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 Maritime Matter of the Week

Icebergs can pose a danger to cruise shipsA few days ago, our maritime attorney, Michael Winkleman, discussed a rather unusual exercise carried out by the Canadian military with the goal of improving emergency response tactics. One of the exercises involved staging a cruise ship accident. The “fake” accident is part of the Operation Nanook 2014 initiative and is scheduled to take place at the port of Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut, wherein a “distressed” vessel will attempt to call on the port.

Unlike previous exercises, this particular safety tactic goes above and beyond to provide trainees with as realistic of an experience as possible, even using actual volunteers to represent cruise passengers. The area where the training mission is scheduled to occur is riddled with hazards. Large ice blocks, rogue waves and extreme frigid temperatures all make for an exceptionally difficult sail for cruise ships in the area, which often leads to accidents. Moreover, the harsh environment of the Arctic makes it difficult for emergency responders to execute their rescue missions when an accident does take place. Sometimes, cruise ships become stuck on icebergs, and because of the surrounding ice, it can take days for a rescue crew to even make it to the scene of the accident to assist those in distress.

In planning for this year’s exercise (one of the military’s annual safety initiatives to improve safety and emergency response times), the military examined previous initiatives as well as prior cruise ship accidents. In particular, the military drew from a 2010 incident in which all 28 passengers aboard the Adventure Canada ship, Clipper Adventurer, had to be evacuated after the vessel ran aground near Nunavut.

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Rick Alsina Maritime LawyerWhen choosing a maritime lawyer, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what the attorney can provide you. Aside from researching the lawyer’s background, including education and successful verdicts, it’s equally important to learn about their professional and personal ethics. Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., we pride our self’s on maintaining not only the highest ethical and legal standards, but we also maintain an open door policy. We believe in being just as forthcoming about our individual stories as we are about our collective successes as a firm, and aim to ensure each and every one of our clients feels comfortable in approaching us whenever need be.

We firmly believe that the key to a successful attorney-client relationship lies in communication. We encourage both prospective and current clients to reach out to us with any questions or concerns regarding any kind of maritime accident, be it an injury aboard a cruise ship, pleasure craft or commercial vessel. Whether you are seeking answers as to whether you have a viable claim, need advice on how to handle your injuries or even if you just need support after enduring a great amount of pain from your injuries or the loss of a loved one, you can count on each maritime lawyer at our firm to offer you their full, undivided attention and unwavering commitment to the protection of your rights.

That being said, we’d like to you meet one of our firm’s most valuable trial attorneys, Ricardo Alsina.

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Canadian military stages fake cruise ship accident as part of safety training initiativeHere at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our primary mission is to help those who have been seriously injured at sea or in port due to the negligence of a cruise line, cargo vessel or personal water craft. The goal of each cruise ship accident lawyer at our firm is to assist victims and their loved ones in their fight to obtain justice for their pain and suffering. That being said, we also hope that through our efforts, the overall cruise ship accident rate will start to diminish – and quickly. There have been far too many accidents involving cruise ships in recent years and many of these incidents are a result of the operator’s lack of safety protocols. Whether it’s because a crew fails to properly maintain a ship in working condition, an operator’s inability to offer proper emergency training to its crew or a captain’s failure to take precautions when sailing in inclement weather conditions, the majority of accidents that occur on board cruise ships are the direct result of carelessness or negligence.

Fortunately, it is not only our hope, but the hope of all maritime safety organizations and safety advocates, such as U.S. Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, that cruise lines will start to place greater importance on safety initiatives. Despite the growing number of accidents on the high seas – as well as the fact that the cruise industry is a multibillion-dollar operation with more than enough funding to allocate to safety measures – we continue to see a number of accidents occur in disturbing frequency, many of which are fatal. So, naturally, it came as a bit of a shock to us when we learned that there’s intentionally going to be an accident next week in the arctic.

