Our cruise attorneys here at LMAW have often talked about unexpected disasters that can strike at sea. Despite the fact that many maritime accidents are the result of poor judgment or reckless behavior, including speeding, operator inexperience, or alcohol consumption, some incidents are caused by Mother Nature. One of those is a rogue wave.
A rogue wave is the name given to a wave that is out of proportion to the other waves around it, a huge wave (usually over twice the size of surrounding waves) that comes out of nowhere. These waves are unexpected and can show up anywhere, anytime. Though rogue waves have been known to cause serious hazards to unsuspecting boaters, there are times when they are used as a defense by cruise lines in order to avoid liability for an injury resulting from them interacting with a ship. Though rogue waves can’t be predicted, there are certain waters where rogue waves tend to strike, or where waves are abnormally larger than others. Cruise lines know to avoid these areas, but from time to time, they don’t, leading to accidents and passenger injuries that are at times fatal.