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 »

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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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Justice ScaleWhen you board a cruise ship, the last thing you are thinking of is what could possible go wrong. You’re there to relax, have fun, and explore new destinations, not to worry about whether or not the ship is safe and whether you will be at risk for an accident or crime. But unfortunately, these are concerns every cruise passenger should have. Not only are cruise accidents and crimes occurring in greater frequency and at a rapid pace – despite technology that’s available to reduce the number of incidents and despite the maritime laws that are in place to protect passengers from harm.

Even if something does go wrong on a cruise, no one really books a cruise vacation thinking that anything more than just a couple of bumps and bruises will occur. Unfortunately, the reality of the fact is that accidents and crimes do happen and when they do, they aren’t usually minor. Many would be surprised to learn that sexual assault is the number one crime on cruise ships. It is also one of the most underreported crimes, with cruise lines often failing to document incidents to avoid liability and failing to report incidents to the public to avoid bad publicity.

One of the reasons sexual assault is so common on cruise ships is because there are dozens of hidden corridors that perpetrators can use to their advantage. Another reason is that, despite the fact that many cruise lines are equipped with surveillance cameras, tapes aren’t monitored as much as they should, allowing criminals to get away with their wrongdoings. By the time many sexual assaults are reported – and counting the hours it can take for cruise lines to investigate the incident (if at all) – the assailant will already likely have disembarked the ship at the nearest port and avoided persecution. There also aren’t any actual police officers on board cruise ships who can provide victims the protection they need from harm, or who can assist once a sexual crime is reported. The fact that there aren’t real police officers on ships means that critical evidence can be lost or destroyed, possibly hindering the victim’s case.

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SeamanThere are a vast number of maritime laws in place that are aimed at protecting the rights of seafarers. Though laws vary depending on the country they are enacted in, most follow the same principle: protect seafarers from harm. Working on the high seas isn’t easy. The perils are numerous and employers have a duty to make sure everyone in their employment is kept as safe as possible. Safety includes several factors, such as ensuring ship equipment is in proper working condition to prevent injury, allowing crew members to take adequate breaks to prevent fatigue, maintaining top health standards to avoid occupational diseases, and many others. Safety can also include ensuring workers are provided fast and adequate medical treatment in the event of an injury as well as keeping the peace between crew members when discord arises.

Unfortunately, vessel operators don’t always abide by the highest standards of safety. As a result, numerous accidents have occurred both while a vessel has been docked and at sea. Seafarers are often charged with lifting heavy objects, are ordered to operate complicated and dangerous machinery without possessing the necessary skills, and many times, are even denied compensation after the maritime accident has occurred. An injury on board a ship involving a crew member is treated much the same way as any other occupational injury or illness. Victims should report the incident immediately and should be treated either on board the vessel if the injury or sickness is relatively minor, or should be airlifted to the nearest hospital if the wounds are serious and the ship’s onboard medical quarters lacks the resources to treat the victim. But again, this doesn’t always happen.

Even when the accident or illness clearly resulted from a lack of safety on board the vessel where the victim was employed and even after the victim suffers debilitating injuries that might render him/her incapable of working again, employers will often try to deny victims their rightful benefits and compensation. That’s where a Jones Act Lawyer comes into play.

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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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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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BuoyThere are many maritime regulations in place across the United States that aim to improve safety for boaters. However, just because there are maritime laws in place, doesn’t mean they are always abided. In our last blog, we discussed the importance of waterway markers and how they serve a purpose in protecting boaters from harm. But although these markers can assist in navigation and help prevent accidents in open waters, they can also create a danger for watercraft users and passengers.

Because of this, there is a chance that a fatal North Carolina boating accident could have been caused by inappropriately installed or improperly maintained markers. Let’s take a look at how these aids to navigation can create a perilous situation for boaters.

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