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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 Maritime Matter of the Week

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, cruise lines, port calls, cruise ship lawyersThough any cruise ship lawyer at our firm can tell you that there are times when cruise lines don’t take the necessary steps to prevent an accident at sea or in port, we are pleased to learn that a number of cruise lines have recently made what appears to be a very good decision in order to protect passenger and crew safety.

In the wake of recent violence in Puerto Vallarta, several major cruise lines have canceled port visits to the city, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line. Reports of civil unrest and criminal activity against local authorities have worried both locals and travelers alike. News sources indicate that armed individuals have committed acts of arson and that shots have been fired. The violence is a response to Mexico’s increased policing efforts against a local drug cartel.

According to the U.S. Department of State, while popular tourist areas in Mexico tend to be safer than rural areas, violence and crime related to Mexico’s increased drug policies can happen anywhere and at any time. Given the frightening incidents in Puerto Vallarta, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity’s decision to bypass the port is a wise one. However, not all cruise ships are electing to cancel trips to the Caribbean port. Carnival, for instance, has indicated that it will continue scheduled port calls, but did cancel some shore excursions offered in the area.

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cruise ship accident lawyers, US Coast Guard, cruise ship safety, cruise line safety deficienciesOur cruise ship accident lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. often talk about the many faux pas of the cruising industry, including the all-too-often failure of cruise lines to maintain their ships in a safe condition, as well as the inability of many cruise lines to practice safe maritime protocols. Unfortunately, the general public sees only a glimpse of what really happens behind closed doors that leads to a tragedy, and usually only after a major accident has occurred. Now, we’re learning the shocking extent of cruise lines’ negligent practices from a Coast Guard report – and this information is available for everyone to see.

According to the Coast Guard’s most recent report on cruise ship safety deficiencies, the organization found – and issued – safety citations on 329 safety failures and deficiencies in 2014. As a way to keep the public informed about the most common safety failures and deficiencies, the Coast Guard listed the most frequent safety issues reported on cruise ships. Below are the top ten safety features on cruise ships that failed to pass the test.

 

#1—Fire Screen Door Failures: Fire screen doors help keep fires isolated when, and if, they occur on a cruise ship. These doors, when in proper operation, can prevent the vessel from experiencing a ship-wide conflagration. Yet, when the Coast Guard tested the doors, citations were issued in 31 cases where the doors were damaged or unable to close properly.

#2—Blocked Escape Routes: Doors, hatches, and other escape routes located on board ships were found to be blocked. These blockages could create an unsafe evacuation situation in the event that people needed to be able to leave an area of the ship quickly in an emergency. Continue reading

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Royal Caribbean, Majest of the Seas, cruise ship, oil leak, environmental impact, cruise attorneysRoyal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas won’t be setting sail due to an oil leak that requires repairs. While Royal Caribbean’s public relation’s team is working hard to mitigate public perception of the leak, our cruise attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can’t help but wonder how much of an impact on the environmental the spill will cause.

It appears as though Royal Caribbean is downplaying the incident, which isn’t entirely uncommon for cruise lines, as many cruise companies tend to avoid taking responsibility when failing to maintain maritime safety. A spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean went as far as to refer to the oil leak as “small” and that it is releasing a “small amount of bio-friendly oil.” But when is any kind of oil leak environmentally safe? And, what exactly is this bio-friendly oil?

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Alcohol on cruise shipsLast week, our maritime lawyers here at LMAW talked about Norwegian Cruise Line’s new all-inclusive alcohol sailings, where the ship will include alcohol in the ticket price for select three- and four-day itineraries on the Norwegian Sky. We discussed how alcohol has often played a role in cruise passenger accidents and injuries – sometimes even leading to fatal alcohol poisoning. Yet, instead of regulating alcohol sales on board ships, cruise lines continue to encourage a drinking environment. While many cruise passengers avoid purchasing alcohol during their sailing, Norwegian’s new all-you-can drink option can lead to a greater number of people becoming intoxicated and, consequently, a greater number of accidents.

From our perspective, there are a ton of cons associated with the all-inclusive alcohol sailings. But from a passenger standpoint, we can see how not having to worry about purchasing individual drinks or an expensive beverage package might be appealing. But is the option really that much of a benefit for cruisers or is it just another way for the cruise line to make a profit? Let’s take a look at what the real cost of these sailings looks like.

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Norwegian Criuse Line, Norwegian Sky, all-inclusive alcohol, unlimited alcohol, cruise ship accident lawyersThe cruise ship accident lawyers at our firm have often discussed how dangerous it can be for cruise passengers to become intoxicated while on a ship. Unfortunately, cruise lines tend to promote a drinking culture, as a huge portion of their profits stem from alcohol sales. Though there’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks while on vacation, the problem is that not every cruise ship bartender cuts passengers off when they’ve had one too many, leading many passengers to become overly intoxicated, which then leads to accidents, injuries, sexual assault, and even alcohol poisoning deaths. Many times, the victims of alcohol-related incidents are underage, such as the 14-year-old who died from alcohol poisoning aboard the Carnival Miracle in 2013.

