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 »

Articles Posted in Catastrophic Injuries

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When we board a cruise ship, we enter a world of cloistered comfort and safety. It can be easy to forget the dangers inherent in voyaging out to sea. All sea vessels, including cruise ships, ferries, and cargo ships, are vulnerable to weather, shallow reefs, and other obstacles. They can also sink due to faulty equipment. Add to that the fact that these vessels travel great distance over the vast and unpredictable ocean and you have a recipe for (occasional) disaster.

Curious about some of these accidents? Our maritime attorneys have compiled a list of the top ten worst maritime disasters on record. Let’s take a look.

10. In 1954, the Toya Maru, a Japanese passenger ferry sank between Hokkaido and Honshu. While the official recorded death toll is 1,153, the actual death toll may be higher or lower because some passengers actually didn’t board with tickets, while others cancelled their bookings before setting sail.
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Italy is known for a great many things – good food, fashion, culture, and… maritime accidents? Since the Costa Concordia crashed off the coast of Giglio last year on Jan. 13, the cruise industry just hasn’t been the same, especially in Italy. The Concordia, which ran aground after its captain decided to change course to perform a “salute,” still remains at its watery grave, serving as a testament to the dangers of the open waters and what can happen when crew members fail to follow safe procedures.  But as the country struggles to move past the terrible Concordia cruise ship accident, another tragic maritime incident has taken place, this time claiming the lives of seven people.

According to reports in Italy, the Jolly Nero, a 787-foot-long container ship, crashed into a control tower at the port of Genoa late Tuesday night, causing the structure to collapse. Rescue crews have been searching the rubble for days to find survivors and divers are inspecting the waters in the area, but so far, seven casualties have been reported, several others have been injured and two people are missing.

Much the way the Concordia’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was accused of manslaughter after changing the vessel’s course, which led to the crash and subsequent deaths of 32 people, the Jolly Nero’s captain is being investigated by prosecutors who are looking to push similar manslaughter charges. However, officials believe the most likely cause of the crash was attributed to mechanical failure and so far, there are no definite explanations. The ship has been impounded and investigators seized its “black box” to search for answers.

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Our maritime accident attorneys have seen many different types of collisions at sea, but by far, one of the worst accidents took place last year in the waters of Hong Kong after a personal watercraft and ferry boat collided in October. And now, a report into the tragic boat crash that killed 39 people says that “systemic failings” in the nation’s marine department contributed to the incident.

The report listed “a litany of errors” committed by the marine department regarding boating safety for passengers, including a lack of lifejackets for children and the absence of a watertight door on one vessel.

The vessels in question, the pleasure boat Lamma IV, and a high-speed ferry, the Sea Smooth, collided in Victoria Harbour off of Lamma Island in Hong Kong on Oct. 1, National Day holiday. The ferry crashed into the Lamma IV, which was transporting a group of Hong Kong Electric company employees and their families who had gone out to see to watch the holiday fireworks and the vessel sank just minutes after the impact.

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In a few days’ time, the anniversary of one of the world’s most tragic cruise ship accidents will be upon us. January 13 marks the one-year anniversary of the Costa Concordia capsizing, and survivors (as well as cruise industry experts) are still not satisfied with the investigation into the captain’s wrongdoings, nor his seeming lack of regret. The captain, Francesco Schettino, altered the course of the Concordia on the day of the accident, deciding to perform a maneuver known as a “salute” while approaching the Italian island of Giglio. This move brought the ship too close to shore, where it crashed against some rocks, damaging its hull.

The vessel capsized, leaving 32 people dead and hundreds more injured. Meanwhile, Schettino abandoned ship before all the passengers and crewmembers were safely off the vessel, and has been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter for his role in the maritime tragedy. Investigators are also unhappy with the entire tragedy, and all fingers appear to be pointing at Schettino, who has stated that he believes he isn’t as guilty as people presume him to be. In lieu of the memorial events that will mark the anniversary of the cruise ship disaster this weekend, the magistrate who led the investigation into the accident said Schettino maneuvered the Concordia “like a canoe.”

Grosseto prosecutor Francesco Verusio was the first magistrate at the scene of the cruise ship accident last year. His critical remarks come just days after Schettino complained of being portrayed as “worse than Bin Laden” for his role in the tragedy. Schettino is likely to be indicted, but many, including the magistrate, are shocked to see that he has taken very little responsibility for the incident.

In an interview with the Florence edition of Corriere Della Sera, Verusio said Schettino’s role in the cruise ship accident “emerged immediately.”

“It was evident that that he was the person responsible. We could have tried him there on the spot,” explained Verusio. “It emerged that he had been on the bridge of the Concordia, guiding a ship of over 300 meters and more than 4,000 people, as if it were a canoe.”

