Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims.Read More »

Ricardo V. Alsina

Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims.Read More »

Michael A. Winkleman

Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes.Read More »

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LMAW, Michael Winkleman, maritime lawyer, Fox & Friends, family cruising, safety tips, summer

Summer is fast approaching, which means the school year is about to end, the weather is getting warmer, and the biggest vacation season is nearly upon us. For many families, vacationing together means going on a cruise. But while cruising has its perks, not many realize that there can be a dark side to cruising the public doesn’t always hear about.

Cruise ship accidents, crimes, and outbreaks can happen in the blink of an eye, taking families by surprise and often leaving tragedy in their wake. However, there are a few things families can do to reduce their chances of getting hurt or experiencing any number of unfortunate incidents while on the high seas, and it starts with awareness. Knowing what the potential factors are that can contribute to an accident or crime on board can help keep families safe while on a cruise ship.

So what are these must-knows?

Tune in tomorrow morning at 7:50 AM to catch our firm’s maritime lawyer Michael Winkleman on Fox & Friends, where he’ll discuss what families need to know when cruising this summer.

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Norwegian Gem, cruise ship drowning, lifeguards, cruise ship accident lawyersOnly five months have passed since our cruise ship accident lawyers here at LMAW reported on the tragic near-drowning of a 4-year-old boy aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas vessel. Our firm is representing the family of the young victim, but nothing can ever truly ease the grief and terror felt by drowning victims and their loved ones. This accident highlighted a very critical and highly debated subject concerning the cruise industry which I discussed on the Today Show last month: the fact that the majority of cruise lines do not hire trained lifeguards to work aboard their ships.

Fortunately, in this situation, there were a number of passengers aboard Oasis of the Seas who were trained in lifesaving medical procedures, and were able to successfully perform CPR on the boy. However, there aren’t always medically-trained passengers on a cruise that can come to the rescue of a drowning victim, which is why there is simply no excuse for cruise lines not to staff their vessels with lifeguards.

Throughout the years, there have been several other child drowning accidents. One would think that by now, cruise lines would have learned their lesson and improved passenger safety by hiring employing lifeguards, who can assess when a drowning appears to be taking place and provide the necessary emergency assistance. Yet, the majority of cruise lines continue to fail to do so, and because there is currently no maritime law in place requiring cruise lines to hire lifeguards, this crucial aspect of onboard safety continues to be neglected, and passengers are expected to swim at their own risk.

And now, we’ve come to learn that yet another child drowning accident has transpired, this time aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. Sadly, the young victim in this particular incident did not survive.

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Boating laws, Florida, boating accident lawyerFlorida is a popular boating destination. The reasons are obvious: miles of pristine coast, warm waters, tropical and sub-tropical climates, island destinations, fishing, snorkeling, and swimming opportunities, and the list goes on. The Sunshine State’s pristine waters offer a range of boating options for all interests and abilities, from skilled sailors to weekend fishing expeditions. However, as any boating accident lawyer at our firm well knows, these activities can also lead to injuries in open waters.

Before heading out on a vessel in Florida, boaters should be fully aware of current safety laws in order to protect themselves and passengers from an accident or injury.

In order to ensure that boaters stay safe when they hit the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has established boating laws that every boater should know before venturing out on a vessel. Knowing these laws is especially critical as we move into the busy summer season, when there will be a greater number of boaters and heavy traffic in open waters.

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Shanghai Cruise Port, maritime safety laws, Princess Cruises, cruise lawyersOur cruise lawyers here at LMAW have come to learn that Princess Cruises will be basing its newest ship out of China. The yet unnamed ship is currently under construction. It will be homeported in Shanghai and will debut in 2017, specifically serving the Chinese market. This is understandable, as Chinese tourism has been growing in recent years and cruise lines want to get in on the action.

As the first of Princess’ vessels to be specifically designed for Chinese passengers, the ship will offer an array of innovations tailored to the Chinese market, including cultural cuisine selections and specially-designed entertainment programs. While exciting, with the introduction of any new ship comes a number of maritime safety concerns. Anyone thinking of traveling on the new vessel should consider the kind of impact that China’s maritime laws can have on both passenger rights and oceanic environmental practices.

