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

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lifeguardIt’s an issue our cruise lawyers have discussed time and time again, yet one which has yet to be addressed. An issue that is widespread in the cruise industry, but one which perpetually gets ignored. Lifeguards – or lack thereof. Though one might imagine that all cruise ships should employ trained lifeguards, seeing as the nature of a cruise vacation centers around water, the dire truth is that only a handful of cruise ships actually do.

Believe it or not, cruise passenger drownings are more common than anyone might think. And these drowning aren’t happening due to overboard accidents; they are happening right onboard the cruise ships in pools and hot tubs.

A special aired on WKMG Local 6 (ClickOrlando) discussed the frightening truth of cruise ship drownings, especially accidents involving children. The news station interviewed the parents of one child who drowned onboard the Carnival Victory, six-year-old Qwentyn Hunter. Qwentyn was surrounded by his family when the accident occurred, which further demonstrates the need for trained lifeguards to watch over passengers in pool areas at all times.

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Cruise ship medical facilitiesIn Part 1 of What You Should Know About Cruise Ship Medical Facilities, we presented a very frightening, but very possible scenario involving a cruise passenger who went into anaphylaxis after consuming an alcoholic beverage with a nut ingredient. The passenger was not informed of the ingredients in the drink prior to consuming the cocktail, and began experiencing an extreme allergic reaction a few minutes out. Though the passenger, who was well aware of their allergies, came equipped with an epinephrine pen (EpiPen) in case of emergencies, it was left behind as the victim relaxed on the Lido deck. After seeing the passenger’s reaction, crew members transported the victim to the ship’s medical quarters, where an epinephrine shot was administered. Unfortunately, too much time had elapsed and even with the shot, the passenger died.

This hypothetical passenger shares a fate similar to many who have sailed aboard cruise ships and fallen gravely ill or succumbed to life-threatening injuries. Though accidents can and do happen, it’s impossible to turn away from the fact that many accidents and illnesses on the high seas end in fatalities. Why does this happen?

For one, many people who suffer a medical emergency on a cruise ship do not obtain the treatment they need in time. Heart attacks, strokes, appendicitis, and allergic reactions can be fatal, but have a much greater chance of being surpassed if superior medical treatment is attained immediately. Yet, cruise passengers often are not rushed to sick bay or are not rushed off the ship to the nearest hospital.

But aside from the time aspect, health emergencies that transpire on cruise ships often become fatal because the ship itself is extremely ill-equipped to handle little more than a common cold, headache or minor scrape. In an age when over 3,000 people can easily sail aboard one ship to some of the most remote and places where hospitals aren’t even found, it’s hard to believe that cruise lines haven’t started equipping vessels with urgent care units.

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doctorLet’s pretend you’re right in the middle of sailing the high seas on an exciting cruise vacation. You’re out on the Lido deck, working on your tan and sipping on an unidentified, yet oh so tasty tropical cocktail your server referred to as the “Signature Drink of the Day”. A smile begins to sweep across your face as the rhythmic sounds of Calypso music play in the background. Taking a deep breath, you lay back and close your eyes, letting the cool salty breeze drift you into pure bliss.

But just as quickly as you slipped into relaxation mode, your downtime was rudely interrupted by the realization that you’ve developed a tickle in your throat. You take a big gulp of your drink and chock it up to the cigarette smokers a few feet away from you. But the tickle quickly escalates into a raging sore throat. Your palms begin to itch and you suddenly have trouble breathing. But you’re no stranger to these symptoms. You know exactly what’s happening. As you start to panic, you look down at your drink and it dawns on you – that mystery drink isn’t all that much of a mystery anymore. Gasping for air, you run toward the first cocktail waiter you see and somehow manage to ask him to tell you what’s in the drink. But he doesn’t know, and seeing the urgency in your actions, turns around and asks for the bartender’s help. The clock is ticking.

As the bartender is running through the list of ingredients, you’re worst fears are confirmed – there’s Peanut Rum Crème in the drink….and you are deathly allergic to peanuts. You are going into anaphylactic shock. You brought an EpiPen, but it’s back in your cabin. You weren’t planning on eating anything containing nuts, so why would you bring it to the Lido deck? Who would have ever imagined a cruise ship would serve a drink with peanuts without informing anyone, when it’s one of the world’s most common allergens?

As the allergic reaction intensifies, frightened crew members rush you to the medical facility on board the ship. The doctor gives you a dose of epinephrine right away, but you do not feel relief. Too much time passed. You need serious medical attention right now. Unfortunately, you won’t be getting it.

