While going on a cruise may seem like a wonderful family vacation to take, cruise ships can be riskier than many people are aware of. Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. has worked hard to lobby for cruise lines to be required to provide more statistical information on incidents aboard cruise ships, including providing potential travelers with information about acts of violence and incidents of sexual assault.
Parents who are considering taking children on a cruise — especially when there are young children who will be traveling – need to be fully aware both of the potential dangers that the ship can present to a child as well as be aware of the complications associated with responding to an incident. Not only is medical care limited at sea, there is host of evidentiary issues that one would not normally need to deal with on land.
Incidents in which children have sustained serious and even fatal injuries while aboard cruise lines in recent years provide parents with tragic lessons about the dangers of accidents and injuries aboard cruise ships. Parents should heed the warnings that these incidents present and take the necessary steps to protect their children while cruising.
If injury does occur, to a child or to an individual of any age, a cruise ship accident attorney at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can provide invaluable assistance in responding to the incident, putting together a strong case for damages, and pursuing a claim against the cruise line.
You should contact a cruise ship lawyer as soon as possible if an incident aboard a cruise occurs on a family vacation so you can get the necessary help to maximize your chance of holding the cruise line accountable and recovering the monetary damages you and your family deserve.
Risks to Children While Traveling on a Cruise
Recently, our cruise ship attorney learned of an accident aboard a cruise ship led to the death of a young passenger. According to the Chicago Tribune, an 8-year-old girl died after she fell over an interior railing as she and her family waited to disembark the vessel in the Port of Miami. The girl and her little brother were watching the crowds on the lower decks when she went over the railing and tumbled down two stories below. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the incident was an “unusual accident.” Nonetheless it raises concerns about the risks to cruise passengers who are traveling with children.
A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines responded to the incident in an email, indicating that it appeared the girl’s fall had occurred accidentally. The cruise line spokesperson said that the railing where the little girl had been standing was 47 inches high and in compliance with industry guidelines. The spokesperson indicated that any additional questions regarding the fatal fall incident should be referred to the police.
However, in her statement, the cruise line representative also sought to reassure other parents who might become concerned about their own child’s safety on cruise when such a tragic thing could happen. She commented: “We hold broad appeal to the family market based on the fun, safe and secure vacation experience we provide,” and she provided estimates suggesting that approximately 800,000 children were expected to sail with Carnival Cruise lines over the course of 2017.
There are, however, dangers to be aware of for children and adults, as this incident was not the first in which a fatality occurred aboard a cruise ship. As the Chicago Tribune indicates, the Cruise Lines Industry Association has reported the fatality rate aboard cruise ships was .15 deaths per billion passenger miles, all most two times that of deaths per billion passenger miles for airlines. However, it is unclear whether these statistics on cruise fatalities accurately reflect the total number of serious incidents because it is possible that some incidents may go unreported.
Fatalities are also not the only things parents need to be concerned about. Incident reports compiled by the Department of Transportation show a wide array of serious issues that occur aboard cruise lines, including rapes, sexual assaults, homicides and major theft.
In the three-month period of April 2017 to June 2017, there were 30 incidents reported among cruise lines, the Chicago Tribune indicates. These incidents included 19 sexual assaults involving cruise passengers as well as a missing persons report. These numbers, too, may be undercounted because not every incident is able to be investigated and authorities are not necessarily told of every adverse incident in which someone suffers harm, especially if the incident occurs on distant waters.
There are a number of possible ways that children could suffer harm aboard cruise ships, with the tragic fall the young girl suffered recently on the Carnival ship presenting just one example of how a child could be endangered by conditions aboard a cruise. Children could also be harmed while at sea by:
- Sexual offenses: Most cruise lines provide specialized programs for children, including kids activities and babysitting services. In some cases, the adults who are entrusted to care for children actually mean them harm and children could end up being victimized by sexual predators aboard the boat. Children, who are often provided with more freedom in the confined environment of the cruise, could also be victimized by other passengers in certain circumstances.
- Drowning: Pools are standard amenities on most cruise ships, but many cruise lines do not have life guards so children essentially swim at their own risk. Drowning is a real concern, especially if there are conditions in the pool that increase the risk such as broken tiles around the pool’s edge or a malfunctioning drainage system within the pool that children could become caught in.
- Children falling overboard: The child killed recently was fatally injured as a result of falling from one deck to a different deck. Children could also fall overboard off the boat.
The authority of U.S. officials to collect data, conduct investigations, and make reports is limited, which makes it difficult to get a full picture of how at-risk kids are at sea.
While the U.S. Coast Guard conducts inspections of all ships carrying U.S. Flags and of all ships that take passengers aboard in U.S. Waterways, the Coast Guard does not have authority to investigate incidents outside its jurisdiction.
This means that while the Coast Guard will investigate serious incidents that happen on U.S. waters and will mandate that ships meet safety standards related to evacuation, having adequate lifeboats, and preventing fires, the Coast Guard has only limited authority and so is handicapped in efforts to promote safety.
If an incident occurs in Europe, the Bahamas, or anywhere outside of the territory where the Coast Guard has jurisdiction to investigate, local authorities will have the obligation and burden to conduct an investigation into the incident. A cruise ship lawyer can provide assistance with attempting to uncover the results of an investigation occurring in a foreign jurisdiction and can provide help in attempting to take action to recover compensation even when injuries occurred offshore.
A spokesperson for U.S. Coast Guard headquarters also cautioned that cruise passengers should know the basics of marine safety before going to sea. This includes becoming aware of emergency procedures and familiarizing themselves with safety procedures for the cruise ship. including how to take life jackets off and on and where they should go in case of emergencies. Cruise ships are required to conduct both fire and abandon ship drills and attending one of these drills could provide helpful information to passengers in case an incident occurs that puts them at risk. Parents will need to make sure children also understand what to do in case something goes wrong.
Parents also need to make sure they understand what to do in case of a problem, including responding assertively in the aftermath of the accident to ensure the right people are held accountable for causing harm.
Get Help From a Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer Today
A cruise ship injury lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can provide invaluable advice to parents after an incident aboard a cruise ship caused harm. We provided representation to all victims of cruise injuries when the cruise’s negligence played a role in causing the damage to occur. To find out more about the help we can offer, contact a cruise ship injury attorney today for assistance.