Contributors

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

August and September are prime months for hurricanes in the Caribbean. If you’ll be traveling over the next few weeks, it’s important to know your rights before you travel.  And when it comes to changes in itinerary due to bad weather, the deck is stacked against you and in favor of the cruise line.  Thus, travel at your own risk during hurricane season.

Cruise lines seldom want to cancel whole trips due to the presence of hurricanes in the Caribbean. This is the because the only way cruise lines make money is by having cruises.  Thus, this is a dangerous profit motive that often puts passengers in harm’s way (see Carnival Triumph).  In the case a hurricane develops, there’s always a chance your cruise will be cancelled entirely, or, you may have your itinerary changed.  Rerouting of ships due to the presence of storms is pretty common in the industry. This is important to note if you intend to travel during peak hurricane season. If you have a dream “must-see” destination on your itinerary, it would be safest to plan your trip off peak hurricane season, especially because there’s always a chance cruise operators will decide to sail into the storm.

Any maritime attorney at our firm can tell you that when it comes to cruises, vacationers should be prepared for changes in plans. Cruise passengers are not generally entitled to compensation or reimbursement if a cruise’s itinerary changes due to a storm. In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the danger of fine print in cruise passenger ticket contracts, which allows cruise lines – in many cases – to attempt to avoid liability when an accident or passenger injury occurs due to negligence, and also, in cases where itinerary changes are made due to adverse weather conditions. This means that passengers often have little recourse should the cruise line decide to change or cancel the itinerary.

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boating accidentThe U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported over 4000 recreational boating accidents in the U.S. in 2012. These accidents collectively resulted in $38 million dollars in property damage, 3000 injuries, and 600 fatalities. Failure of the operator to pay proper attention, inexperience, improper lookout, failure of machinery or equipment, and excessive speed are the top five reasons why these accidents took place. However, among all of these causes, alcohol use is still a leading factor in recreational boating accidents in the U.S.

Admiralty law protects individuals who happen to get into accidents in U.S. navigable waters. Individuals and their loved ones who have sustained injuries or suffered a wrongful death due to recreational boater negligence often elect to contact an admiralty lawyer in order to seek compensation or reimbursement for damages and losses.

Boating accidents, like car accidents, can result in impact injuries that can lead to costly medical bills, lost wages from missed time on the job, and long-term rehabilitation expenses. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and internal injuries can be difficult to treat. Traumatic brain injuries can be especially dangerous because they are not always diagnosed at the time of the accident. Memory loss, mood swings, sleep problems, and difficulty concentrating are all symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury, which can severely interfere with an individual’s ability to enjoy life and work. Spinal cord injuries and other internal injuries can lead to changes in lifestyle that are costly as well, if not death.

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SeamanDid you know that cruise ship crew members can make as little as $156 dollars a week, even while working 12 hour days, seven days a week? Unfortunately, cruise lines get away with paying their crew members wages that would be illegal under U.S. employment law by incorporating in foreign countries like the Bahamas, Panama, and Liberia. Since many cruise companies fail to abide by U.S. labor laws, these laws can provide little protection to crew members with regards to their wages if they are involved in an injury while in the service of their vessel.

Fortunately, some laws still protect U.S. seafarers. One of these laws is the Jones Act. The Jones Act affords U.S. seamen recourse to sue their employers for negligence if they are injured while on board a cruise ship.  Making a Jones Act claim and going up against a multibillion-dollar cruise line is not an easy task, so injured crew members should consult with a Jones Act lawyer in order to ensure that the claim is processed properly.

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Princess Cruises avoids volcanic eruption in Papua New GuineaIt’s not every day that our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. get to see a cruise line making the right decision when it comes to protecting the safety of passengers and crew. We’ve seen far too many accidents that have resulted from a cruise operator’s inability to make the correct call when avoiding regions of political unrest, warfare and general turmoil. In fact, just a few weeks ago, cruise ships were sailing through the Middle East and right across the Gaza Strip conflict. One AIDA ship was even hit by missile debris from an attack on Ashdod as it was leaving port. Though calls on any Israeli port should have been cancelled the moment tensions between Israel and Palestine arose over the Gaza Strip, cruise lines continued to visit the area, placing passenger and crew lives at risk of serious – if not fatal – injuries.

Now, another threat has placed the safety of cruise passengers at risk – a volcano. According to a post on Cruise Critic, a volcano erupted in Papua New Guinea, which led Princess Cruises to make a big decision regarding the itinerary of its ship, the Dawn Princess.

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Cruise deckThis Fall, Royal Caribbean will debut the newest ship on its line. The Quantum of the Seas, when it sets sail in the fall, will be the most technologically-advanced ship on the ocean. In most cases, Royal Caribbean seems to be utilizing new technology in order to keep passengers more secure. For each offshore injury lawyer at our firm, this is a definite victory for passenger safety. However, are these enhancements all they are cracked up to be?

Some of the amenities and features will clearly improve the passenger experience. Passengers will be able to scan their boarding documents prior to embarkation and their luggage will be tagged with radio devices to ensure that no luggage is lost. Apps for better onboard communication will also be available, making sure that passengers can schedule their spa and stay in touch with family while on the ship.

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Senator John Rockefeller Cruise Ship Safety HearingIn a previous blog, our cruise ship rape lawyer Rick Alsina discussed the recent Senate committee hearing, where the prevalence of sexual assault crimes on cruise ships was addressed. The language Senator John D. Rockefeller used was strong and to the point. He was “fed up” with the cruise industry and said that the industry too frequently treated its injured or assaulted passengers and crew with “callousness and disregard,” (U.S.A. Today reports).