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doctorIf you’ve noticed an increase in the number of cruise passenger injuries and deaths, you’re not alone. Our maritime lawyers worry constantly about the ever-increasing rate at which cruise travelers are becoming exposed to life-threatening situations. It’s natural that with the growing size of ships and the larger number of passengers they accommodate, accidents would be much more likely to occur. But at the same time, cruise lines have done nothing to improve onboard medical facilities or facilitate the transport of seriously ill or injured passengers to the nearest land-based hospital.

In our last blog, Sick at Sea? Don’t Expect Much Help from Cruise Lines, we provided an inside look into what passengers requiring medical treatment during their cruise vacation can expect. In all honesty, they shouldn’t expect much. Though not for lack of space, cruise ships are not equipped with extensive emergency medical facilities, nor are all ship doctors even properly trained to treat serious or life-threatening illnesses and injuries. If a passenger needs emergency treatment right away, they might not even get approved for an air medevac, and may suffer serious – if not fatal – complications as a result.

Even when a cruise passenger does obtain treatment, whether for a larger health issue or for a minor injury, they can expect to pay an arm and a leg for it. Health insurance isn’t usually accepted onboard ships, which means that anyone needing medical attention, even if it’s just for sea sickness, will be paying full-price out-of-pocket costs.

But while there are times when emergencies strike without any foreseeable cause, there are many things cruise passengers can do to minimize their risk of getting sick or hurt on the high seas, and reduce their chances of having to pay the exorbitant cost of onboard medical care. Let’s explore these options.

 

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water activitiesThere are many factors that can result in an accident at sea. Some are caused by an inexperienced captain and crew, while others result from unfavorable conditions. Below are some of the most common factors contributing to maritime accidents throughout the world, including cruise ship, cargo vessel and pleasure craft accidents:

Inexperience

No matter what state you live in, there are strict maritime laws that govern pleasure craft activities. In addition to those laws, there are international maritime regulations that oversee the operation of cruise and cargo ships to ensure not only the safety of those onboard the vessels, but the safety of anyone else in the vicinity. From the smallest boat to the largest passenger ship in the world, one of the main rules everyone must abide by when manning the helm is the fact that a minimum amount of experience is required. There can be both age limits and experience restrictions when it comes to operating vessels in open water. Inexperience has resulted in many accidents at sea, mostly due to the fact that if a pilot or crew member does not have the sufficient expertise in responding to emergency situations, such as inclement weather or a collision, they will not understand how to maneuver out of the emergency. Yet, these types of accidents continue to occur. Continue reading →

questionA boat and a cruise ship went out to sea…sounds like the beginning of a silly joke, but we assure you, humorous is far from how we would describe a recent accident involving a boat and a cruise ship.  According to reports, three sailors were out at sea in Swedish waters last week when their boat collided with a Viking Line cruise ship. Tiny boat versus 1,800 plus passenger ship? This has disaster written all over it.   But while this maritime accident could have turned out much worse, miraculously, no serious injuries were reported.

News sources say the mariners were sailing in the Stockholm archipelago around midday on Saturday when their boat collided with the Viking ship, which was en route to Finland. Though the boat sunk after crashing with the Viking ship, the sailors were lucky to escape this perilous accident relatively unscathed – and even luckier to have been rescued right away. Locals from the island of Marö, just 200 meters away from the accident scene, witnessed the collision and immediately sailed out to assist the victims. Emergency crews were also quick to respond.

The trio, two men and a woman, were rescued from the frigid waters and brought back to the island, where they were given dry clothes and treated for shock. They were then transported to a local hospital for further treatment, but from what our firm has heard, no one sustained any serious injuries. For that matter, we don’t know if the victims even suffered any injuries at all. This is an extremely rare occurrence, especially considering the fact that even what would appear to be minor boating accidents often result in debilitating – if not fatal – injuries.  Perhaps even more remarkably,  the boaters didn’t even appear to have been wearing life jackets.

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South Korea Ferry AccidentTragedy stuck on Wednesday morning, when a passenger ferry transporting nearly 500 people capsized in frigid waters off the coast of the South Korean peninsula. Our maritime lawyers brought you the story yesterday, but have since learned of some new, disturbing evidence regarding both the rescue mission and the captain’s actions.

