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 »

parasailingLiving and working in South Florida, our maritime lawyers have seen an unfortunate number of victims succumb to parasailing accidents. Earlier this year, two teens were seriously injured in a parasailing accident in Panama City Beach, Florida after their parasail tow detached from the vessel. This incident showed the risks associated with the sport and served as a clear reminder that things can take a turn for the worst at any moment. Although parasailing is a popular and fun water activity, sadly and despite the dangers associated with the sport and countless accidents (over 1,200 in the past 30 years), there have not been any official regulations governing the industry or tour operators in Florida or the United States as a whole. That is, until now.

We are excited to announce that finally, safety standards have been set for Florida’s commercial parasailing industry. On October 14, Florida legislators revised maritime safety laws to include parasailing businesses. Now, thanks to Florida Statute 327, all parasailing operators will be required to abide by several safety standards, which will hopefully drastically decrease the number of parasailing accidents in the future and ensure the activities remains both fun and safe.

Statute 327 establishes the following stipulations on the commercial parasailing industry:

  • Requires operators to document weather conditions before commencing a trip.
  • Limits the time and location where parasailing tours can be held.
  • Requires operators to bring an additional observer on the trip to help monitor conditions.
  • Mandates operators to carry liability insurance.
  • Requires operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Dangers of secondary drowningOur maritime lawyers have blogged about the dangers of recreational water activities when it comes to drowning. Drowning accidents can happen at a moment’s notice, even when parents are vigilantly watching their children and even when children are exceptional swimmers. But while many people are aware of the risk of drowning while in open waters, pools, or Jacuzzis, not everyone may be aware of another water activity-related threat – secondary drowning.

Secondary drowning, while rare, occurs after a near-drowning experience and most victims are children. With secondary drowning, a victim inhales water into their lungs, causing fluid to build up as a result of harmful debris in the water, such as salt, bacteria, or chemicals. The fluid buildup damages the membranes in the lungs needed to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. This then leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and ultimately, brain hypoxia and cardiac arrest. Even if a victim of secondary drowning survives, they may be left with permanent damage to their lungs.

After someone survives a near-drowning incident, it may be easy to dismiss any further damage that could have occurred, especially if the victim appears to be fine. However, symptoms of secondary drowning can take up to 24 hours to develop, and if left untreated, the results can be fatal. The phenomenon is often referred to as “dry drowning” or “delayed drowning” because of the time it can take for symptoms to present themselves.

So what exactly are these symptoms? Continue reading →

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HandcuffsIn the U.S., sex offenders are required to register with the FBI in order to let government agencies know where they will live. In all U.S. states, neighbors and citizens are warned through websites or other publications when a registered sex offender moves nearby. Megan’s Law requires that the U.S. government provide citizens with notification and information about sex offenders, including personal information about where the sex offender resides. Registered sex offenders are prohibited from being in the presence of minors or coming within a certain distance of a school or day care center.

Yet, when individuals go on a cruise vacation, it is impossible to know whether the person in the cabin next door or the fellow sitting by the pool is a registered sex offender. Cruise lines don’t have the same informational and governmental structure available to them to warn vacationers when a sex offender may be traveling on board. The results of this information gap can sometimes be tragic.

The unfortunate reality is that cruise lines do not perform background checks on passengers and guests and they are not required to warn other passengers when a sex offender is traveling onboard a cruise.

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-As any experienced maritime attorney can tell you, accident prevention and safety should be of paramount concern for boaters. Last month, we wrote about the top ten causes of boating accidents in 2013. Yet, there is another silent killer lurking in the shadows: carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted and it can lead to death whether boaters are exposed to it inside or outside their vessels. Even a few breaths of this deadly substance can be fatal. To make matters worse, carbon monoxide poisoning has the same physical symptoms as sea sickness or intoxication, so it can sometimes be difficult to know whether you’re just feeling a little woozy due to choppy waves or because of the deadly effects of carbon monoxide.

Fortunately, most carbon monoxide poisonings are easily preventable. First of all, boaters should be aware of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC provides a list of the most common physical symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. These are:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

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General Santos City - area near cruise ship grounding accident

General Santos City – Area near cruise ship grounding accident

We’ve all heard of sunken treasure before. You know, gold coins, crown jewels, pirate booty, that kind of thing. But does a sunken cruise ship count as treasure? Hmmm, probably not to most, but one particular vessel does seem to strike the Philippine Coast Guard’s fancy.

Now, whether or not the vessel has any hidden treasure is anyone’s guess, but our maritime attorneys are wondering what’s so special about a 23,000-ton Panamanian cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of General Santos City last week. Probably nothing, given that the ship has reportedly been scheduled for decommissioning, but it’s still taking up a lot of space under the water and it may cause numerous issues.

According to a MindaNews report, Philippine Coast Guard commander Lt. Jay Tarriela explained that the MV Victory Pacific, which is currently sitting not so pretty roughly 150 meters off Barangay Dadiangas West, is to be salvaged. The ship was stranded in an area not too far from a coastal community, which could pose a danger to residents, especially because it has been slowly drifting closer to shore. It could also pose a threat to any marine ecosystems as well. The Coast Guard is in the process of investigating whether the accident caused any damage to the coral reefs in the region.