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surveyEach cruise lawyer at our firm has represented a wide range of cruise ship accident cases. Some cases involved serious injuries, while others centered on a fatal accident at sea. Sadly, not all victims seek legal counsel because they either do not believe their injuries were severe enough or because they feel intimidated by cruise companies into thinking they will never win their case. At one point, perhaps there was some truth to a victim’s fears when trying to go up against big name cruise companies, but these days, thanks largely in part to Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller’s efforts, it’s a lot harder for cruise lines to hide.

We’ve previously noted that many accidents involving cruise ships were never reported due to the numerous loopholes cruise lines have put in place that have allowed them to avoid liability for accidents resulting from their own negligence. These loopholes can be found in passenger ticket contracts and even in the fact that most major cruise ships are registered in foreign ports, which allows them to bypass U.S. maritime laws so they can defer to the laws of that particular government whose flag they fly. Because of these loopholes, which gave cruise lines a certain level of protection when being accused of failing to provide a safe onboard environment for passengers and even crew members, many cruise operators decided not to report certain accidents and crimes, especially those involving fatal overboard accidents and sexual assault. Of course, if these incidents became public knowledge, then who would ever feel safe cruising?

But these days, things are a little bit different. Continue reading →

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Cruise lines cancel port calls in IsraelA few days ago, our admiralty law firm discussed the increasing tensions in the Middle East and how cruise lines should consider canceling port calls in Israel to avoid a perilous situation for cruise passengers. Because attacks between Israel and Palestine over the Gaza Strip can happen at any moment and without warning, cruise travelers might get caught in the line of fire and suffer life-threatening injuries. And if a passenger were to suffer injuries, the cruise line may be held at fault for failing to maintain onboard safety.

However, the fact that canceling port calls in Israel can lead to a loss in revenue for cruise lines means there’s a chance that itineraries will proceed according to plan. For this reason, each admiralty attorney at our firm had a certain amount of doubt as to whether cruise lines would choose safety over profit. Luckily, it appears as though several cruise lines have made the right choice and have decided to cancel stops in a number of Middle East ports.

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will cruise ships stop calling on ports because of Israeli Palestine conflictLast time, we discussed the growing tensions between Israel and Palestine over the Gaza Strip, and how cruise lines should consider pulling ships out of any port in the remote vicinity of the crossfire. Cruise lines have a responsibility to keep everyone on board a ship safe from harm, and few things are more dangerous than sailing right into a warzone. But at the same time, cruise lines are out to make a profit. If ships were to stop calling on ports near the line of fire, like the Israeli port of Ashdod, that would mean a loss in revenue. At this point, you might be wondering how profit could possibly trump safety, but in our years of experience, any maritime lawyer at our firm can tell you that cruise lines are willing to go pretty far to both make a profit and to avoid losing profit.

Given the fact that cruise lines use certain loopholes to avoid liability for accidents that result from their own negligent actions, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if cruise lines would attempt to use these same loopholes as a guard against liability for any accidents or crimes resulting from port calls in Israel. We discussed two of these loopholes in our last blog: the fact that most ships are registered in foreign ports and the fact that cruise ticket contracts are designed in a way that allows cruise lines to avoid liability in many events where an accident or crime.

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Life saver Things are getting worse in the Middle East, and this could spell trouble for cruise lines. As the conflict between Israel and Palestine over the Gaza Strip continues to escalate, we’re left to wonder when – and even if – cruise lines are going to start pulling their ships out of the area and cease all port calls. With unexpected militia attacks and violent outbreaks among civilians, cruise travelers may get caught up in the turmoil and suffer disastrous consequences.

A temporary cease-fire had many wondering if the nations would lead to peace, but after a three-day truce expired and a boarder deal brokered by Egypt hit a stalemate, Israel and militants from Gaza resumed action today. Sadly, a 10-year-old Palestinian boy was killed and two Israelis were injured from Palestinian rocket fire. We sincerely hope cruise lines will avoid even sailing near the warzone because they may very well get caught in the crossfire.

