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 »

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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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Dawn Princess docked at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Dawn Princess docked at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Time and time again, our cruise ship lawyers have discussed the frequency of Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships. The dreaded gastrointestinal illness has been responsible for many ruined cruise vacations, with thousands of victims succumbing to its debilitating effects. Though death from Norovirus is rare, the illness can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare, leaving those affected with terrible stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea.

Unfortunately, several cruisers have fallen prey to the stomach bug once more, this time on a Princess Cruises vessel. According to news reports, 200 passengers fell sick with Norovirus aboard the Dawn Princess this week. The ship was sailing to Australia from New Zealand when the bug spread across the vessel like wildfire.

Health officials say the victims were confined to their cabins, while Princess representatives claim they took measures to prevent further spread of the illness. But with 200 people sick with Norovirus, did crew members really do all they could to prevent the spread?

Princess Cruises said in a statement that “It takes relatively few cases to be reported onboard for even more stringent sanitation levels to be implemented. The containment response worked effectively and the number of new cases declined significantly.”

But what does Princess consider a few cases? 10 passengers? 50 passengers? 200 passengers?

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Each cruise ship rape lawyer at our firm has, unfortunately, seen many tragic cases where women have been raped while on board a cruise. We fight diligently to seek justice for these women and understand that victims often feel confused and alone. Yet, it’s important to remember that there are a variety of resources available to protect the rights of those who have been victims of rape and sexual assault on the high seas.

​First and foremost, if you’ve been assaulted on a ship, report the crime to ship authorities as soon as possible, but also report the incident to the FBI and Coast Guard on your own and consult with a cruise ship rape lawyer to discuss your rights and steps you should take after the incident to ensure your protection. It is vital for you to take action on your own for several reasons.

For one, though maritime law requires cruise lines to contact authorities and perform their own investigation when notified of a suspected sexual assault or rape, unfortunately, cruise lines don’t always do so. Often, cruise operators fail to report the crime to the FBI and other law enforcement authorities, fail to question alleged suspects, fail to review on board surveillance tapes for any record of the incident, or fail to perform a proper and thorough investigation of the alleged crime scene itself.

By contacting the FBI and Coast Guard on your own to report the crime directly, you can have peace of mind in knowing the incident was documented by the proper officials, who will take decisive action. And by contacting a cruise ship rape lawyer, you will have peace of mind in knowing that an experienced legal professional will start building a case for you immediately.

 

Yet, even when cruise lines do follow proper maritime protocols following an alleged sexual assault or rape, the fact still stands that even the most skilled and experienced of a ship’s security officers often cannot investigate the incident or gather evidence as accurately as an actual law enforcement officer or FBI agent would be able to.

​Also, if the assault occurred while the ship was docked in a foreign country, that nation’s authorities will be responsible for conducting the primary investigation and may not do so thoroughly or quickly enough and may not even be willing to cooperate with U.S. authorities or the victims themselves. This not only creates a window of opportunity for the assailant to get away with the crime, but hinders the victim’s ability to obtain justice.

​Additionally, if you have been raped onboard a cruise ship, do not shower immediately and leave the crime scene intact so that investigators have a chance to collect as much evidence as possible. Make sure that the crime scene is not altered until proper authorities can investigate. Unfortunately, due to international laws, the FBI may not be able to investigate the crime scene until the ship docks at a U.S. port.

You should also seek medical treatment immediately, either on board the ship or at a local hospital if docked at a foreign country. While medical services on a cruise ship are limited, most cruises have at least one doctor on duty that can perform at least a basic health screening and take samples that may be later used to identify the assailant.

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On December 2, a 161-foot multi-million dollar mega-yacht stopped both sea and land traffic when it collided into a drawbridge near Biscayne Bay. The yacht was being pulled by two tug boats when it hit the drawbridge that connects North Miami to Bay Harbor Islands.

The yacht, named the Rockstar, became pinned under the drawbridge, stopping both sea and land traffic. Authorities explain 15 people were on board the vessel, but fortunately no one was hurt in the incident.

​Reports indicate that the drawbridge may have collapsed on top of the yacht while it was being pulled beneath the channel. When the bridge landed on the yacht, it came down next to the hot tub and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

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When we board a cruise ship, we enter a world of cloistered comfort and safety. It can be easy to forget the dangers inherent in voyaging out to sea. All sea vessels, including cruise ships, ferries, and cargo ships, are vulnerable to weather, shallow reefs, and other obstacles. They can also sink due to faulty equipment. Add to that the fact that these vessels travel great distance over the vast and unpredictable ocean and you have a recipe for (occasional) disaster.

Curious about some of these accidents? Our maritime attorneys have compiled a list of the top ten worst maritime disasters on record. Let’s take a look.

10. In 1954, the Toya Maru, a Japanese passenger ferry sank between Hokkaido and Honshu. While the official recorded death toll is 1,153, the actual death toll may be higher or lower because some passengers actually didn’t board with tickets, while others cancelled their bookings before setting sail.
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AquaTheater, Allure of the SeasU.S.A. Today reported yesterday morning that Holland America is taking bookings for its newest and largest ship, just in time for the holiday season. The vessel, named the Koningsdam, will offer passengers 12-night journeys to various destinations in the Mediterranean. The vessel can hold as many as 2,650 passengers.

Sounds exciting, right? Well, maybe from a cruiser’s standpoint. From the standpoint of an offshore injury lawyer, it’s little more complicated than that. Though sometimes bigger can be better, that’s not always the case when it come to cruise ships. You would think that the giant ships cruise lines are coming out with these days are the epitome of perfection…right? Think again. Sure, the newer and larger ships may have a ton of cool and innovative features, but just because a ship is large doesn’t necessary make it safer than a more modestly-sized vessel. Let’s take a look at the statistics.

In 2013, The New York Times investigated into increasing cruise ship sizes, and what was discovered will astound you. While in 1985, the largest cruise ship was 46,000 tons, today’s ships can weigh as much as 225,000 tons. Lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about cruise ship size, as cruises carried 17 million passengers in 2000. Safety experts, lawmakers, and regulators have expressed trepidation about these mega-ships.

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Bill Cosby accused of rapeWith 16 women having come out in recent weeks accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault and abuse, it’s become extremely clear that sexual assault needs to be brought to the forefront – especially sexual assault on cruise ships. Not only is it important for cruise ship rape victims to understand the importance of coming forward with their testimonies, it is equally critical that cruise lines start implementing greater safety measures to prevent these tragedies in the first place.

There are several similarities between the incidents with Cosby and those that happen on board cruise ships. For example, Time Magazine reports that many of the women who accused Cosby of sexual assault remained silent about the abuse during the comedian’s long career, spanning from the 70s to the present. Some of the women say that Cosby drugged them before assaulting them. More shockingly, Cosby’s history of rape would not have reached the public eye had the comedian Hannibal Buress not mentioned it in a comic routine.

Like Cosby’s victims, there are numerous sexual assaults and rapes on cruise ships that never see the light of day. Whether it’s because the victim is afraid to come forward or the cruise line fails to properly investigate the situation, assailants do not always get identified or charged with their actions. Furthermore, cruise lines have an interest in underreporting sexual crimes. For example, although Carnival Cruise Lines reported five rape incidents involving crew members and two incidents of sexual assault for 2013, experts believe these numbers may not be accurate.

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