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Cruise ships may be liable for medical malpractice

Every year, many San Antonio residents and people across the United States choose to spend their vacation time on a cruise. In fact, 21 million people take cruises each year.

People embark seeking adventures in exotic locales at reasonable rates. Unfortunately however, most passengers are not aware that in the past, federal case law has prevented obtaining compensation from the cruise line if they are harmed due to medical malpractice by an onboard health care provider.

The risk of getting sick or hurt remains with us even on vacation. With millions of passengers each year, it is necessary for cruise lines to have onboard medical facilities and staff. Previous case law has held that cruise lines were not liable for the medical malpractice of their health care professionals, as most of them are independent contractors.

But a recent ruling in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has turned a quarter century of previous case law on its head, holding that the old rules no longer apply, and cruise lines can be held responsible for medical malpractice. The 11th Circuit has U.S. jurisdiction over most major cruise lines.

In the present case, an 82-year-old man fell and hit his head while disembarking the ship. He was taken to the ship's infirmary where he was examined by a nurse. The nurse simply sent him back to his room to rest.

His condition steadily worsened because he had sustained a life-threatening head injury. By the time his condition was diagnosed by a doctor, it was too late to save his life.

In its ruling, the court noted that even though the medical personnel are independent contractors, they wear ship uniforms and seem like cruise line employees. Moreover, the cruise line in this case also boasted of its advanced medical facilities in its promotional literature.

Even though the ruling was positive for the victim's family, the case is not over. The cruise line is expected to appeal the decision.

If you or a loved one have been harmed by medical malpractice, it is a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There are strict time limits in place for recovery.

Source: mySA, "Ruling opens door for cruise malpractice lawsuits," Curt Anderson, Dec. 23, 2014

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