When people spend time planning a cruise and saving money to enjoy their excursion, passengers have many expectations. These expectations almost certainly do not include becoming a victim of sexual assault. Sadly, sexual assaults are more common on cruises than most travelers would care to imagine. According to the FBI, sexual assaults are the dominant threat to women and minors on the high seas with the vast majority of the crimes occurring on cruise ships. Approximately, 55 percent of crimes that the FBI investigate on the high seas are sexual assaults. During one six month period, the federal law enforcement agency received reports of 41 sexual assaults with almost half involving activity typically characterized as rape.
Lack of Trained Law Enforcement Personnel Can Mean the Loss of Evidence
When you are the victim of a crime like sexual assault or rape on a cruise ship, you might have a legal claim for financial compensation from the cruise line. When cruise passengers leave U.S. waters, they leave behind certain protections provided by U.S. law. When you are the victim of a rape or other crime on a cruise ship, there are no police available to immediately secure the scene, obtain witness statements, and ensure that critical evidence is not destroyed. While the cruise might have security employees, these individuals might lack law enforcement experience and forensic training.
The risk of evidence being compromised or contaminated is increased by jurisdictional complications. While the FBI is involved in investigations of criminal offenses committed against U.S. citizens, another country also might have jurisdiction. These jurisdiction issues might mean that the FBI does not board the ship until it docks or travels close to a port. These delays increase the likelihood that evidence will be disturbed or destroyed because ship personnel typically will lack expertise in preserving forensic evidence.
Taking Steps to Protect Evidence in Criminal and Civil Sexual Assault Cases
If you are the victim of a sex crime on a cruise, you do not want your rights to justice and financial compensation to be compromised because of delays in gathering evidence. While the FBI is charged with investigating the criminal case, the cruise company might be liable for the sexual assault if it is the result of improper security. The cruise line’s alcohol policies or lack of security measures might mean that cruise line negligence contributed to the sexual assault. Because of issues related to the preservation of evidence, applicable law, and jurisdictional disputes, sexual assault victims should seek prompt legal advice from a Miami Cruise Injury Attorney regarding their right to recovery.
If you are the victim of a sexual assault while on a cruise you should take the following steps (please note that this list is not exhaustive):
- Avoid taking a shower or washing your clothes until a forensic examination can be performed by an experienced medical professional;
- Immediately contact the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI if the assault occurred on the ship;
- Seek immediate medical attention, including a forensic examination;
- Obtain contract information for any witnesses;
- Report the sexual assault to the ship security officer and request the crime scene be secured for law enforcement authorities; and
- Advise your nearest embassy or consulate if the crime occurs on foreign soil.
Greenberg Stone and Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence
If you are the victim of sexual assault on a cruise ship, our Miami Cruise Injury Lawyers at Greenberg Stone and Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.