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

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sick cruise passengerWith Ebola having killed over 3,000 people in west Africa, and having killed one victim already in the U.S., some cruise line passengers may wonder whether traveling might put them at risk. Given the fact that cruise ships are filled with small, confined spaces and up to thousands of people in one sailing, they are often a breeding grounds for diseases.

The maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have seen a wide range of outbreaks affect cruise passengers, but by far, the most frequently reported of all infectious disease incidents are associated with Norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness that is extremely contagious. The fact that cruise ships offer such close quarters, once Norovirus starts spreading, an outbreak becomes likely, resulting in ship quarantines and sick passengers. Additionally, the fact that cruise ships often maintain subpar sanitation, the likelihood with which a virus can spread is exacerbated.

So, given the fact that disease can spread quickly on board a ship, are cruise passengers at greater risk for contracting Ebola? Yes and no.

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Was there a fire on board Holland America NoordamSeems like the issues that the Holland America ship, ms Veendam, was experiencing last week are worse than our maritime lawyers originally imagined. HAL cancelled the ship’s seven-day itinerary from Quebec City to Boston on September 28 after the vessel suffered an issue with one of its propellers, but now, we’ve also learned that the Carnival Corp. subsidiary line cancelled its two subsequent sailings on October 4 and 11. Is there more to the ship’s equipment problems than HAL is letting on?

According to the cruise line, the Veendam will be going into dry-dock for repairs, which are apparently extensive.  True to cruise industry form, HAL is not releasing any information to the public regarding what exactly these issues may be, referring to them simply as “technical problems.”

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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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Oil tankersThe Jones Act is one of the most important sources of protection afforded to seafarers in the United States. Enacted in 1920, the law serves a variety of purposes, including allowing seafarers the ability recover compensation based on claims of negligence on the ship’s master or crew’s part. It also regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. But while the law has helped countless seamen injured in the course of their employment to obtain justice, not everyone is a fan.

Recent tensions between oil tycoons and Capitol Hill over the law might spell trouble for maritime workers. Seafarers might soon have to seek legal representation with an experienced Jones Act attorney as petroleum marketers and refiners continue to push for changes to the law.

The oil industry moguls claim the Jones Act is causing motor fuel and heating oil prices to skyrocket, hindering the flow of crude between U.S. ports. They aim to get Congress to agree to make changes with the law in order to reduce the Jones Act’s strict regulations. Though tensions are boiling, industry leaders have yet to reveal a solid plan of action as to what exactly they are asking Congress to change regarding the law, but many speculate they will try to push for a round of new Jones Act wavers to allow for the transportation of crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico to east coast refineries.

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Cruise line pregancy policiesIn the first part of our blog series, our firm discussed the case of a pregnant cruise passenger named Michelle Ligori who was denied embarkation on a Royal Caribbean ship because she was two months pregnant and did not have a “fit to travel” medical note. Though it is common for cruise lines to have a pregnancy policy in place, this policy is usually meant to protect women who are far along in the pregnancy, certainly not those who are in the early stages like Ligori. In fact, Ligori’s pregnancy was so recent, that not even her personal physician knew she was pregnant. Because of this, he was unable to fax the required note when she called his office.

But even aside from this policy, the manner in which Royal Caribbean handled the situation was appalling. Embarkation staff failed to offer Ligori and her family information about how they could obtain the required doctor’s note. It wasn’t until a mere half hour before the ship was due to set sail that Ligori was told she should go to a hospital to acquire the notice. Why wasn’t she notified immediately? Perhaps she would have had some time to go to a local clinic and get a note. As a result of the odd policy and delay in informing the family of what they should do, Ligori ended up having to fly out to the ship the next day and racked up over $1,500 in additional expenses – expenses that Royal Caribbean surely won’t be quick to pay.

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Cruise line pregancy policiesImagine doing everything right. You’ve bought your cruise tickets well in advance. You hired a travel agent to make sure you got the right cruise package, at the right price, for the right time of year. You did your research. You can’t wait to spend seven sunny days in the Bahamas, drinking smoothies, and working on your tan. Yet, if you haven’t read all the fine print on your passenger ticket contract, you may be in store for nasty surprises when you get to port.

Doing what we do on a daily basis (helping seriously injured cruise ship passengers and crewmembers obtain recoveries for their injuries), each maritime lawyer at our firm knows that the cruise passenger ticket contract, for all of the major cruise lines, is nothing more than an attempt to deprive you of as many legal rights and remedies as possible.  Fortunately, we are extremely skilled at working around the ticket contract and obtaining recoveries for our clients. Nonetheless, every so often we hear another story about the evil cruise passenger ticket contract strikes again.

There are many times when, despite not being in violation of any cruise ship policies, passengers have been denied access to the ship, resulting in cancelled vacations, lost money, and extra expenses.  Unfortunately, the cruise lines have a tremendous amount of discretion in who they allow onto their ships.  And it is this discretion that can be extremely unfair, if not discriminatory.

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Storm at seaIn our last blog, our firm discussed the number of ways in which inclement weather can pose a greater risk to those at sea than to those on land. Despite the fact that there have been several catastrophic motor vehicle accidents throughout the years that were weather-related, the sheer isolation of being out on a vessel during a bad storm exponentially increases a person’s chances of being injured. Without the ability to seek shelter more readily as one would on solid ground, being caught in a bad storm at sea can be extremely dangerous and often lead to injury or worse, fatalities.

When someone is involved in an accident at sea, be it an accident involving a boat, cargo vessel or cruise ship, they always have a right to contact a maritime attorney for assistance to review the matter. An attorney with experience and knowledge in maritime law will then determine whether or not the victim has a viable claim, and if so, will represent them and assist them in recovering compensation. That being said, is it possible for a victim of a weather-related maritime accident to be compensated for their injuries or the loss of a loved one? The answer depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Accidents relating to weather conditions can be very complicated. In instances where someone is injured through no other person’s fault aside from inclement weather, there is little chance of obtaining compensation because no one committed any wrongdoing. However, when there are other factors involved, such as negligence, then it’s possible for victims to have a claim. As an example, failing to avoid extremely bad weather or failing to properly warn the passengers or failing to set the vessel up for bad weather can be the basis of a successful claim.

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Rogue waveHere in Miami, it’s pretty common for weather to go haywire. More often than not, our city gets inundated with several inches of rain from one of our many weekly showers and thunderstorms. But while we are certainly used to the frequent, sudden shifts in weather, that doesn’t mean we can always safely maneuver around a storm. Even the most experienced and prudent of motorists can lose control of their vehicles in the blink of an eye and sustain life-threatening injuries. The same goes for boaters, barge operators and cruise ship operators.

In actually, inclement weather can be even more dangerous for persons out at sea than for those on busy roadways for several reasons. For one, when a bad storm hits and you’re out on the road, you can pull over to a safe area and wait for the storm to pass or take shelter under an overhang or inside a garage. Of course, there are times when a motorist can lose control of their vehicle due to the slippery roadways or break failure and the vehicle can skid and collide with other vehicles, pedestrians or non-moving objects. These tragedies can happen through no fault of the driver and are solely the result of compounding weather-related factors.

Imagine now, how much worse it would be out at sea. At the very least, drivers can attempt to pull over as quickly as possible, and even if tragedy does strike, emergency responders can be called to assist right away. But for those out at sea, help is not something that is very readily available.

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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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