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 »

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sick cruise passengerThis year was one of the worst that each maritime lawyer here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. has seen when it comes to illnesses at sea. There have been a record number of Norovirus outbreaks that have left thousands of cruise passengers, including the largest Norovirus outbreak in cruise ship history, which occurred aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. More than 600 people fell ill with the infamous “cruise stomach flu,” suffering a range of uncomfortable and potentially fatal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Since it’s a virus, there is no medication currently available to specifically treat Norovirus, so victims must wait it out, staying as hydrated as possible to ensure a fast recovery.

Unfortunately, one of the worst characteristics of Norovirus is the fact that it can spread so easily. The virus can be transmitted by ingesting food and drink that has been contaminated (such as by sharing food with an infected person) or by coming in contact with surfaces that have been contaminated. And because of the fact that cruise passengers are confined to their ships, the virus can spread extremely fast, leading hundreds of people to become ill in a manner of hours. Continue reading →

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Cruise itinerary changesLast time, our admiralty lawyer discussed the unfortunate truth behind cruise itinerary changes that stem from unfavorable weather conditions during hurricane season: passengers will likely not get reimbursed. Cruise passengers usually get the short end of the stick when their itineraries are changed for weather-related reasons. For one, most cruise lines specify in their passenger ticket contracts that they will not be held responsible for any changes or cancellations due to unfavorable weather, which means they don’t have to offer passengers any sort of compensation or even onboard credit for their losses. Whatever money the traveler spent will most likely be lost. If lucky, the cruise line will offer a few free drinks or casino credits. But that’s a big IF.

Aside from losing money from their cruise ticket purchase, itinerary changes can cause several other problems for passengers outside the actual cruise line. Some travelers book excursions through outside companies and will almost certainly not get a refund because of a weather-related cancellation – even if it was the cruise line’s decision to make the itinerary changers. Other travelers make plans at certain ports of call, especially when a ship stays at a destination overnight, and reserve hotel accommodations which they may lose their deposit – if not entire payment – for.

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Weather related cruise itinerary changesIn our last blog, our admiralty lawyer Michael Winkleman discussed the many ways in which adverse weather conditions can affect a cruise ship’s itinerary. Though cruise lines would often prefer to take their chances with a storm than cancel an entire itinerary and lose revenue, there are times when weather conditions are so dangerous, cruise lines don’t have a choice. Given that we are right at the peak of hurricane season, it’s important for potential cruise passengers to know what they can expect in the upcoming months.

If a major storm threatens the Caribbean in the upcoming months, which is where the vast majority of cruise itineraries are focused, travelers booked on cruise vacations may notice a change in the ship’s ports of call. Some cruise lines may opt to visit an alternate destination in lieu of the dropped port, or, as happens frequently, may decide to just spend the day at sea – much to the dismay of cruise passengers who have spent time planning their vacations expecting to visit certain destinations and who have paid (in many cases) a significant amount of money for their cruises.

A substituted port, while not the original destination a cruise passenger might have had their hearts set on, is at least a fair exchange. However, when a cruise line decides to just skip a port – or cancel a cruise completely – and offer passengers no recourse, that’s when tensions start to build.

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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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