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 Cruise Ship Accidents

Cruise ship inspectionCruise ship safety is finally being taken more seriously. In the wake of the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy, the Carnival Triumph fire, and the dozens of other accidents that have befallen the cruise industry, the U.S. government has begun taking a stronger stance, pushing for greater safety industry-wide. For many years, cruise lines have underreported both accidents and crimes, leaving the government in the dark about serious incidents. Now, the Coast Guard has begun to randomly inspect cruise ships and the truth is finally coming to light.

Though the Coast Guard conducts routine inspections of cruise ships twice a year, the agency began inspecting ships unannounced beginning on March 5th, focusing attention on ships that have received complaints during routine inspections. According to Coast Guard Capt. Eric Christensen,  the agency inspected 140 foreign ships last year when they reached U.S. ports and found a whopping 351 violations of international safety standards.

The inspections take about four hours to complete.  Once a ship reaches a U.S. port, several Coast Guard agents will be on hand to inspect the vessel for problems. Usually, agents begin by reviewing the ship’s log to see if crew members recorded any incidents  or made any repairs. If a malfunction is noted and allegedly fixed, the agents will verify the work.

The most common issue, present in 44 of the cases, was malfunctioning fire-screen doors, which would prevent the spread of a fire onboard a vessel. Other problems discovered in the inspections included lifeboats with cracked hulls, escape routes that were obstructed, and a lack of crew member training regarding emergency situations and proper emergency protocols.

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Life saver Our maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have continually reported on the alarming increase of cruise ship accidents over the past few years. In the first three months of this year alone, we’ve seen at least six overboard accidents and disappearances, several incidents of sexual assault, including the brutal rape and attempted murder of a Holland America passenger by a crew member, and countless other instances in which both passengers and crew members have been injured, ill, or become the targets of a crime.

Despite these terrifying accidents and crimes, and the several bills that have been introduced to improve safety on cruise ships, including the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013, we’ve seen little or no sign of significant improvement in either onboard or offshore safety policies. So, what is it going to take to get the cruise industry’s attention and prompt cruise lines to enhance their accident and crime prevention policies and safety features?

Could a call to safety by someone who has actually worked within the cruise industry be the catalyst for change? We’ll soon find out.

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Cruise ship accidents on the riseToday, many people envision their ideal vacation as embarking on an exciting adventure to a faraway land or tropical destination aboard a cruise ship.  Cruise vacations can be a lot of fun for travelers of all ages.  These days, not only can you sail the seven seas to distant ports, but the vessels themselves are designed to be as exciting – if not more so – than the ports of call on their itinerary.

It’s no wonder then that cruise travel has increased dramatically since 1980.  Statistics show that the cruise industry experiences an average passenger growth of 7.6 percent per year.  Since 2011, over 16 million guests have taken cruise vacations all over the world. However, while cruising can be a terrific experience overall, for those few who suffer an accident or become victims of a crime on board or on land, the experience can very quickly turn into a very long nightmare.

Our maritime accident attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can attest to the growing number of passenger injuries, crimes and disappearances within the industry. Though cruise ship accidents have occurred since the industry began, the increased number of passengers each ship holds today has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of incidents in the last five years. This is despite the fact that maritime safety technology keeps improving.

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questionIn Part 1 of our blog, we discussed the mystery surrounding the death of 29-year-old cruise passenger, John Perricone. Mr. Perricone died suddenly and unexpectedly while on a cruise vacation with his family. Though autopsy results are pending, there are specific protocols the cruise line should have taken following the death. These protocols must be followed in the event of any passenger death in order to protect the rights of the deceased and their loved ones.

Some times, cruise line negligence is responsible for the death or for complications following the death. This is why there are specific protocols in place that all cruise lines must fully abide by.

The first step that must be taken following a fatality onboard a cruise ship is for the cruise line to contact the deceased’s next of kin. Luckily for the Perricones, the majority of the family was onboard when he passed, so the cruise line did not have to worry about this step. However, federal authorities should have been contacted, including the FBI and Coast Guard.  Despite foul play not being suspected, the cruise line should have also launched an investigation into the death and determine whether anyone else onboard was suffering from similar symptoms.

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questionNo one ever suspects that what should be a fun-filled cruise vacation could possibly ever go awry. Despite the increasing number of cruise ship accidents, crimes, and mysteries at sea that not even our maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can begin to unravel, travelers tend to see their cruise through rose colored glasses. Sure, they may know that there’s a chance they may get hurt onboard or at a foreign port or become the victim of assault or theft, but they remain undaunted by the statistics. But there are times when all the data in the world cannot prepare a family for the unexpected. A death onboard a cruise ship is not only frightening, but wrought with complications. Innumerable things can go wrong, from the autopsy to the transfer of the body.

Sometimes, it’s the cruise line that’s to blame for the death or for any complications in the process that must follow a death at sea. Yet, there are times when the circumstances surrounding the tragedy are out of the control of both the cruise line and the family. Some cruise ship fatalities can neither be prevented nor explained. This is the unfortunate situation one Chicago family is struggling with at the moment following a mysterious death onboard a Carnival Cruise ship.

John Perricone, a mere 29 years old, was on a Carnival Cruise vacation last month with his family to Mexico when he fell ill. After a few days, Mr. Perricone was not showing signs of improvement, and began to experience difficulty breathing. It was then that his wife, Brittany, immediately took him to the ship’s onboard physician for treatment. That’s when things suddenly took a tragic turn.

