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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Rip currentThe recent drowning death of a Disney Wonder cruise passenger at Castaway Cay has brought to light the host of hazards that not only cruise passengers can face, but any beach-goer in general. The accident shows us that no matter how old you are or how skilled at swimming you may be, accidents can still happen. So, in keeping with our focus on ocean safety, our maritime lawyers here at LMAW would like to call attention to one of the most common dangers for beach-goers and the factor most often responsible for lifeguard-assisted rescues: rip currents.

Rip currents are narrow, localized, and very strong currents that form near beaches as breaking waves push water toward the shore. When the volume of water near the shore becomes too great, it needs a way back out to sea. Enter rip currents. The easiest way to explain a rip current is to think of it as a drain, removing excess water from the shore and leading it back out into the ocean.

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Disney Wonder cruise passenger, drowning accident, Castaway CayThe recent drowning of a 38-year-old Disney Wonder cruise passenger at Castaway Cay has demonstrated the dire need for increased safety across several maritime arenas. In our last blog, our cruise ship attorneys here at LMAW discussed how the drowning accident highlighted the need for cruise lines to start employing trained lifeguards, both on board a vessel and ashore at a cruise line-owned private island. Drowning accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of age, and in the blink of an eye. Reports suggested there were no lifeguards stationed at the adult beach, where this particular accident occurred – even though Disney was the first major cruise line to hire lifeguards for its ships and it also stations lifeguards in family beach areas on Castaway Cay.

Unfortunately, this is not enough. Many cruise ship passenger accidents are related to drowning, and while freak accidents can and do happen, the vast majority of drownings can be prevented by stationing trained lifeguards at all pool and beach areas. Yet, despite the numerous drowning and near-drowning tragedies involving cruise passengers that have recently occurred – including the near-drowning of a 4-year-old boy aboard Oasis of the Seas (a Royal Caribbean ship) – there is no maritime law that currently requires cruise lines to employ lifeguards, nor does there appear to be a concern by the cruise lines themselves to position lifeguards on ships (whether mandatory or not) so as to improve passenger safety.

This leaves passengers with an unfortunate reality – they must fend for themselves.

Aside from the risk of drowning in a cruise ship pool, there are several other dangers that can face individuals on a cruise vacation. Continue reading

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Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line, lifeguards, cruise ship acident lawyerOur cruise accident lawyers here at LMAW have come to learn of a tragic accident involving a Disney Cruise Line passenger. According to news reports, the victim, a Disney Wonder passenger, died on February 26 after suffering a drowning accident in Castaway Cay, a private island owned by Disney. The passenger, who was on a 5-night cruise to the Bahamas, is reported to have been a 38-year-old man from New York. He allegedly drowned around 4 p.m. while swimming in the waters off the Cay.

A spokesperson for Disney claims crew members and medical personnel responded to the emergency right away. But at this point, we don’t really have much information to go on as to what could have possibly contributed to the drowning. Bahamian authorities are investigating the incident and explained an autopsy would be performed to determine the cause of the accident.

Several factors could be at play here. The man could have been pulled under by a rip tide or he could have even suffered a medical condition while in the water. We will have to wait to see what the investigation reveals, but one thing that has been brought to our attention is the claim that there were no lifeguards on the beach where the accident occurred.

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rogue wave, cruise ship accidentOur cruise attorneys here at LMAW have often talked about unexpected disasters that can strike at sea. Despite the fact that many maritime accidents are the result of poor judgment or reckless behavior, including speeding, operator inexperience, or alcohol consumption, some incidents are caused by Mother Nature. One of those is a rogue wave.

A rogue wave is the name given to a wave that is out of proportion to the other waves around it, a huge wave (usually over twice the size of surrounding waves) that comes out of nowhere.  These waves are unexpected and can show up anywhere, anytime. Though rogue waves have been known to cause serious hazards to unsuspecting boaters, there are times when they are used as a defense by cruise lines in order to avoid liability for an injury resulting from them interacting with a ship. Though rogue waves can’t be predicted, there are certain waters where rogue waves tend to strike, or where waves are abnormally larger than others. Cruise lines know to avoid these areas, but from time to time, they don’t, leading to accidents and passenger injuries that are at times fatal.

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Can cruise ships handle the worst weather hazards at seaCruise passengers are often warned about the risk of crime at some ports of call. Yet, a recent Royal Caribbean cruise delay that left Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and fans stranded at sea draws attention to another hazard cruise passengers face at port: acts of nature.

The Journal of Meteorological Applications studied factors that could create hazards for the U.S. Navy fleet. The study was performed because hazardous weather is a concern to all ship captains. Strong winds, high waves, fog, and thunderstorms were cited as particularly hazardous to ships. These hazards are especially dangerous when ships near ports because ships are required to navigate around or under bridges and other structures. Additionally, because of the increased number of vessels near a port, there is a greater risk of collision with other vessels.

Let’s face it, it is inevitable that a cruise ship will encounter hazardous weather conditions either at sea or at port. The question is not if, but when, a ship will encounter severe weather. Yet, are cruise ships equipped to handle the worst of Mother Nature? This is a loaded question. We’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

In 2010, two passengers died and 14 people were injured when 26-foot-high waves crashed through the windows of the Louis Majesty cruise ship while the vessel was off the coast of Spain. Last year, an elderly passenger was killed after a huge wave hit the MS Marco Polo cruise ship, causing several windows to shatter. Sure, waves of this height are rare, and cruise ships avoid regions where these kinds of waves are present, but rare doesn’t mean impossible. Any meteorologist will tell you that the ocean is part of a dynamic system, and rare events can occur at sea. Large waves that appear to come out of nowhere are often referred to as ‘rouge waves’, and can reach heights around 100 feet.