But while alcohol has been the cause of several tragic accidents and fatalities on ships, it doesn’t appear as though the cruise industry is going to make any changes to better regulate onboard alcohol sales and consumption. In fact, things might actually get worse pretty soon, following a recent announcement by Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norwegian announced this week that it will be offering an all-inclusive drink package for guests on select Norwegian Sky sailings. This means that passengers are going to be able to drink all the alcoholic beverages they want for the entire duration of their cruise without having to pay a penny. No individual drink charges. No beverage package. No limits. This is a recipe for disaster if we ever saw one.

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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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Human trafficking, boating accident, migrants, boating accident, boating accident attorneys, LMAWOur boating accident attorneys here at LMAW have recently learned of a terrible tragedy in the Mediterranean. According to news reports, a 70-foot boat capsized around midnight Sunday just south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, carrying over 700 migrants who were being smuggled from Libya to Europe. The accident occurred as a large merchant ship approached the small vessel. So far, only 28 victims have been rescued and 24 have been confirmed dead.

According to news reports, several maritime authorities have been called to action to assist in the rescue mission, including the Italian navy and coastguard, the Maltese Navy, and several others. Following the maritime tragedy, the International Organization for Migrants explained that three other migrant vessels sailing in international waters may also be in distress as of the moment. So far, two of the victims who were rescued have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking after arriving in Sicily.

The International Organization for Migration Already also explained that this year alone, over 35,000 migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean in an attempt to flee the turmoil and crisis in their homelands, many of which are migrating from sub-Saharan Africa. And out of the 35,000 migrants, over 900 are believed to have died while trying to seek a better life. Desperate to escape their situation, the migrants are exploited by traffickers organizing the voyages to Europe and charging migrants exorbitant fees.

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Hurricane, safety risk, cruise passengers, cruise attorneys, LMAWWe recently wrote about Vanuatu re-opening Port Vila to travelers following the destruction of Cyclone Pam. While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30th, it’s important that anyone who plans on cruising in the Eastern Pacific should be aware that the hurricane season runs from May 15th through November 30th. This means that the Eastern Pacific hurricane season is just around the corner.

With cruise lines sailing across the globe, passengers may worry about whether a hurricane will affect their next cruise. For this reason, our cruise attorneys here at LMAW have provided some important information regarding hurricanes and how much of a risk they can actually pose to cruise passengers on their next sailing.

The good news is that the chances of your cruise ship being struck by the hurricane itself are negligible. Modern cruise ships utilize advanced technology that warns captains about major storms, and it can be a while before a storm becomes a hurricane. Continue reading

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Disney Cruise Line, river cruising, passenger safety, cruise ship accident lawyers, LMAWDisney Cruise Line recently announced its partnership with AmaWaterways to begin offering family-oriented river cruises on the Danube in 2016. According to a USA Today article, Disney will offer seven-night vacation packages stopping at Budapest, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, and Germany. A new ship is being built specifically for these itineraries, with cabins that can hold up to five guests – a rarity for ships designed for river cruising.

But while the new venture sounds exciting, the cruise ship accident lawyers at our firm can’t help but wonder if the ship will compromise passenger safety. Will these higher-capacity cabins pose a greater danger to passengers? Having a greater number of people in one room can cause overcrowding, both creating a greater risk of injuries and making it harder to escape in an emergency situation, among other safety hazards.

As it is, many cruise lines won’t feature irons or other fire hazards in cabins in order to diminish the risk of an onboard fire. While Disney will be required to follow fire protocol to protect passengers, the higher capacity cabins might require additional fire safety measures to ensure that passengers are not at risk in the event of an emergency. Large numbers of passengers trying to use the same exit ways in the event of an emergency can create dangerous stopgaps, particularly if fire or smoke is present.

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Norovirus outbreak, Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Infinity, cruise attorneysOur cruise attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have come to learn of a possible new Norovirus outbreak aboard a Celebrity Cruises ship. The Centers for Disease Control recently released a report showing that 95 passengers have fallen ill on board the Celebrity Infinity vessel. According to the CDC, the number of people who have fallen ill account for almost 5% of the total number of passengers on board the ship. Five crew members were also reported ill, raising the total number sick to 100.

Celebrity Cruises, in response to the illness, is currently in the process of implementing its outbreak prevention and response plan. The plan includes announcing the outbreak to crew and passengers, and encouraging people to practice good hygiene. The cruise line is also reporting all new cases on a twice daily basis to the CDC. The company is also consulting with the CDC for management of the outbreak when the ship arrives in San Diego. One of the measures currently in place is to plan a staged disembarkation procedure to limit the contact between well-passengers and those who have fallen ill.

While Norovirus has not been confirmed as the cause of the gastrointestinal illness, chances are that Norovirus is again the culprit. Norovirus is notorious for affecting confined populations like those found on board cruise ships, nursing homes, and schools. The virus can survive for long periods of time on surfaces that have not been cleaned and can also be transmitted through the consumption of raw or undercooked food that is contaminated with the virus.

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