Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

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

Jason R. Marguiles

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 Injuries

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Cruise ship passenger injuries, Holland America, MS Ryndam, cruise ship injury lawyersOur cruise ship accident lawyers have often reported on an array of different passenger illnesses and injuries that have ensued on the high seas. Incidents have ranged from emergencies related to passenger medical conditions, to slip and falls, to violent assaults. However, in our experience and opinion, the underlying factor in the majority of these incidents the underlying factor in the majority of these incidents is the cruise line in providing a safe onboard environment, free of accident-inducing hazards, violence, and health-related threats. We of course realize that accidents happen, but you know what, accidents can also be prevented.

Though it’s more common to hear of one particular passenger sustaining an injury or accident on a ship, today, we were surprised to learn of not one, but three separate passenger injuries transpiring aboard a Holland America cruise ship.

According to local news reports, three passengers aboard Holland America’s MS Ryndam vessel were transported to hospitals in Miami Monday night following unrelated medical emergencies sustained while the ship was sailing off the coast of South Florida from Tampa en route to London. Rescue crews evacuated the passengers while the vessel was roughly three miles close to shore.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue explains that one of the victims suffered a leg injury, another sustained a head injury, and the third went into cardiac arrest. What could have happened aboard the Ryndam?

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Can cruise ships handle the worst weather hazards at seaCruise passengers are often warned about the risk of crime at some ports of call. Yet, a recent Royal Caribbean cruise delay that left Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and fans stranded at sea draws attention to another hazard cruise passengers face at port: acts of nature.

The Journal of Meteorological Applications studied factors that could create hazards for the U.S. Navy fleet. The study was performed because hazardous weather is a concern to all ship captains. Strong winds, high waves, fog, and thunderstorms were cited as particularly hazardous to ships. These hazards are especially dangerous when ships near ports because ships are required to navigate around or under bridges and other structures. Additionally, because of the increased number of vessels near a port, there is a greater risk of collision with other vessels.

Let’s face it, it is inevitable that a cruise ship will encounter hazardous weather conditions either at sea or at port. The question is not if, but when, a ship will encounter severe weather. Yet, are cruise ships equipped to handle the worst of Mother Nature? This is a loaded question. We’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

In 2010, two passengers died and 14 people were injured when 26-foot-high waves crashed through the windows of the Louis Majesty cruise ship while the vessel was off the coast of Spain. Last year, an elderly passenger was killed after a huge wave hit the MS Marco Polo cruise ship, causing several windows to shatter. Sure, waves of this height are rare, and cruise ships avoid regions where these kinds of waves are present, but rare doesn’t mean impossible. Any meteorologist will tell you that the ocean is part of a dynamic system, and rare events can occur at sea. Large waves that appear to come out of nowhere are often referred to as ‘rouge waves’, and can reach heights around 100 feet.

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Cruise ship doctors, onboard medical facilities, cruise ship injury attorneysThere’s nothing worse than getting sick while on vacation. No one wants to spend long-awaited time off convalescing in bed. Yet, for cruise vacationers, getting sick on board a cruise can add a whole layer of unexpected and unwelcome trouble.

Fortunately, for most cruise travelers, minor ailments like sea sickness and sun burns are the most common reasons why travelers visit the cruise infirmary. In fact, the top four reasons why travelers visit the cruise infirmary are: (1) bruises, (2) indigestion, (3) sea sickness, and (4) sun burns.

The good news is that many of these issues don’t require a visit to the infirmary at all. The bad news is that individuals who choose to visit the infirmary for ailments might find themselves going home to a steep infirmary bill. And, many health plans won’t cover care received outside the United States. Traveler’s insurance can protect you against unexpected circumstances, but passengers should read every policy to make sure it covers onboard medical services.

Because medical care on board a cruise can be expensive, passengers are advised to bring their own first-aid kit, including good antiseptic cream, Band-Aids, and bandages. Burns can be prevented by using sunscreen regularly. Passengers should make sure they bring enough sunscreen for their whole trip, as the cost of sunscreen on the ship can be prohibitive. Cruise ships often have limited pharmacies, and passengers might find themselves shocked by the price of over-the-counter medicine. Bringing along pain killers, antacids, and Dramamine (for sea sickness) can help minimize medical costs during a cruise vacation, protecting your wallet and keeping you as comfortable as possible if you find yourself feeling a little under the weather.

