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How Comparative Negligence Rules Impact Another Selfie Case

We recently covered a tragic accident where four people in India died while trying to take a selfie. Now, a patron on a cruise ship has been kicked off the excursion for climbing on the rail of the ship’s balcony to pose for one.

The female passenger was seen by another person on a Royal Caribbean cruise as she climbed over the railing of her room’s balcony and held onto the outside of the ship. The witness immediately notified the crew, thinking that he might be watching an attempted suicide.

The crew identified the passenger and discovered that she was merely trying to pose for a selfie.

She was kicked off the cruise at the ship’s next stop in Falmouth, Jamaica. She has also been banned from Royal Caribbean cruises for life for violating cruise rules that prohibit passengers from climbing over protective barriers and exterior railings.

While no one got hurt, here, the very possible hypothetical where someone did get hurt or killed would rely heavily on the legal concept of shared liability, which inevitably creates discussions about the doctrine of comparative fault.

The vast majority of accidents are not actually the fault of a single person or party. It is rare for the victim of, say, a car accident to be perfectly complying with all of the rules of the road such that they did not contribute in some minute way to the accident and their resulting injuries – nearly everyone sees a speed limit as a loose guideline and drives at least a few miles per hour above it. That extra speed, though, can make serious injuries slightly more severe.

The law recognizes this dilemma and sees that the person tasked with compensating a victim should not have to pay for the losses that were caused by the victim’s own doing.

Long ago, the law used the concept of contributory negligence to solve this problem: If the victim contributed to their injuries in any way, they could not recover compensation for them. Even if the victim was only one percent at fault, they would have to pay for their own recovery – a driver could be drunk and going 100mph, but if the pedestrian they hit and paralyzed was jaywalking, they would not have to pay any compensation, at all.

Most states, though not Maryland, have realized that this rule is incredibly harsh on the victim of an accident that contributed to their injuries, but did not necessarily cause them. Most states have switched to the rule of comparative negligence, which asks not whether the victim contributed to the accident, but how responsible the victim was, compared to the defendant.

Where comparative negligence is the rule, victims can recover compensation if they were partially at fault for their injuries, but their recovery gets reduced by the percentage of fault they bring to the accident.

These rules play a huge part in situations like this, where the cruise ship passenger climbed the balcony for a selfie. Had she gotten hurt, and had there not been a specific prohibition in the cruise ship’s rules about climbing the railings, a jury hearing her case would still be asking itself, “how much of this situation was the fault of the victim?”

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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