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Royal Caribbean Flowrider - Surf Simulator Wave Pool

Royal Caribbean Flowrider – Surf Simulator Wave Pool

FlowRiders are among the many available ship board activities, particular to Royal Caribbean ships. The cruise line features these surfing simulators on several of their vessels and while they are an appealing feature to many passengers, given a recent alleged accident involving a FlowRider aboard the Independence of the Seas, our cruise attorneys here at LMAW think it prudent to advise potential cruisers of the risks associated with taking a ride aboard these simulators. Here, we highlight four important factors to consider before you make the decision to attempt a FlowRider.

  1. Evaluate your surfing experience. A FlowRider, is, in essence, a simulated surf. This means that if you do not have sufficient prior surfing experience, you are highly likely to fall off your board. Sure, it looks like a lot of fun, but it’s also a potentially dangerous activity. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you should take the time to watch what other passengers are doing to get a feel for what you can expect, or, better yet, train on a boogie board before going on your cruise so you can at least have an idea of what you’re in for. Falling is a part of surfing, but falling in the ocean is very different from falling on a FlowRider.
  2. Lay flat on your board as opposed to standing. The temptation to stand and show other passengers you have what it takes to master the FlowRider may overtake you, but it’s important to remember that standing on a board is no small feat. If you do not have prior surfing experience, it’s best to lay flat on your board, which can reduce the risk of falling and sustaining a serious injury. Water will be splashing all over, and any slight move to the left or right can cause you to fall. Many might assume they won’t be too badly hurt because there’s not much depth to FlowRider pools, but the opposite is true. Because there isn’t much water to break a fall, if you fall from your board on a FlowRider, chances are you’ll suffer a much greater injury than if you fell of a board in the Ocean.
  3. Most major cruise lines do not have trained lifeguards on board to assist with accidents. The majority of cruise lines do not employ lifeguards on their ships, which means that whatever instruction you’ll receive prior to hitting the waves on a FlowRider will be from a cruise ship crew member, who although they may have experienced the FlowRiders, are not surfing instructors and almost certainly lacks the superior level of training needed to recognize when a passenger is in danger or the ability to offer emergency medical assistance in the event of an accident. This is a huge factor to consider before attempting a surf because, like any other sport, attempting a FlowRider has a fair share of risk attached to it.
  4. You will have to sign a waiver to go on the FlowRider. Doesn’t sound like too big of a deal, right? Wrong. Cruise lines have guests sign “Onboard Activities Waivers” to avoid liability if and when an accident occurs while a passenger is using an onboard facility. What this means is that you’ll basically be agreeing that you’ll go on the FlowRider “at your own risk” and the cruise line will not be responsible for any injuries you may suffer. If this is something you are ok with, then go for it. However, the fact that a waiver must be signed prior to going on the FlowRider shows that the cruise line understands that there are inherent safety risks associated with the surfing simulator, and that accidents often occur.

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, cruise lines, port calls, cruise ship lawyersThough any cruise ship lawyer at our firm can tell you that there are times when cruise lines don’t take the necessary steps to prevent an accident at sea or in port, we are pleased to learn that a number of cruise lines have recently made what appears to be a very good decision in order to protect passenger and crew safety.

In the wake of recent violence in Puerto Vallarta, several major cruise lines have canceled port visits to the city, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line. Reports of civil unrest and criminal activity against local authorities have worried both locals and travelers alike. News sources indicate that armed individuals have committed acts of arson and that shots have been fired. The violence is a response to Mexico’s increased policing efforts against a local drug cartel.

According to the U.S. Department of State, while popular tourist areas in Mexico tend to be safer than rural areas, violence and crime related to Mexico’s increased drug policies can happen anywhere and at any time. Given the frightening incidents in Puerto Vallarta, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity’s decision to bypass the port is a wise one. However, not all cruise ships are electing to cancel trips to the Caribbean port. Carnival, for instance, has indicated that it will continue scheduled port calls, but did cancel some shore excursions offered in the area.

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Royal Caribbean Flowrider - Surf Simulator Wave Pool

Royal Caribbean Flowrider – Surf Simulator Wave Pool

Gone are the days of good ole’ cruise travel, when the best part about cruising was the destinations that passengers would get to visit. These days, cruise travel is all about innovation and the latest and greatest gadgets and technology to keep the modern-day traveler inspired. Hop aboard any of the newer cruise ships and you’ll find a slew of amenities that will leave you in awe. From zip lines to robot bartenders, it seems like cruise lines are definitely not running short of inspirational ideas to keep their passengers entertained while on the high seas.