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Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship

Our cruise lawyers here at LMAW have been lucky that, being in Miami, FL, we haven’t had much to deal with in the way of bad winter weather. Unfortunately though, there have been several areas across the United States that have experienced extremely hazardous weather conditions. And these conditions don’t stop at the shore, they extend all the way out to sea.

In fact, we’ve just come to learn that a Royal Caribbean cruise ship carrying Ohio State football fans and coach Urban Meyer was stranded at sea due to heavy fog. The adverse weather closed the Tampa port and resulted in the cruise ship’s delay. The vessel was scheduled to return to port on Monday.

Ohio State football fans were celebrating an annual cancer charity fundraiser on Royal’s Brilliance of the Seas ship. But thanks to the fog, it looks like the cruise lasted a little longer than everyone expected.

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cruise passengers, Norovirus, cruise shipsWhen we hear about cruise ship illnesses, what comes to mind? Usually, it’s Norovirus. This pesky stomach virus causes inflammation of the stomach and the intestine, resulting in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in infected individuals. Though usually not fatal, those who become sick with Norovirus may have trouble holding down food or water, which can cause them to become dehydrated and, in turn, experience greater difficulty fighting off the virus. An IV is often administered to replenish dehydrated individuals, but complications can still ensue.

Our cruise attorneys here at LMAW have seen the frequency of cruise ship Norovirus outbreaks increase over the years and have reported on several of these incidents. Yet, despite the number of times this gastrointestinal bug has plagued ships – ruining many a cruise vacation as a result, the recurrence of Norovirus outbreaks doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Continue reading

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Cruise ship rape, sexual assault, discrepancy in reportingWhen most travelers board a cruise ship, they have a lot on their minds. ‘What activities should I do first?’ ‘Where can I get some food?’ ‘Point me to the nearest bar.’ It’s highly doubtful that any cruise passenger’s prevailing thoughts are centered on what crimes they could possibly suffer from or how unsafe they might be on their ship. But sadly, this is something all cruise passengers should be thinking about because safety isn’t always guaranteed. Unfortunately, there is a very real threat of danger with any cruise vacation –one of the largest being the threat of sexual assault.

Our cruise ship rape lawyers here at LMAW have reported on several acts of sexual assault on cruise lines that have transpired over the past few years, many of which have involved crew members and even young children. And sadly, many of the victims of these incidents did not have the chance to obtain justice – and may never be able to. Why? Because of an unfortunate, yet all too common practice among cruise lines – withholding evidence.

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Cruise ship medical emergency, Coast Guard medevac, Norwegian Getaway, Puerto RicoA cruise vacation can be a lot of fun for kids. Between the numerous kids’ lounges and “clubs”, water slides, and endless supply of pizza and ice cream, it’s no wonder that the trend in cruising has undergone a major shift from a mostly adults type of vacation to one that is more family oriented. But unfortunately, the fact that there are a lot more children cruising means that cruise ship safety has to be held at an even higher standard than usual. And, even more unfortunately, it appears as though this need is being overlooked.

So far this year, there have been numerous incidents involving young children on the high seas, including the near-drowning of a four-year-old boy who was sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas last month. Our cruise ship lawyers are, quite frankly, shocked that most major cruise lines have yet to start employing experienced lifeguards on ships, despite the fact that a large number of accidents involving children are occurring. And now, we’ve come to learn of yet another cruise ship medical emergency involving a child.

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Cruise ship doctors, onboard medical facilities, cruise ship injury attorneysThere’s nothing worse than getting sick while on vacation. No one wants to spend long-awaited time off convalescing in bed. Yet, for cruise vacationers, getting sick on board a cruise can add a whole layer of unexpected and unwelcome trouble.

Fortunately, for most cruise travelers, minor ailments like sea sickness and sun burns are the most common reasons why travelers visit the cruise infirmary. In fact, the top four reasons why travelers visit the cruise infirmary are: (1) bruises, (2) indigestion, (3) sea sickness, and (4) sun burns.

The good news is that many of these issues don’t require a visit to the infirmary at all. The bad news is that individuals who choose to visit the infirmary for ailments might find themselves going home to a steep infirmary bill. And, many health plans won’t cover care received outside the United States. Traveler’s insurance can protect you against unexpected circumstances, but passengers should read every policy to make sure it covers onboard medical services.

Because medical care on board a cruise can be expensive, passengers are advised to bring their own first-aid kit, including good antiseptic cream, Band-Aids, and bandages. Burns can be prevented by using sunscreen regularly. Passengers should make sure they bring enough sunscreen for their whole trip, as the cost of sunscreen on the ship can be prohibitive. Cruise ships often have limited pharmacies, and passengers might find themselves shocked by the price of over-the-counter medicine. Bringing along pain killers, antacids, and Dramamine (for sea sickness) can help minimize medical costs during a cruise vacation, protecting your wallet and keeping you as comfortable as possible if you find yourself feeling a little under the weather.

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