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Rogue waveTuesday, our cruise ship accident lawyers recounted the hellish story of an elderly cruise passenger who was killed after a rogue wave crashed into the vessel he was sailing on. The victim, an 85-year-old man who was identified as James Swinstead, was one of two cruise passengers who were severely injured after a massive wave crashed into the side of the MS Marco Polo ship on February 14, shattering several windows in the dining area and harming a number of passengers. Swinstead and the other passenger were evacuated to the nearest shore side hospital, but sadly, Swinstead did not make it. The other injured passengers were treated onboard.

Our firm has talked extensively about the cruise industry’s failure to properly abide by maritime laws regarding safety, and while recounting this tragic accident yesterday, one of our attorneys, Michael Winkleman, discussed how cruise lines often attribute “rogue wave” accidents to chance so as to avoid taking responsibility for any accidents that ensue due to their own failure to protect the safety of their guests.

By definition, a rogue wave is basically a giant wave that appears to come out of nowhere.  It is much larger than surrounding waves and has enough power to impale a cruise ship. But while these natural phenomena do appear to pop up spontaneously, they tend to appear in areas known for dangerous waters and during massive storms.

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Rogue waveOur cruise ship accident lawyers have been covering a wide range of cases as of late, from passenger disappearances to tragic sexual assault crimes. More often than not, these terrible happenings could have  been prevented had the cruise lines in question boosted their security measures and safety procedures. Having represented literally thousands of victims who have suffered accidents and crimes on the high seas, it comes as no surprise to the lawyers at our firm that negligence or wrongdoing is to blame for the vast majority of these incidents.  However, we’ve just learned of a horrible cruise accident that may have actually been just that – an accident.

Our attorneys have just come to learn that a passenger aboard the British-based cruise ship MS Marco Polo, owned by Cruise & Maritime Voyages, was killed after the ship was hit by a “freak wave during adverse sea conditions.” The vessel was sailing into the English Channel on February 14 when the accident occurred and was transporting a total of 735 passengers and 349 crew members.

By common definition, a “rogue” wave is a giant wave that unexpectedly comes out of nowhere.  Scientifically, a rogue wave is a wave that is greater than twice the size of surrounding waves.  In practice, a “rogue” wave is a defense put up by cruise lines or ship owners in order to avoid responsibility for sailing into dangerous waters, which are often known to include GIANT waves.

To this very point, the UK had been reportedly suffering with unfavorable weather last month, from torrential rains to horrific floods to huge waves at sea.  Thus, this alleged  massive rogue wave devastating the cruise ship couldn’t really be that much of a surprise, could it?

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Costa CruisesThey say you can never go home again. But it appears that saying doesn’t really apply to the former Captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino.  Over two years after Schettino manned the helm of the Costa Concordia and ultimately contributed to its fatal crash, and several months since he was charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship, the controversial captain is now back at the port of Giglio, Italy.

This is the first time Schettino has been back to the site of the wreck since the Concordia crashed off the coast of Giglio in January 2012.  Donning his usual garb (dark sunglasses and a leather jacket), Schettino arrived at the port and was immediately bombarded by the media.

The captain, and several other crew members, were accused of contributing to the crash. The cruise ship accident lawyers at our firm have been keeping up with the investigation, but despite all the stories and accusations, the portion of blame which has been placed on Schettino doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. Schettino was the one who reportedly decided to make the last minute change in itinerary that brought the Concordia too close to shore. And as a result, the vessel crashed into a huge rock, which tore a hole in the hull and led it to capsize.

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Costa CruisesOur maritime attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have talked at length about the tragic Costa Concordia accident that killed 32 people. Although two years have passed since the tragic crash, the disaster still seems fresh, not only in our minds, but especially in the minds of victims and those who lost loved ones in the wreck.

There have been countless explanations offered for the crash, but the predominant theory is that Concordia captain Francesco Schettino was to blame. Schettino was reportedly the one that ordered the last minute itinerary change that ultimately led to the ship’s demise. And he wasn’t the last man standing on the ship. But while Schettino’s actions are questionable, should he be getting the brunt of the blame? At this point, is he being attacked unreasonably?

Let’s take a look at the facts.

The Costa Concordia accident occurred on January 13, 2012. Schettino reportedly decided to make a last minute call to change the ship’s itinerary in order to perform a maneuver called a “salute” that would bring the vessel closer to shore. In doing so, the Concordia struck a large rock and capsized off the coast of Giglio.

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Costa CruisesIt’s hard to believe that almost two years have passed since the tragic Costa Concordia capsizing accident. Around this time two years ago, one captain reportedly made an unapproved call to change the Concordia’s itinerary at the last minute in order to “show off” his skills and the ship. The vessel was approaching the coast of Giglio, Italy and the captain, Francesco Schettino, wanted to perform a maneuver called a “salute”, which would bring the ship very close to shore – too close. In the attempt, the Concordia struck a giant underwater rock, which tore the vessel’s hull and caused water to begin cascading in.

An emergency evacuation was called, but there was more of a panic and frenzy among crew members than among the frightened passengers themselves. Those who survived recounted a nightmarish experience, with crews struggling to communicate and to execute a comprehensive, successful escape plan.

In the end, 32 victims lost their lives because of the actions of one man – Francesco Schettino. But he wasn’t the only one responsible. Several other Concordia crew members were arrested, charged and found guilty of manslaughter, but managed to evade the law after their sentences were suspended. We have yet to learn the captain’s fate, but since everyone else, including the cruise line, has avoided persecution, it seems the full brunt of the blame will fall on his hands.

Justice has been an elusive concept for both surviving victims and the loved ones of those who perished in the tragic accident, but it seems that maybe one man’s conscience has finally gotten the best of him. According to a Carnival Corp. press release, Costa Cruises’ former CEO is retiring.

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