Devastating Cruise Ship Accidents: Who Is To Blame?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

A Look Back At Some Of The Worst Cruise Ship Accidents In History

There have been several cruise ship accidents throughout the years – some have been reported while others haven’t – but there have been a few that have gone down in history as catastrophic. While some cruise lines may try to cover up smaller incidents, there are some that are so significant that they have made headlines and have forever changed the cruise industry.

As the years have gone by and technology has progressed, one might assume that cruise lines should have already found a way to avoid certain tragedies at sea, at least those that stem from negligence, but judging from the latest cruise accident, the capsizing of the Costa Concordia, it’s alarming the number of cruise ship accidents that still take place.

But whether mechanical failure was the culprit for the accident, unfavorable weather conditions, human error, or negligence, accidents on the high seas don’t usually end well. When a cruise accident takes place, victims may be entitled to seek damages for their pain and suffering, but who do you point the finger at? Who exactly is to blame for these tragedies? Let’s take a look back at some of the worst cruise accidents that have garnered the attention of maritime authorities and cruise passengers a like and see what – or whom – was at fault.


Undoubtedly the worst cruise accident in history was the sinking of the Titanic. On her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York, Titanic collided with an iceberg just four days into sailing. Although these days, a ship the size of Titanic is not uncommon, in 1912, Titanic was the largest vessel to ever set sail and the vessel itself was not structurally sound. The accident resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people.

So who is to blame for the accident? Was it the captain’s fault for not heeding warnings of icebergs and trying to get to New York in record time? Had he slowed the ship down, would the accident have been avoided altogether? Or, could the incident be blamed on the actual shipbuilder? Roughly 3 million rivets were used to hold Titanic together, but investigations after the sinking showed that the rivets were made with sub-standard iron. When the ship crashed into the iceberg, the heads of the rivets broke, which ultimately caused the vessel to tear in half. If the quality of the iron had been better, perhaps the ship might not have sunk. Moreover, even had the ship still sank, if the vessel had more lifeboats, would the majority of the passengers and crewmembers have been saved?

Several others were blamed for the tragedy but one thing is certain: people lost their lives in the cruise ship catastrophe and anyone who is involved in a maritime accident of such magnitude should seek help with a cruise accident lawyer.

SS Morro Castle

In perhaps the most gruesome of all maritime incidents, the fire aboard the SS Morro Castle goes down in history as one of the worst cruise ship accidents of all time. The luxury liner was en route to New York from Havana, Cuba in 1934 when the ship caught fire. A total of 137 people were killed and the ship burnt down. The accident was the result of the building material used on the vessel and the ship’s lack of firefighting equipment – not to mention the crew’s lack of knowledge in how to stop a fire. Had better care been given to the construction of the ship, perhaps the accident would not have occurred. Or, had the crewmembers been better trained, maybe they could have put out the fire. So who takes the fault for this one? The shipbuilder or the inadequately trained crewmembers? Perhaps the answer is both.

While extremely devastating, the cruise accident led to improved shipboard fire safety aboard vessels, including fire retardant materials, automatic fire doors, ship-wide fire alarms, and better fire drills for crewmembers and passengers.

Costa Concordia

The most recent maritime tragedy occurred this year. The Costa Concordia capsized near the Tuscan island Giglio after crashing into a rock on Jan. 13. The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was attempting to maneuver the cruise ship close to shore to perform a move called a “salute,” but getting so close to shore, the ship struck some rocks, which created a tear in the hull and led to the capsizing. At least 32 people died and several others were injured. Schettino was accused of abandoning ship before everyone was safely off the vessel and was also accused of manslaughter. Other crewmembers and the ship’s owner have also been blamed for their role in the tragedy and pre-trial hearings are already underway.

With so many cruise ship accidents that have taken place throughout the years due specifically to human error – some having catastrophic results -will cruise lines ever get to the point that negligence will no longer be a factor affecting the safety of passengers and crewmembers aboard a ship?

Until that day comes, at least victims and their loved ones can take solace in knowing that they have a right to seek legal help for their pain and suffering. If you or someone you know has been involved in a cruise ship accident, turn to our lawyers for help immediately to file a case. You may be entitled to damages for your injuries or losses, and our cruise ship accident lawyers will help you obtain the recoveries you deserve.

With over 100 years of combined experience in protecting the rights of maritime accident victims, Lipcon’s cruise lawyers will help you and your loved ones obtain justice for your cruise ship tragedy. Call us today to schedule a consultation and get started on your case.