Rockefeller has recently introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act to the Senate. This act, when passed, will require passenger vessels to provide more transparent cruise passenger ticket contracts. The act will also place stricter safety requirements on cruise lines and passenger vessels. This proposal seems like a win for passengers. Let’s examine the act in further detail.

One of the many provisions of the act includes requiring cruise lines to summarize key terms of their passenger ticket contracts to ensure that passengers know what they’re getting into (and what rights they are foregoing) before they step on-board a cruise ship. The act will also require cruise lines to summarize the key terms of their passenger ticket contracts in all of their advertising. This would ensure that potential cruisers will be informed about their rights before they decide to purchase a ticket.

Unfortunately, until the Cruise Passenger Protection Act goes into effect, cruise ship passenger ticket contracts will continue to remain murky and contain ambiguous loopholes. As it stands, these contracts limit a cruise line’s liability when someone is injured on a cruise or involved in a crime, even if the incident is as serious as sexual assault or rape. For this reason, it is imperative that you contact a cruise ship rape lawyer if you happen to be injured or sexually assaulted while in international waters. Trying to fight the cruise lines on your own is extremely difficult, but an attorney experienced with the ins and outs of the cruise passenger ticket contract can help you fight for your rights and receive compensation for your injuries.

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Oil tankersThe Jones Act is one of the most important sources of protection afforded to seafarers in the United States. Enacted in 1920, the law serves a variety of purposes, including allowing seafarers the ability recover compensation based on claims of negligence on the ship’s master or crew’s part. It also regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. But while the law has helped countless seamen injured in the course of their employment to obtain justice, not everyone is a fan.

Recent tensions between oil tycoons and Capitol Hill over the law might spell trouble for maritime workers. Seafarers might soon have to seek legal representation with an experienced Jones Act attorney as petroleum marketers and refiners continue to push for changes to the law.

The oil industry moguls claim the Jones Act is causing motor fuel and heating oil prices to skyrocket, hindering the flow of crude between U.S. ports. They aim to get Congress to agree to make changes with the law in order to reduce the Jones Act’s strict regulations. Though tensions are boiling, industry leaders have yet to reveal a solid plan of action as to what exactly they are asking Congress to change regarding the law, but many speculate they will try to push for a round of new Jones Act wavers to allow for the transportation of crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico to east coast refineries.

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Carnival Triumph compliance reportIn our last blog, our admiralty lawyer commented on a recent fire aboard a Holland America ship that seems to be shrouded in mystery. The fire, which allegedly broke out on board the HAL ship Noordam, occurred on August 25, on the last night of an 11-night Mediterranean sailing. Now, we don’t actually know what really happened because the only bit of information we have on the incident is one passenger’s account on the matter.

The passenger took to the popular forum Cruise Critic to discuss what happened, noting that they were awoken at around 3 am by a fire alarm and subsequent announcement regarding the fire. A few minutes later, the passenger explained that the captain announced the fire had occurred in the vessel’s incinerator room. About 30 or so minutes later, the captain announced the fire was put out and everyone could go back to sleep.

If the passenger’s recount is accurate, then it would appear (on the surface) that the situation was addressed and resolved quickly. But as any admiralty lawyer at our firm can tell you, when it comes to the cruise industry, appearances can be deceiving. Continue reading →

Was there a fire on board Holland America NoordamUsually, a cruise ship fire is one of the most highly publicized types of cruise accidents. As our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have mentioned before, cruise lines have a tendency to underreport onboard accidents and crimes in order to avoid liability for incidents that result from lack of safety, but when it comes to fires, there’s not much cruise lines can do to conceal evidence. Or is there?

According to a post on the Cruise Critic message board written by an alleged passenger, a fire broke out aboard the Holland America vessel Noordam last month. The passenger explained they were woken up on Aug. 25, the last night of an 11-night Mediterranean cruise aboard the Noordam, when a fire alarm sounded. Shortly after, an announcement was made that a fire had erupted on deck 3 aft and fire crews had been dispatched to extinguish it. Passengers were told to remain calm, and that the situation was being handled.

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Cruise line pregancy policiesIn the first part of our blog series, our firm discussed the case of a pregnant cruise passenger named Michelle Ligori who was denied embarkation on a Royal Caribbean ship because she was two months pregnant and did not have a “fit to travel” medical note. Though it is common for cruise lines to have a pregnancy policy in place, this policy is usually meant to protect women who are far along in the pregnancy, certainly not those who are in the early stages like Ligori. In fact, Ligori’s pregnancy was so recent, that not even her personal physician knew she was pregnant. Because of this, he was unable to fax the required note when she called his office.

But even aside from this policy, the manner in which Royal Caribbean handled the situation was appalling. Embarkation staff failed to offer Ligori and her family information about how they could obtain the required doctor’s note. It wasn’t until a mere half hour before the ship was due to set sail that Ligori was told she should go to a hospital to acquire the notice. Why wasn’t she notified immediately? Perhaps she would have had some time to go to a local clinic and get a note. As a result of the odd policy and delay in informing the family of what they should do, Ligori ended up having to fly out to the ship the next day and racked up over $1,500 in additional expenses – expenses that Royal Caribbean surely won’t be quick to pay.

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