Caribbean cruise bus crash highlights complexities of cruise accident compensation claims in Australia
Cruise injury lawyers Stacks Goudkamp are saddened by the reports of a fatal P&O Cruises excursion bus crash on the Caribbean island of Dominica on 9 November 2016 involving British cruise passengers. This is the second fatal bus crash involving P&O Cruises shore excursion passengers in five months, as Australians were injured in a similar crash in Vanuatu on 20 June 2016. However rights to compensation for the British and Australian victims are very different, as Victoria Roy explains.
Britons returning from excursion to natural beauty spot
In the Dominica tragedy, the minibus, which was reportedly carrying British cruise passengers on a shore excursion from P&O Cruises’ vessel ‘Azura’, crashed into another vehicle on a narrow road.
It is understood that the crash occurred as the minibus returned cruise passengers to the vessel after an excursion to the Emerald Pool beauty spot on the island.
A British passenger died and nine others were injured on what pictures suggest was a head on collision with a car.
Passengers voice safety concerns
Past and present P&O passengers took to Facebook after the accident, expressing concerns about the safety of shore excursions, and in particular with road conditions and the safety of excursion buses.
P&O Cruises responded to the media stating that the excursion bus crash was being investigated and that “P&O Cruises only works with pre-approved excursion providers that meet its exacting standards of health and safety”.
Australians injured in similar crash in Vanuatu
The Caribbean tragedy is all too a familiar story for Australians. Passengers on Australian based P&O Cruises vessel ‘Pacific Dawn’ were injured in a similar fatal bus crash on the Pacific Island of Vanuatu on 20 June 2016.
Safety concerns were also voiced by Australia P&O passengers following the Vanuatu bus crash, and rebutted in a similar way by P&O. However, it is concerning that there have been two fatal bus crashes involving P&O shore excursions in five months.
Inequality of access to justice under UK and Australian law
What is also concerning is the inequality of access to compensation for the British and Australian cruise passengers in these two similar accidents. Whilst no amount of damages will compensate for the loss of a loved one, or take away pain and suffering following an injury, it at least takes away financial stress to allow families and victims time to grieve and heal. However, rights under UK and Australian law are markedly different.
Compensation for shore excursion passengers under UK law
For the British victims in the Dominica crash, depending on how they booked their shore excursion they are likely to be covered by The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992, which stem from European Union law.
Under these Regulations, a tour operator is liable to compensate holidaymakers for negligent acts or omissions, including those causing injury, of the supplier of the components of the holiday contract. This is regardless of whether the tour operator itself was the negligent supplier.
As a result, if a British passenger booked the shore excursion in a way that encompasses it as part of a package holiday, they have a right to seek compensation from P&O regardless of the fact that a separate excursion company operated the tour. This has the benefit of being simpler for victims to claim compensation for their losses, as well as their claim being subject to English law rather than the law of Dominica.
Compensation for shore excursion passengers under Australian law
The rights to compensation for Australian passengers is far more complex, as Australia does not have legislation similar to the UK’s Package Travel Regulations. Instead, for Australian cruise passengers to bring a claim for compensation against a cruise line for injuries sustained during a shore excursion, it is necessary to examine potential causes of action against the cruise company in negligence, breach of contract and breach of the Australian Consumer Law. These causes of action each have their own complexities, and it is not enough to show that the shore excursion provider was negligent.
If a claim against the cruise line fails, Australians are only left with bringing a claim against the shore excursion provider. This is usually not as advantageous as a claim against the cruise line as it involves complex issues of applicable law and jurisdiction.
Seek expert legal advice
If you have been injured on a cruise ship or on a shore excursion, it is important that you seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible. Stacks Goudkamp’s Travel Law department has extensive experience in this area. We can guide you through the claims process and advise on you on your rights.
Contact our friendly and knowledgeable lawyers on 1800 25 1800 for a no obligation discussion about your circumstances, or make an online enquiry.
Written by Victoria Roy.
Victoria Roy is Practice Group Leader of Stacks Goudkamp’s Travel Law Department. Victoria specialises in bringing personal injury claims for injured cruise passengers, airline passengers, and tourists. She is qualified in England & Wales and New South Wales and currently represents four victims of the P&O Vanuatu shore excursion bus crash.