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Preventing a Drowning AccidentIf you enjoy the excitement of a boat outing, jet ski ride, or swim, there’s something you need to know. You are at risk for drowning, and you may not even realize it. Drowning accidents don’t just happen in dark or stormy water. A shocking University of Toronto study found that individuals are 70% more likely to drown on nice warm days. And, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that every day, ten people die as a result of drowning accidents.

Unfortunately, even those who survive, like the 4-year-old boy who nearly drowned in a Disney Cruise Line ship pool, can face long term care or hospitalization. Those participating in any kind of water-related activity often face life-long injuries, including brain damage. That risk is something boaters and those who enjoy water sports and activities are constantly faced with.

Whether heading out on the high seas or sailing across a small channel, drowning is always a risk for boaters and anyone enjoying water-related activities. Boaters might think they can avoid such a tragedy because they are aboard a vessel, but even the most experienced and careful of boaters can run into unexpected rogue waves, sudden weather changes, and even unchartered rocks that can lead to a crash, capsizing, or lead a vessel to turn over and cause passengers to get thrown overboard. If not wearing a life jacket, victims (especially those who sustain injuries) do not have a high chance of survival. Sometimes boating accident victims are able to swim to shore or at least to a safe location, but if sea and weather conditions are unfavorable, if the accident occurred far from land, or if the accident itself led the victim to lose consciousness or become severely hurt, there’s only so much time a victim can stay afloat before drowning.

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Oceania InsigniaIt’s been almost a year since the Carnival Triumph made headlines after a fire erupted in the vessel’s engine room due to a fuel leak, disabling the ship and leaving more than 3,000 people aboard a ship that had meager rations, broken toilets, and sewage dripping down the walls. Fortunately, no one was injured as a result of the accident, but we later came to learn that the fire could have possibly been prevented had Carnival followed recommendations to install spray shields on the Triumph’s fuel hoses. A compliance report revealed that Carnival was aware of the risks involved if it did not install the spray shields, yet failed to do so regardless.

Our maritime lawyers thought the Triumph debacle would have served as a dire reminder to the cruise industry about what can go wrong when safety protocols aren’t followed, but a recent tragedy in St Lucia is leaving us to wonder if the industry will ever truly learn from previous mistakes.

According to news reports, three people were killed in a cruise ship fire accident aboard the luxury liner Oceania Insignia earlier this morning. The fire broke out while the vessel was docked on St. Lucia. The victims included a cruise ship crew member and two contractors who were working aboard the ship. Another crew member who suffered serious injuries is currently receiving treatment at a hospital.  Continue reading →

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For many, there’s nothing more exhilarating than unfurling your mainsail and setting off on the open ocean. That’s why when people envision sailing accidents, they often imagine a sailboat sinking on a shallow reef or a sailboat caught in terrible torrential winds on a dark and stormy night. And surely, every year, recreational and professional sailors experience fatalities from sinking and from storms and groundings. Yet, the actual cause of many sailing accidents may surprise you. Let’s explore the more common accidents that sailors face.

The U.S. Coast Guard explains that 86% of sailing fatalities were the result of drowning and only 26% of these fatalities occurred when sailors were actually sailing. This means that many accidents do not actually take place when a sailor is out on the open ocean. Actually, many sailing fatalities occur when sailboats are docked or anchored or when boats are in the process of being docked, anchored, or unmoored.

To compound the situation, some sailors do not use life jackets in situations where a life jacket could have saved their lives. Why is this the case?

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Costa Concordia cruise ship accidentCaptain Francesco Schettino has been making headlines for quite some time ever since the ship he was in command in, the Costa Concordia, capsized off the coast of Giglio, Italy on January 13, 2012 and 32 people were killed. Schettino and several crew members were accused of manslaughter for their roles in the tragedy, but no one has taken the brunt of the blame more than Schettino. After all, he did make the last minute call to bring the vessel too close to shore as part of a maritime tradition known as a “salute” – a decision that was not authorized, changed his story several times when accused of abandoning ship (at one point even claiming he “fell” into a lifeboat), and failed to take responsibility for his actions or admit to his role in the accident.

However, Schettino remains the only person that is currently still on trial for the accident. The other crew members, though charged and convicted, had their sentences suspended. Costa Crociere, S.p.A., the owner of the Concordia, walked away with a mere 1 million Euro administrative fee. Now, Schettino remains the only person left to possibly spend any time behind bars for the horrific cruise ship accident. And after making a statement in court earlier this month, it doesn’t appear that proceedings will go in his favor anytime soon.

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NorovirusCurious about the pesky virus that has been terrorizing the stomachs of thousands of cruise ship guests for years? Our maritime lawyers have the answers you’ve been waiting for.

It seems that hardly a month goes by before we have to hear about the dreaded Norovirus striking cruise ships once more. A cruise ship facing a Norovirus outbreak is a sad sight indeed. While the virus is seldom deadly, it can ruin a vacation. Guests who are stricken with the bug are usually quarantined in their cabins and left to suffer with diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps alone. Forget sunbathing, swimming, or enjoying your ports of call while sick with Norovirus. You might as well kiss your cruise vacation goodbye.

If you are a frequent cruiser, you may not be a stranger to Norovirus and its effects. You may already know that the virus is highly contagious and is acquired by close contact with an infected person, from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, or from touching a contaminated surface. But did you know that the virus can incapacitate its victims for days to up to a week? And did you know that severe symptoms of the virus result in anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations in a given year?

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