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The one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia capsizing is upon us, and cruise officials say there will likely be several mourners gathering at the site of the tragic accident to honor the lives that were lost on January 13, 2012. Officials say that around 900 people are likely to gather in the Tuscan island of Giglio, where the Concordia capsized after crashing into rocks. A total of 32 people died and several hundred were injured. Meanwhile, the captain of the vessel, Francesco Schettino, is under criminal investigation for manslaughter and abandoning ship. The accident occurred after Schettino ordered the vessel to alter its course and perform a maneuver called a “salute” as it approached the coast. As a result, the vessel came too close to the shore and struck the rocks, tearing a large gash in the hull.

In just four days, people who would like to pay their respects to the deceased will gather on a pier in Giglio. Survivors, family members of the deceased and emergency workers who pulled passengers from the water will be the focus of the ceremony, said Mayor Sergio Ortelli. Those attending the event will be able to see the ship, which remains in the water at its accident site. Authorities say they will not be able to raise and move the vessel until at least June, so spectators and mourners will still be able to see the Concordia tilted on its side for a few more months.

The vessel serves as a reminder that safety standards onboard cruise ships have to improve drastically. Aside from the initial crash, the Concordia’s crewmembers were blamed for a disorganized evacuation and survivors explained many of the workers did not speak English, nor did they know what their roles in carrying out the emergency procedures were. This led to an extremely chaotic scene that could have easily been prevented. Had better safety protocols been in place, perhaps more lives would have been saved.

Schettino and several Concordia workers are still under investigation for the cruise ship accident. The former captain faces multiple counts of manslaughter, but is pointing fingers at the cruise industry, saying he was unfairly dismissed following the accident. While he claims he is sorry for the tragic maritime incident, he believes he was wrongfully terminated. Schettino is in court this week with his attorneys arguing the wrongful dismissal. However, to the survivors of the Costa Concordia tragedy and the loved ones of the deceased, being terminated from his position is the very least that could happen for some semblance of justice to be obtained.

Multiple survivors and relatives of the deceased have turned to our attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. to file lawsuit against the Costa Concordia for their damages and injuries.

Photo Credit: theatlantic.com

The one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia tragedy is upon us, and it seems as though the captain of the vessel, Francesco Schettino, has done little to repent. Instead, he is claiming he has been treated badly following the incident, despite the fact that he has been criminally charged for his role in the capsizing of the vessel, and one of the worst maritime accidents in history. Schettino says he has been “treated worse than Bin Laden” following the disaster, which took place on Jan. 13, 2012, leaving 32 people dead and hundreds more injured.

Schettino, 52, was in command of the Concordia when he decided to alter the vessel’s course as it approached the Italian island of Giglio. Schettino decided to carry out a maneuver known as a “salute” to impress passengers, which entails the vessel getting closer to dangerously closer to shore than safety protocols suggest. However, instead of showing off, what he did was cause the vessel to crash into rocks off Giglio’s coast, tearing a 70-meter gash in the ship’s hull.

Schettino doesn’t seem to be accepting full responsibility for the incident. Had the maneuver not been performed, the tragedy would have been avoided. Yet, the former captain claims he has been overly mistreated for the accident. Facing multiple charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship, Schettino spoke out in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, just days before the anniversary of the maritime tragedy.

“I’ve been treated worse than (Osama) Bin Laden, while my regret for what happened is enormous. I reject the image that has been attached to myself, it ridicules not only 30 years of my work but my experience worldwide and also the image of our country has been opened to unjust criticism globally,” said Schettino.

In the days following the capsizing, Schettino was given the nickname ‘captain coward’ after word got out that he fled the vessel before all the passengers and crewmembers were safely off the ship. Along with Schettino, several other crewmembers have also been blamed for their role in the tragedy and have also been criminally charged. The defendants await trial in Italy, but for the hundreds of injured passengers and the surviving loved ones of those who lost their lives, Schettino has not even begun to take responsibility for his actions.

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The New Year is a time for reflecting on everything that has taken place in the previous months. Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our cruise ship injury lawyers would like to take a few moments to look back on the many accidents that have taken place both at sea and in port across the world. Although time may pass and 2013 brings with it hopes of improved maritime safety standards, we cannot turn our backs nor forget the tragedies that have befallen the industry in 2012.

Perhaps the worst cruise ship accident that took place this year was the Costa Concordia capsizing. The Concordia capsized off the coast of Giglio, an Italian island, on January 13 after the vessel’s captain, Francesco Schettino, ordered a maneuver known as a “salute” to be performed. The ship came too close to shore and crashed into some rocks, damaging its hull and causing it to capsize. A total of 32 people were killed in the tragedy and captain, along with several crewmembers, are still under criminal investigation for their role in the incident.

Another tragic incident took place on August 16 onboard another Carnival Corp.-owned vessel. A 15-year-old girl was violently raped by several teen boys and a 31-year-old man onboard the Carnival Sensation. Although the assailant, Casey Dickerson, was arrested and charged, the young victim’s life will forever be changed because of the incidents on the ship. Dickerson had access to two cabins on the vessel after he and his wife complained about noise in their first cabin. Carnival gave the couple keys to a new room, but Dickerson discovered he still had access to the other. After meeting the young girl, he and the teen boys took her back to the stateroom, at which time they took turns raping her.