According to authorities, the death count is now up to 16 as of Thursday night, and no additional survivors have been located, despite the fact that over 500 divers have been scouring the area for two days. Unfortunately, unfavorable weather conditions have interfered with the ongoing search, reducing diver visibility and placing the lives of rescuers in danger.

As hope to find additional survivors continues to diminish, three large cranes have now been sent out to the accident site to raise the ferry, as several passengers are believed to have been trapped in the wreckage. Divers are also planning to pump oxygen into the sunken ship to aid any victims who may still be struggling for life inside the vessel.

As it stands, nearly 300 passengers remain unaccounted for – many of which are teenagers. The ferry had been en route to the resort island of Jeju on a class trip, when the ferry, a five-story ship named the Sewol, apparently crashed into a yet unidentifiable object and listed severely to one side. Passengers were told to remain calm and seated, but the environment onboard was anything BUT tranquil.

Footage obtained from rescued survivors shows hundreds of people with lifejackets on, trying to follow crew member orders, all the while the ship was  rapidly sinking. Many chose to jump ship, while others frantically searched the ship for any sign of help or good news from the crew.

Very little information has been revealed regarding the actual cause of the accident, but from the looks of it, the accident shares an eerie resemblance to the Costa Concordia capsizing accident. Both accidents appear to have resulted from negligence, and with new, appalling information regarding the Sewol’s captain, it seems our fears are coming to fruition.

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South Korea Ferry AccidentAnother day, another accident involving a cruise line. But this time, we can’t even peg the tragedy on negligence – or anything for that matter. There’s barely any information regarding what caused this latest tragedy, but what we do know is that hundreds of people have gone missing off the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, and we’ve yet to hear an explanation as to what could have possibly caused this terrible accident to unfold.

All eyes are glued to South Korean news outlets, as we continue to receive word on the mysterious sinking of a passenger ferry named the Sewol. In what is already being dubbed the nation’s worst maritime disaster in two decades, 290 people are currently missing after the Sewol sank Wednesday morning while en route to the resort island of Jeju.

The passenger vessel was carrying roughly 470 people, 325 of which were high school students. Divers scoured the cold, murky waters on Wednesday, fearing most of the victims became trapped inside the sunken vessel. Nearly 100 rescue vessels and 18 helicopters were dispatched to search for victims, but given the dire circumstances of the accident, the chance of finding many more victims is grim.

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Life saverCruise ship safety – or lack thereof – has been a recurring problem within the cruise industry as of late. Although safety concerns have always been a topic of debate since the very first cruise ship set sail over a century ago, the past five or so years have been wrought with more accidents and crimes than ever before. The Costa Concordia capsizing in 2012 appeared to be a turning point in the industry that caused maritime authorities to take action and more strictly regulate the industry. Unfortunately, there is not much the U.S. government can do to improve safety because the majority of cruise ships are registered in foreign ports and only abide by the laws of those governments.

The Concordia tragedy took the lives of 32 people and the U.S. government has been working diligently to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries for cruise ship passengers. Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller called a Senate Committee hearing last year to discuss the lack of transparency in cruise crime and accident reporting and to introduce the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. Since then, cruise lines have been cooperating, slowly, to improve safety features.

Many major cruise lines have voluntarily adopted tighter safety measures, but the ever-increasing accident rate shows that cruise operators haven’t done enough to improve safety.

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Life saver In the wake of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) public forum on cruise ship safety, Chairman John “Jay” Rockefeller released a statement voicing his opinion and concerns regarding the topic. According to Mr. Rockefeller, even after the serious accidents cruise lines have faced in the past few years, including the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy and the Carnival Triumph fire, cruise lines have yet to “commit to fostering a long-term, industry-wide safety culture.”

Mr. Rockefeller, who held a senate committee hearing last year after releasing a cruise crime report, which exposed the cruise industry’s lack of transparency when reporting crimes on the high seas, has been advocating for greater passenger safety for several years. Though he recognizes that most cruise passengers are able to sail the seven seas without a hitch, the accidents and crimes that do occur are extreme in nature, leading to severe injuries or even the death of passengers.

Like the cruise ship accident attorneys at our firm, Mr. Rockefeller recognizes that problems onboard cruise ships have been occurring at a rapidly increasing frequency. And the problems go much further back than the Costa Concordia accident in 2012. Back in 2010, the Carnival Splendor experienced an explosion and fire in its engine room that disabled the ship. Similar to the Triumph fire, the Splendor incident resulted in an electrical systems failure and left thousands of passengers adrift without working air conditioning systems and sanitation problems.

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