Among the many amenities current-day cruise ships offer is the popular FlowRider. A staple on several Royal Caribbean ships, the FlowRider is a small surf pool that simulates surfing. Sounds like fun, right? Well, from the standpoint of our cruise ship accident lawyers here at LMAW, there’s much more to the FlowRider than meets the eye.

While FlowRiders are intended to provide cruisers with a fun alternative to the standard pool option, they also come with their fair share of hazards. Given that the majority of cruise lines do not employ lifeguards at their pools, coupled with the fact that drowning accidents can occur in the blink of an eye, these otherwise seemingly innocent cruise ship features can be a breeding grounds for serious accidents and injuries.

Unfortunately, the danger of FlowRiders has been highlighted due to a recent alleged accident aboard a Royal Caribbean ship. A cruise passenger aboard the Independence of the Seas vessel allegedly sustained serious injuries this week, causing ship to make an unexpected early return to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday, May 10.

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maritime law, admiralty law, admiralty lawyer, boating accident, boating accident claimIf you’ve been injured at sea while boating or as the result of a cruise ship accident and are in the process of seeking legal representation, you may be wondering whether you should consult with a maritime lawyer or whether working with a personal injury attorney will be sufficient. This is a critical decision to make, as it can affect the way your case is litigated, negotiated, and ultimately settled. It’s important to understand what each practice area entails before choosing legal representation.

Though both maritime and personal injury lawyers represent injured persons, a maritime accident attorney specializes in maritime law, which is the area of law that governs the seas. It is an intricate area, which is why it is crucial for victims to work with a firm that specializes in maritime law following an accident in open waters. In contrast, personal injury attorneys focus mostly on land-based matters, such as car accidents.

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cruise ship accident lawyers, US Coast Guard, cruise ship safety, cruise line safety deficienciesOur cruise ship accident lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. often talk about the many faux pas of the cruising industry, including the all-too-often failure of cruise lines to maintain their ships in a safe condition, as well as the inability of many cruise lines to practice safe maritime protocols. Unfortunately, the general public sees only a glimpse of what really happens behind closed doors that leads to a tragedy, and usually only after a major accident has occurred. Now, we’re learning the shocking extent of cruise lines’ negligent practices from a Coast Guard report – and this information is available for everyone to see.

According to the Coast Guard’s most recent report on cruise ship safety deficiencies, the organization found – and issued – safety citations on 329 safety failures and deficiencies in 2014. As a way to keep the public informed about the most common safety failures and deficiencies, the Coast Guard listed the most frequent safety issues reported on cruise ships. Below are the top ten safety features on cruise ships that failed to pass the test.

 

#1—Fire Screen Door Failures: Fire screen doors help keep fires isolated when, and if, they occur on a cruise ship. These doors, when in proper operation, can prevent the vessel from experiencing a ship-wide conflagration. Yet, when the Coast Guard tested the doors, citations were issued in 31 cases where the doors were damaged or unable to close properly.

#2—Blocked Escape Routes: Doors, hatches, and other escape routes located on board ships were found to be blocked. These blockages could create an unsafe evacuation situation in the event that people needed to be able to leave an area of the ship quickly in an emergency. Continue reading

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Carnival Imagination, large waves, surf, storm, Southern California, cruise lawyersFor surfers, Southern California’s shores have transformed into a dream world of epic waves. Visit any surf Website these days and you’ll see images of the brave few careening down near-vertical walls of water. But while surfers may crave these towering waves, giant swells are not in the advantage of cruisers, and as any cruise accident lawyer at our firm can tell you, large waves can pose a big risk to cruise passenger safety.

A number of travelers who had planned on visiting Mexico on a cruise ship departing from Long Beach, California experienced firsthand the impact that the area’s large waves are making. A storm near New Zealand brought huge surf to Southern California, creating dangerous sea conditions that made it near impossible for passengers scheduled to board the Carnival Imagination ship this past Sunday out of Long Beach, Instead, prospective cruisers found themselves on a shuttle to San Diego, 100 miles to the south, where the boarding location was switched, as waters were not as dangerous.

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