Aside from these terrible incidents, there were also a series of cruise ship passenger disappearances, assaults, crimes, miscellaneous injuries, and a string of Norovirus outbreaks. It is important for anyone who has experienced a cruise ship injury or who has lost someone they love at sea to understand they have rights. Victims may be entitled to compensation following the accidents and incidents, especially because the majority of the time, the tragedies are the result of the cruise line operators’ own negligence. Cruise vessel authorities are responsible for protecting all who are onboard from harm, and when that safety is compromised, they may be found liable for any resulting injuries or mental anguish. The attorneys at Lipcon have witnessed too many people get hurt in 2012 and hope the cruise industry will make significant changes with the New Year to improve maritime safety for all passengers and crewmembers so the number of negligence-related accidents can diminish.

Photo Credits:

Costa Concordia: theatlantic.com
Casey Dickerson – orlandosentinel.com

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A Look Back At Some Of The Worst Cruise Ship Accidents In History

There have been several cruise ship accidents throughout the years – some have been reported while others haven’t – but there have been a few that have gone down in history as catastrophic. While some cruise lines may try to cover up smaller incidents, there are some that are so significant that they have made headlines and have forever changed the cruise industry.

As the years have gone by and technology has progressed, one might assume that cruise lines should have already found a way to avoid certain tragedies at sea, at least those that stem from negligence, but judging from the latest cruise accident, the capsizing of the Costa Concordia, it’s alarming the number of cruise ship accidents that still take place.

But whether mechanical failure was the culprit for the accident, unfavorable weather conditions, human error, or negligence, accidents on the high seas don’t usually end well. When a cruise accident takes place, victims may be entitled to seek damages for their pain and suffering, but who do you point the finger at? Who exactly is to blame for these tragedies? Let’s take a look back at some of the worst cruise accidents that have garnered the attention of maritime authorities and cruise passengers a like and see what – or whom – was at fault.

Titanic

Undoubtedly the worst cruise accident in history was the sinking of the Titanic. On her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York, Titanic collided with an iceberg just four days into sailing. Although these days, a ship the size of Titanic is not uncommon, in 1912, Titanic was the largest vessel to ever set sail and the vessel itself was not structurally sound. The accident resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people.

So who is to blame for the accident? Was it the captain’s fault for not heeding warnings of icebergs and trying to get to New York in record time? Had he slowed the ship down, would the accident have been avoided altogether? Or, could the incident be blamed on the actual shipbuilder? Roughly 3 million rivets were used to hold Titanic together, but investigations after the sinking showed that the rivets were made with sub-standard iron. When the ship crashed into the iceberg, the heads of the rivets broke, which ultimately caused the vessel to tear in half. If the quality of the iron had been better, perhaps the ship might not have sunk. Moreover, even had the ship still sank, if the vessel had more lifeboats, would the majority of the passengers and crewmembers have been saved?

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While Costa Concordia lawsuits are still in motion both in the United States and in Italy, one artist has decided to bring the cruise ship tragedy all the way to New York City with a rendition of the accident.

The remains of the Concordia are still off the coast of Italy, and officials say it may take roughly a year to remove it, but the Jan. 13 wreck, which left 32 people dead and countless others injured, has been a source of inspiration for artist Thomas Hirschhorn, who has created a replica of the cruise ship accident in his own vision.

Hirschhorn, whose memorable cardboard cave installation “Cavemanman” became one of the most well-known in Chelsea’s history, has installed a banquet hall inside Chelsea’s Gladstone Gallery, tipped on its side to simulate the way the Concordia capsized. The show, which is open to the public through October 20, is inspired by photos of the inside of the ship viewed by Hirschhorn.

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The Costa Concordia tragedy in January has been a source of controversy and concern for both surviving victims and the loved ones of those who perished in the capsizing of the vessel after it ran aground. While those involved in the cruise ship accident may be entitled to a large settlement due to the liabilities associated with the Captain’s actions, a recent CNN discussion of the accident may lead surviving victims and their families to believe they may not qualify for the full compensation the rightfully deserve.

The EU has proposed a regulation that would make the Athens Convention of 1974 applicable to all members, including Italy, where the Concordia cruise ship accident took place. The Athens Convention established a system that governs the liability of cruise ship operators from personal injuries and property damage that are sustained by passengers.

As part of the Athens Convention, the carrier in question is allowed to limit its liability for personal injury accidents with passengers or fatalities, but the carrier loses its right to limit liability when the damage resulted from an intent to purposefully cause damage or where a reckless action took place, where the person responsible was aware that such damage would likely result – and in the Concordia case, the captain is being accused of negligence and abandoning ship before passengers were safe. When personal injuries or death result, the liability is limited at 46,666 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) per carriage, which is about $70,000. The 2002 Protocol, when it goes into effect on Dec. 31, 2012, will introduce compulsory insurance to raise the limits of liability to 250,000 SDR per passenger.

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