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JayRockefellerAs we discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of our blog series, cruise ship accidents have seemed to occur with greater frequency lately, but it’s not necessarily because a greater number of accidents are happening. It only appears that way because cruise ship accident and crime reporting has become much more transparent in recent times – something that was propagated by the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy in 2012.

When the Concordia accident brought to light that cruise lines were not disclosing full information on accidents, were not doing everything within their power to protect passengers from harm, and were severely lacking in safety operations in general, it became obvious to many, including each maritime lawyer at our firm and Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, that cruise lines were out to protect themselves above all else.

Sen. Rockefeller has been extremely vital in the fight for improved safety within the cruise industry. Just this past Wednesday, he called a second hearing (the first having been held last year) on cruise ship safety to discuss the fact that cruise lines are not doing their part to drastically reduce accidents and crimes on board ships. Last year, he introduced a legislation called the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which would require cruise companies to accurately disclose accident and crime reports as well as to simplify the language in passenger ticket contracts, which, as it stands, is extremely difficult to understand. In the very, very fine print, a passenger ticket contract allows cruise lines to avoid liability for many incidents that occur on ships, the vast majority of which result from the cruise line’s own negligence.

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Increase in cruise ship accident rateIn Part 1 of our three-part blog series, we discussed a pressing matter that’s been on the minds of several people lately, including each admiralty lawyer at our firm – cruise ship accidents. Though the cruise industry has never been entirely free of accidents, as no industry can ever truly be, it seems to many that the number of accidents involving cruise ships is increasing at an alarming rate. Nearly every week, we hear about a cruise ship that experienced mechanical issues or crashed or had a passenger suffer an injury, or even a combination of all the above. And while the accident rate itself is frightening, perhaps the most alarming aspect of it all is that it feels as though these accidents just started happening out of nowhere.

Doesn’t it feel as though just a few years ago, cruise ships were just plain fun? No one ever seemed worried that the ship they were about to sail on could get stuck in port or disabled by a fire. It would appear – at first glance – that cruise ship accidents just magically started happening without rhyme or reason and wouldn’t stop. But, like we said, this is what we see at first glance.

In a way, the frequency with which cruise ship accidents have been occurring has increased, but not as much as one might think. The increase is largely due to the fact that newer ships are much larger than they used to be and can carry many more passengers. A couple of years ago, a ship was only able to carry around 1,000 or so passengers. Now, some ships can carry well over 4,000 people.

It honestly all boils down to numbers. If there are more passengers on a ship, the likelihood that someone will get injured is obviously higher. Additionally, the fact that the ships are much larger means that it’s not as easy to keep an eye over everyone onboard and it’s not as easy to monitor equipment. If you have a ship that’s only about 700 feet in length versus one that’s over 1,100, naturally it will be harder to find mechanical glitches and it will take a lot longer to do so. Unfortunately, ships only have so much time in port between sailings during which crew members can inspect for issues (usually less than three hours). Though the fact remains that inspections are rushed (another issue entirely), and sometimes crew members purposefully overlook certain details, it cannot be denied that larger ships will naturally be more prone to malfunctions based on the sheer fact that there’s just much more equipment to begin with.

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Increase in cruise ship accident rateThese days, it’s hard to turn on the TV or read a newspaper without hearing about a tragic accident involving a cruise ship. Whether it’s a mechanical issue or Norovirus outbreak, cruise lines seem to be constantly plagued with issues related to maritime safety – or as it would appear, a lack thereof.  As any maritime attorney at our firm can tell you, the cruise industry has never been 100 percent accident free, but it’s hard to ignore the surge of incidents that have been occurring in recent years.

But what exactly is contributing to all these accidents at sea? One would think that with all the technological advances that have been made in the past few decades, accidents involving cruise ships would be few and far between. At the very least, if an accident were to occur, it should be something so minor that guests on board the vessel shouldn’t even notice.

Maybe we aren’t asking the right question. Perhaps it’s not so much the fact that the cruise ship accident rate is increasing, but instead, the fact that the public is hearing about incidents a lot more these days.

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