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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Canine maritime survival storiesOver the past several weeks, our maritime lawyers have blogged about countless stories of tragedy at sea. Boating accidents, near drownings, and other tragedies occur frequently. Sadly, as we’ve discovered, many of these accidents could have been easily prevented with proper precaution or safety measures.

Today, we’ll take a little break from these tragedies to recount two heartwarming stories of canine maritime survival.

The first story is about a resourceful canine named Sophie Tucker, who fell overboard from a yacht near Queensland in 2008 and survived despite all odds. Sophie Tucker swam through shark-infested waters, eventually finding her way to remote, St. Bees Island. Reports claim that she swam five miles over a barrier reef notorious for dangerous marine life. Numerous boaters claim that dogs don’t often survive long when they swim in the ocean where Sophie Tucker fell overboard, and captains won’t even let their animals swim in the area.

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Quantum of the SeasRoyal Caribbean recently fired a Quantum of the Seas crew member who was held in custody in New Jersey following accusations that he sexually assaulted a passenger in her cabin. The passenger was allegedly asleep when the assault took place.

The 25 year old crew member who was from Mauritius, allegedly threatened the woman against reporting the incident when she woke up. The crew member had access to the woman’s room because it was his duty to restock the cabin mini-bars. The crew member had been given a key that allowed him to have access to the woman’s room.

Given the fact that crew members are often given unrestricted access to passenger’s private rooms, one wonders what measures are in place in terms of security background checks during the hiring process. Though thorough background checks should be done, not every cruise line does so. And even when a background check is thorough, they don’t always check for criminal history in other countries, despite the fact that the majority of cruise ship crew members are foreign-born.

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Airboat accidentOviedo authorities have identified the bodies of a missing boater and passenger who died in an airboat accident in Lake Jesup that took place on Sunday, December 28 when the airboat struck State Road 417 Bridge in Central Florida. It is unclear why the accident took place, but the incident highlights the fact that airboats pose risks and can be dangerous if not maneuvered safely.

Airboats are different from conventional boats in that the engine is located above water and is often enclosed in a safety mesh. The location of the engine above the water protects animals that may be located beneath the surface and allows the boat to operate in swampy conditions that would not be navigable by conventional boats. Despite these adaptations, airboats, like traditional boats, are subject to the same accident hazards that conventional boaters face. If not carefully maneuvered, these boats can strike bridges, pylons, or other structures.

Airboats have some navigation limitations. They cannot be maneuvered in reverse and they can only be steered when the engine is running and providing forward thrust. The boats are meant to be best suited for shallow water though they can function in deeper water. Given these additional considerations, operators should be aware of the risks, limitations, and hazards of these boats before they attempt to navigate narrow channels or hazardous areas with high traffic.

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stay safe on your cruiseImagine this: you’re out for your morning walk on the beach. It’s the day after Christmas and the sun is shining. You look out into the water and realize that something isn’t right. Something that is in the water shouldn’t be there. You take a closer look. Your curiosity becomes horror as you realize what it is you are looking at.

For the innocent bystander who found the body of a Holland America crew member, this scenario was reality. The body of Cliford B. Minej washed up on a Florida beach just five days after his cruise ship returned home without him. His body washed up at around 7:15 a.m. on Clearwater Beach. He was reportedly found wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

Unfortunately, man overboard situations on cruise ships are more common than the public would like to think. Since 2000, over 200 people have died as a result of falling overboard.

Investigators are still trying to determine what went wrong. It is unclear whether the man jumped to his death or fell off the ship by accident. The Pinellas County Medical Examiner has thus far ruled the man’s death an accident.

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Life jacketsWith the long holiday weekend approaching, and many boaters thinking about taking to the water, this might be a good opportunity to make sure that you and your passengers are following best safety practices. One small safety measure that boaters can take to keep themselves and their passengers safe is to wear life jackets while on board.

While wearing a life jacket can save your life and your passenger’s lives, many boaters aren’t aware that life jacket storage can have a huge effect on the longevity and effectiveness of a life jacket.

According to Boating magazine, in October, the U.S. Coast Guard eliminated numerical designations on personal flotation devices. This means that boaters don’t need to do extensive research about which type of flotation device is required for their vessel. Every state still has its own designations regarding life jacket requirements for children.

The U.S. Coast Guard explains that certain life jackets are designed to keep an individual’s head above water. Currently, the U.S. Coast Guard requires all recreational boats to carry one wearable life jacket for each person on board. Boats that are 16 feet or longer, must carry one PFD or throwable life jacket.

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Happy Holidays from our maritime lawyers at LMAWThe holiday season is in full swing, and our maritime lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. want to make sure you and your loved ones are enjoying a wonderful – and safe – holidays, especially if you decide to go on a cruise vacation or boat outing. Though we’ve been lucky that there has been a push for greater transparency in cruise accident and crime reporting, which has increased the public’s awareness of what really goes on aboard a ship as well as placed greater focus on the industry itself and (hopefully) has led cruise lines to make sure they are abiding by proper safety standards, the fact still remains that tragedies can – and do – continue to occur on the high seas.

If you are planning to head to sea during the holidays, it’s important to understand the dangers that can present themselves while on a cruise or on a pleasure craft. While there are times when freak accidents can occur, many maritime accidents and crimes are the result of operator negligence, and there are things passengers can do to reduce their risk of becoming a victim. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can help ensure you and your loved ones stay as safe as possible while out at sea.

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Future of Cruise Industry in CubaOn Wednesday, December 17th, President Obama announced that the U.S. would resume full diplomacy with Cuba. While many cruise lines, airlines, and hotel chains have shown some excitement at the prospect of being able to help tourists travel to the island nation located only 90 miles south of the U.S., it may be years before U.S. travelers are allowed to visit Cuba.

The opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba means that the U.S. will establish an embassy in Havana. President Obama spoke personally with Raul Castro in order to finalize the decision. Obama explained that the historic change will finally put an end to Cold War era hostilities and help the U.S. write a “new chapter” in its history.

The New York Times reported that the change in U.S. policy came about after 18 months of secret talks that allowed for a prisoner exchange negotiation that involved Pope Francis’s intercession. Fidel Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union and the Cuban Missile Crisis both set the stage for the U.S. embargo on Cuba and for the tensions that have been in place for the last 54 years.

But what impact can resuming diplomacy with Cuba have on the U.S. and the maritime industry as a whole? Will this affect consumer cruise ship travel?

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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.

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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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