, accounting for nearly half of all incidents. But it’s not just physical injuries. Infectious diseases also pose a significant risk on cruises, though adherence to health precautions and proper hygiene practices can reduce the likelihood of an outbreak.

Do Cruise Ships Have Doctors or Emergency Rooms Onboard?

Cruise ships, especially those operated by major cruise lines, are not just about entertainment and relaxation. They are also equipped with medical facilities to handle emergencies, adhering to standards set by organizations such as the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the American College of Emergency Physicians. These standards ensure that medical personnel on cruise ships, including at least one doctor and two nurses, are required to have extensive experience in general and emergency medicine. The CLIA’s involvement highlights the industry’s commitment to maintaining high-quality medical care standards onboard, ensuring that passengers receive competent and timely medical attention in emergencies.

These medical centers are equipped with essential medical equipment such as:

  • lab tests
  • oxygen supply
  • EKG
  • defibrillators
  • cardiac monitors

They are ready to handle a variety of medical needs like setting bones, stitching cuts, and administering medication. Around the clock, ship medical staff are available to provide emergency and critical care, helping to bridge the gap in medical services before reaching a port.

How to Handle a Medical Emergency on a Cruise Ship

Handling emergencies, especially at sea can be daunting. However, knowing the right approach during a serious medical emergency on a cruise ship can be a game-changer. The first step is to contact the ship’s medical center immediately.

By adhering to their instructions and maintaining composure, you can contribute to the safety and well-being of all parties involved.

Contact The Cruise Ship’s Medical Center

In the event of a medical emergency on a cruise ship, your first point of contact should be the ship’s medical center. Cruise ship medical staff are available 24 hours a day to address any medical issues cruise passengers might encounter. Reaching out to them immediately can accelerate the provision of prompt medical care.

Far from being a mere first-aid box, the ship’s medical center is capable of providing advanced life support, emergency cardiovascular care, and conducting minor surgical procedures. Some cruise lines even utilize telemedicine technology to enhance treatment by connecting onboard physicians with specialists onshore at cruise ship medical facilities and cruise medical centers.

Assessment of the Situation and Seeking External Help if Necessary

While onboard medical facilities can handle minor ailments and stabilize critical medical conditions, they are not as equipped as hospitals on land for more comprehensive treatments. If cruise ship facilities are inadequate for treating a passenger onboard during severe emergencies, medical evacuation may be necessary.

Coordinated by the ship’s medical staff with rescue agencies, medical evacuation may involve the dramatic yet critical step of evacuating a passenger by helicopter, often carried out by the Coast Guard in the U.S. or sometimes by a foreign military when overseas. This method of evacuation is employed to transport the passenger rapidly to a more capable onshore hospital or medical facility for the necessary treatment. Additionally, telemedicine technology on some cruise ships allows onboard physicians to consult with land-based specialists, further enhancing the medical support available at sea and ensuring informed decisions can be made swiftly in these urgent situations.

In cases of severe medical emergencies, onboard facilities may be inadequate. The onboard doctor collaborates closely with the ship’s captain to determine the best course of action. The doctor assesses the medical needs and options available. However, the final decision is made in partnership. This process considers the safety and logistical capabilities of the ship. Such collaboration ensures the patient’s health is the priority. It helps decide whether to continue to the next scheduled port or seek immediate medical evacuation.

Documentation of the Incident

The importance of documenting the incident is on par with obtaining immediate medical help. This includes keeping a detailed record of the medical treatment received on board, including all associated costs. Obtaining copies of all medical records from the ship’s medical staff as proof of damages can also be useful.

In situations where you suspect medical negligence during emergency treatment, documenting every detail is crucial. You should precisely document the care received, symptoms observed, and any deviations from standard procedures. Such documentation can be pivotal in proving negligence. This thorough documentation supports your need for transparency and accountability. It also serves as essential evidence if legal action is necessary to seek compensation for any wrongdoing.

