Cruise vacations are unique in that the experience is “curated” — one of the key selling points of a cruise vacation is that the company commits the resources necessary to provide an experience where passengers can enjoy pre-planned on-board and port-side activities.
No matter how well-curated the cruise ship experience, however, a sudden medical emergency can grind services to a halt. Cruise ships must be prepared for the possibility of a medical emergency, as emergencies are not uncommon, particularly on Alaska cruise ship routes where many passengers are older.
When an on-board medical emergency does occur, crewmembers and ship medical personnel and facilities are often insufficient to resolve the issue. If the situation is more severe, comprehensive care may be necessary — in some cases, a medevac may be called in to transport the passenger off the vessel to facilities where a higher level of medical care can be provided. Failure to provide such services to the passenger could give rise to a legitimate claim against the cruise line.
Last week, on May 30, 2018, a 61-year-old woman suffered a heart attack on-board a Celebrity Cruises ship in Alaskan waters: the Celebrity Solstice. According to reports, at the time of the incident, the cruise ship was located off the coast of Noyes Island, a few miles west of Craig, Alaska.
The Captain of the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship notified Coast Guard watchstanders in Juneau, alerting them to the medical emergency, as the 61-year-old passenger seemed to be suffering from the symptoms of a heart attack. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka immediately launched a helicopter crew to medevac the passenger to Kethcikan, Alaska, where another flight crew was waiting to transport her to a medical facility for further care.
As of this time, there is no further information regarding the condition of the medevaced passenger.
In the wake of this event, we are grateful to all parties involved — crew and Coast Guard servicemen — for smoothly coordinating a medevac rescue of the passenger and helping secure critical medical care. Crew properly alerted emergency responders after determining that the 61-year-old passenger was suffering from heart attack symptoms, and that a higher level of medical care was necessary (than what was available on-board the ship) to treat the passenger. Given the time-sensitive nature of heart attack incidents, it is a genuine relief to see all parties respond in a poised and efficient manner.
Of course, this is not always the case.
Serious Medical Events Require Proper Care and Coordination
Despite the fact that the crew and Coast Guard responded correctly in the present case involving a passenger on the Celebrity Solstice, there are many situations in which negligent acts by the crew (and other personnel) can exacerbate the medical emergency, further contributing to injuries.
Consider a misdiagnosis scenario, for example. In the present case, crew on-board the ship determined that the passenger was suffering from the symptoms of a heart attack. If medical personnel on-board the ship had incorrectly diagnosed the passenger’s symptoms, then emergency responders may not have been contacted — given that the passenger was having a heart attack, any delay could have led her death or additional injury. Had this been the case, the passenger and their family might have a legitimate personal injury claim to bring against the defendant (e.g. Celebrity Cruises).
As a passenger, it’s important to always prioritize your care and follow through with the emergency process. In the present case, if the passenger had not agreed to be medevaced off the ship and to higher-level medical facilities, then any claim she might have against the cruise ship company for negligence would likely be precluded (for failure to obtain necessary medical treatment).
You must exercise reasonable caution when a medical emergency arises and take the necessary steps to secure proper treatment.
Still, despite your best efforts, the negligence of crew and other personnel could lead to severe injury. If you have suffered injuries in a medical emergency on-board a cruise ship, and you believe that the cruise line is at least partially at-fault for your injuries, then we encourage you to contact us — one of our experienced litigators can assist you with your claims.
Our Team of Maritime Lawyers Can Help
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys boast over a century of combined experience litigating negligence-based accident and injury claims occurring on or near cruise ships, including this one. Unlike other injury firms, our attorneys focus primarily on maritime and admiralty litigation — as such, we understand the strategies employed by cruise ship companies in defending against claims of negligence and are well-equipped to counter these defenses and secure compensation on behalf of our injured clients.
This focused approach has earned us many successes over the years. Not only have we obtained over $175 million in damages for our clients (injured on cruise ships or other sea vessels), but we have also been widely recognized by top national publications that include the US News & World Report, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers.
If you have any questions or concerns about your injury claim, or if you’re simply interested in speaking with a team of maritime lawyers for further guidance regarding next steps, we encourage you to get in touch with our firm. Though our offices are located in Florida, we operate a global practice, and have represented injured passengers and crew in courtrooms worldwide.
Ready to speak to an attorney about your claims? If you’re interested in getting started with the litigation process, or learning more about your various options, do not hesitate to contact us today.