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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Carnival Triumph compliance reportIn our last blog, our admiralty lawyer commented on a recent fire aboard a Holland America ship that seems to be shrouded in mystery. The fire, which allegedly broke out on board the HAL ship Noordam, occurred on August 25, on the last night of an 11-night Mediterranean sailing. Now, we don’t actually know what really happened because the only bit of information we have on the incident is one passenger’s account on the matter.

The passenger took to the popular forum Cruise Critic to discuss what happened, noting that they were awoken at around 3 am by a fire alarm and subsequent announcement regarding the fire. A few minutes later, the passenger explained that the captain announced the fire had occurred in the vessel’s incinerator room. About 30 or so minutes later, the captain announced the fire was put out and everyone could go back to sleep.

If the passenger’s recount is accurate, then it would appear (on the surface) that the situation was addressed and resolved quickly. But as any admiralty lawyer at our firm can tell you, when it comes to the cruise industry, appearances can be deceiving. Continue reading

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Was there a fire on board Holland America NoordamUsually, a cruise ship fire is one of the most highly publicized types of cruise accidents. As our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have mentioned before, cruise lines have a tendency to underreport onboard accidents and crimes in order to avoid liability for incidents that result from lack of safety, but when it comes to fires, there’s not much cruise lines can do to conceal evidence. Or is there?

According to a post on the Cruise Critic message board written by an alleged passenger, a fire broke out aboard the Holland America vessel Noordam last month. The passenger explained they were woken up on Aug. 25, the last night of an 11-night Mediterranean cruise aboard the Noordam, when a fire alarm sounded. Shortly after, an announcement was made that a fire had erupted on deck 3 aft and fire crews had been dispatched to extinguish it. Passengers were told to remain calm, and that the situation was being handled.

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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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AnchorAny maritime attorney at our firm can tell you that maritime safety is a very broad term. It can apply to the seaworthiness of a vessel, the actions taken by a vessel operator to protect those onboard from harm, and the laws that are put in place on the state or federal level to avoid injuries at sea. But while we usually hear this term used in circumstances related to accidents involving seafarers, cruise ship passengers, boaters, or pleasure craft operators, maritime safety is also a term that applies to the protection of the environment.

Though there are several laws in place that work to limit a vessel’s impact on the environment, violations continue to occur, creating catastrophic problems for the world’s oceans, waterways, and marine life. There are countless ways in which the environment can be affected by vessels – both large and small. An oil spill, for example, can destroy marine ecosystems and cause numerous health problems for sea creatures and plants. It can be years before an oil spill can be completely contained and the effects reversed, but in most cases, the damage is permanent.

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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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