In addition to medical records, keeping a personal journal is crucial. This journal should detail the incident, symptoms experienced, and potential causes. It can be essential for future medical consultations or insurance claims. Cruise passengers should also report the incident to the cruise line’s guest services department. They should request a written acknowledgment of the report.

Health Insurance and Travel Insurance Considerations

Considering that medical care on cruise ships can be expensive and typically falls on the passengers, securing adequate insurance coverage is of paramount importance. Having current insurance information readily accessible can facilitate prompt medical assistance during an emergency.

Health Insurance Coverage

You might think your regular health insurance will cover you. However, traditional U.S. health insurance plans, including Medicare, often do not. They typically do not cover medical emergencies on cruise ships or in foreign destinations. Cruise lines usually offer limited medical emergency coverage. It provides only a fraction of the potential costs.

Travel insurance sold by cruise lines may not invariably include emergency medical or evacuation benefits. Thus, passengers must review policy specifics carefully. Sometimes, passengers might need to provide a deposit to overseas hospitals before treatment, underscoring the necessity for accessible funds or insurance that covers immediate needs.

Travel Insurance Options

Given the limitations of health insurance, travel insurance emerges as a savior. Travel insurance that includes coverage for emergency medical benefits, such as medical evacuation, is essential because it can cover the substantial costs of being evacuated for medical treatment. It can also help with the expenses of treatment and emergency services received during a cruise.

Be aware, though, that not all travel insurance is the same. Some plans that offer varying coverage limits for emergency medical expenses and evacuation tailored to cruise passengers’ needs are:

  • Seven Corners Trip Protection Choice policy
  • Travelex Travel Select plan
  • AXA Assistance USA’s Platinum Protection plan
  • Berkshire Hathaway’s WaveCare

Insurance can either pay secondary, covering costs after any primary health plan, or can be primary, paying first for emergency medical bills.

Cruise Ship Medical Emergencies and Medical Negligence

In some unfortunate instances, passengers who have experienced a medical emergency on a cruise ship due to negligence or inadequate care can seek legal recourse. This involves filing a lawsuit or civil action to seek compensation.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim Against the Cruise Line

To initiate a claim for medical malpractice against a cruise line, passengers must prove several things. They must establish a duty of care owed and a breach of that duty. They must also show causation linking the breach to their injury. Additionally, they must demonstrate the damages they suffered. Gathering evidence is crucial in proving a claim of medical malpractice or negligence. This process includes collecting medical records and witness statements. It also involves gathering any photographic evidence of the incident.

However, it’s not always a straightforward process.

If the medical staff on a cruise line is classified as independent contractors rather than direct employees, proving a medical malpractice case against the cruise line can be complicated. Expert legal representation is necessary to navigate maritime laws and jurisdictional issues that arise in cruise ship medical malpractice claims.

Hiring a Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer for Your Case

a cruise ship injury attorney reviewing case documents on his desk

Considering the intricacy of maritime law and the specialized procedure of filing a claim against a cruise company, it is imperative to engage a seasoned cruise ship accident attorney. An attorney with knowledge of maritime law can assist in:

  • determining the appropriate venue and timing for filing a lawsuit against the cruise line
  • gathering evidence to support your claim
  • negotiating with the cruise line’s legal team
  • representing you in court, if necessary

A skilled attorney can:

  • Investigate the accident
  • Help determine the responsible parties
  • Gather relevant evidence
  • Provide an in-state advocate for out-of-state passengers

By entrusting a case to a cruise ship injury lawyer, the injured party can ensure they have representation that is familiar with the intricacies of cruise ship law and the duties of common carriers to passengers.

Contact the Cruise Ship Medical Negligence Lawyers at Louis A. Vucci P.A. Today

If you or someone you know was a victim of medical negligence on a cruise ship, don’t hesitate to seek legal help. Contact the cruise ship medical negligence lawyers at Louis A. Vucci P.A.. Our team has a proven track record of securing significant financial settlements for injured parties, including covering medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering. You can reach us at (786) 375-0344 or via our online contact form.