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Cruise ship medical facilitiesSo you’re out and about on the Lido deck, enjoying the warm weather and tropical cocktail. Relaxing and without a care in the world. You know, your typical cruise vacation. But then the unexpected happens. You were too busy contemplating the sparkling ocean that you didn’t notice someone splashed their own little ocean on the deck. So you suffer a nasty tumble and the nice tan you just got is turning all sorts of black and blue shades from the bruises that are now decorating your back, arms, and head. No biggie you think, it’s just a slip and fall…but soon you realize it’s much more than that. When you try to get up, you start to feel dizzy. You’re seeing stars and then before you know it, you’ve blacked out.

Now what?

Are you going to wake up in a hospital? On the ship’s onboard infirmary? What’s going to happen?

Well, you’re unconscious, so you now you’re relying on crew members to make sure you’ll get better. But can you really rely on them? Can you trust that the cruise ship you are on will have the necessary resources to either a) treat your symptoms successfully, or b) rush you to the nearest hospital via medevac? Sadly, there’s no way to know for sure.

You see, cruise ships are known for a lot of things; good food, fancy drinks, and spa services, sure – but top-notch medical facilities is not one of them. Continue reading

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If you’ve been injured while on a cruise, you may be wondering what your options are and whether or not it makes sense to contact an offshore injury lawyer. It’s important for anyone who has been involved in an accident on board a cruise ship to understand that they should never refrain from seeking legal counsel. Many victims may think their injuries are too minimal to warrant compensation, but are actually eligible to file a claim.

Let’s say the victim speaks with an offshore injury lawyer, who then determines that the cruise passenger is, in fact, eligible to file a claim. What then? How much can victim expect to receive?

It’s difficult to say with certainty how much can be expected, as settlements vary from case to case. Each situation is unique, and it all starts with determining whether or not the cruise line was, in some way, at fault. Cruise lines are responsible for maintaining a safe shipboard environment, which includes keeping passengers safe from both accidental injuries and those related to criminal incidents. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Failure to properly train crew members, failure to keep ships in safe working condition, and a host of other factors can contribute to an injury while on board a cruise vessel.

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Security on cruise shipsStatistics show that over 200 cruise passengers and crew have gone overboard since 1995. Though several factors can play a role in these tragic accidents, including intoxication or foul play, cruise line security and safety continues to be subpar – despite recent advances in technology that have led to the creation of overboard passenger radar detection. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who are involved in overboard accidents do not survive. The sheer fall from a ship alone can be fatal, but other factors, such as exposure, tides, and marine life can also contribute to an overboard victim’s death.

The maritime lawyers at our firm have represented several grief-stricken loved ones whose family members and friends have fallen overboard from cruise ships. And what’s most striking is the fact that in many of these cases, there was no footage of the actual incident. These days, cruise ships are designed to carry well over 2,000 passengers and hundreds of crew members. Most cruise ships are equipped with surveillance technology, but then how are there no records of these accidents? Moreover, why aren’t there any crew members monitoring public areas to prevent these accidents in the first place?

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doctorWe talk a lot about maritime accidents here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A, many of which result from the ship operator’s negligent actions. Some common accidents we usually hear about include cruise ships running aground or cargo vessels experiencing mechanical issues. But while some of these mishaps may miraculously be relatively minor, there are a number of incidents that result in serious injuries, especially for crew members.

When someone suffers an offshore injury while on board any kind of ship, the results can be catastrophic, largely due to the fact that shipboard medical facilities are atrociously sub-par. Minor injuries, such as bumps and scrapes, can easily be treated, but when a serious accident occurs, victims are often left without any recourse. The truth about offshore injuries is that the vast majority of them can be prevented. Like any kind of maritime accident, most are usually the result of someone’s negligent actions.

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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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