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 Injuries

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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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sick cruise passengerCruise lines feature an array of incredible entertainment options for guests. Anyone sailing the high seas on a cruise ship in this day and age can expect to keep as busy – or not busy – as they like. With dozens of fun and innovative features like obstacle courses, winding water slides, cupcake making workshops, and even an aquatic acrobat show, there’s never really a dull moment onboard a ship. But while cruise passengers can look forward to tons of shipboard activities, they shouldn’t expect much in the health department.

Though cruise companies seem to have endless funds to stock their fleets with all the latest and greatest “wow factor” features, they can’t seem to find the resources – or desire – to improve onboard medical facilities, the hiring process for the doctors that operate these facilities, or the manner in which ship staff respond to emergency medical situations. Our cruise ship passenger law firm has discussed these issues time and time again, but we have yet to see a big improvement in the way cruise lines address passenger safety. A large component of passenger safety includes a cruise line’s ability to handle sicknesses and injuries. After all, if a ship doesn’t have sufficient equipment to treat sick or injured passengers, or doesn’t act quickly to ensure the victim is airlifted off the vessel to the nearest land-based hospital, passenger lives are placed at risk.

Sadly, from what we’ve have seen over the years, the number of times cruise lines actually offer passengers adequate assistance following an injury or illness is abysmal. There have been numerous cases in which an ill or injured passenger sought medical treatment at a ship’s sick bay, only to be turned away because the onboard physician did not believe their ailments were serious enough. There have also been times in which ship doctors misdiagnosed passengers, many times costing them their lives.

The number of Norovirus outbreaks is increasing, the number of passenger injuries is increasing, but the number of victims that actually get the help they need is dwindling. If you are planning on taking a cruise anytime soon, there are a few things you should know about what happens when you become sick or injured at sea. Continue reading →

Life saver As maritime lawyers, our firm has seen a number of tragic accidents and crimes befall the cruise industry over the years. Some have been minor, leaving passengers and crew members unharmed, while others resulted in catastrophic and fatal injuries. Though some of these incidents have been highly publicized, others have been swept under the ocean floor, never to be heard from again. We thought it would helpful to  take a look at some of these maritime disasters and what happened to the victims onboard.

 

Crashes, Groundings and Sinkings

Accidents of this caliber are among the worst possible. A grounding, crash and even a partial capsizing can lead to fatal injuries, which unfortunately, is the result in the following major cruise accidents. The first, of course, is the sinking of the so called “unsinkable ship”, the RMS Titanic. Most of us know the story about the Titanic, but for those that don’t, the Titanic was a 52,310-ton ship that struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic while on its maiden voyage in 1912. As a result, the ship nearly snapped in two, sinking into the chilling waters below and killing over 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers and crew.

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RiggingAlthough no one imagines the worst will happen when they board a cruise ship, there are times when accidents can occur at a moment’s notice. Some happen by chance or as a result of uncontrollable factors, while others are caused by the negligence of the cruise company or crew members. When it comes to overboard accidents, negligence is usually to blame.

According to statistics, 203 cruise ship overboard accidents have occurred since 1995 – seven of which have occurred this year alone. Despite the fact that nearly all cruise ships come equipped with extensive surveillance equipment, footage often goes unmonitored, ships themselves often fail equipment safety standards with below standard height railings, and there are even times when crew members overserve alcohol to guests, leading to accidents and assaults among passengers. The list of negligent factors that can lead to an overboard accident are endless, but because cruise lines don’t always reveal what really happens during serious incidents, the public rarely ever gets an accurate account of the full extent of the circumstances surrounding the accident.

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There have been many cruise ship accidents throughout the years, some of which have resulted in serious injuries and fatalities. Although many factors can lead to an accident at sea or in port, a large percentage of incidents are caused by the cruise line’s negligent or wrongful actions and could have been prevented had the right steps been taken and followed at the right time.

Poorly trained, overworked, crewmembers, lack of adequate and common sense shipboard safety items and procedures, failure to properly examine, service and maintain equipment, and refusing to fully investigate an accident immediately and then implement procedures to make sure that kind of accident does not happen again are all factors that have played a role and will continue to play a role in the daily crew injuries and frequent passenger injuries, sexual assaults and even deaths that occur across the entire cruise industry.

But while every cruise company has been involved in at least some type of incident, one cruise line – Carnival Cruise Line leads the industry injury causing incidents/accidents in modern times.

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Authorities investigate near-drowning of 4-year-old boy on Disney Fantasy cruise ship – Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

Tragedy has struck the cruise industry once more, as another cruise ship passenger has been involved in an accident on the high seas. This time, the incident is all the more disturbing and disheartening, as the victim is only four years old.

Authorities have reported that a four-year-old boy has been airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando on Saturday after being pulled from a pool on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

Brevard County and Disney rescue workers were called to the Disney Fantasy at 3:30 PM EDT after ship officials reported a potential drowning at the family pool, one of three pools onboard the vessel. The little boy’s family had just boarded the ship for a seven-day cruise to the western Caribbean, never imagining that their young son would be in danger.

The boy’s name has not been revealed to the public for privacy reasons, nor have the names of his parents. He was discovered unresponsive in the pool while the ship was briefly docked at Port Canaveral.

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