LMAW In the News Regarding Lifeguards on Major Cruise Lines

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

As a maritime law firm, we are acutely aware of the various kinds of accidents and injuries that take place aboard cruise ships. If you’ve been watching the news in the past couple of years, then it would also come as no surprise to you that cruise ship drownings or near-drownings seem to be on the rise. In fact, nearly a dozen children  have lost their lives or nearly died  in the pools of major cruise lines.

Our firm has vocally advocated for years that all cruise lines should be required to have lifeguards stationed at its pools that are held out to the public as being kid friendly.

3 Major Cruise Lines to Add Lifeguards

Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Disney Cruise Line have all made the company wide decision to add lifeguards to their ships. Disney was the first to respond to the need for lifeguards, as a result of a near-drowning in 2013 that left a 4-year-old with a brain injury. Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have now joined in. While Norwegian has committed to having lifeguards on all ships by 2018, Royal Caribbean plans to phase their lifeguards in by June of this year.

Attorney Michael Winkleman spoke with the Miami Herald about what may have finally caused this shift, and how this may impact the industry.

As for what prompted the change to adopting official cruise lifeguards, Winkleman explains, “Public sentiment shifted because of the sheer number of children that began drowning on cruises.” Although there had been many people insisting that parents should be more proactive in watching their own children, Winkleman adds that, “when it was up to a dozen children, those naysayers said, ‘Gosh, maybe these big corporations should take a simple step to keep our families safe.”

According to Winkleman, one of the reasons cruise lines had not employed lifeguards before is because of the Death on the High Seas Act. This harsh federal law several limits the damages that can be recovered when a minor or an elderly person dies because the law only allows recovery of moneys paid to dependent beneficiaries.  Thus, non wage earners, like children, have essentially no recoverable damages under the Death on the High Seas Act.  The only real recoverable damage in this type of case is  the funeral expenses. In a conversation with Fox News, Winkleman explained, “[The] cruise lines had no reason to spend money on lifeguards when there was no real threat to their bottom line.”

As a result, in Winkleman’s opinion, it wasn’t a high priority for these companies to invest in preventative safety measures. But, it finally looks like all of that is changing.

Now, all eyes turn to Carnival Cruise Line, which is the only major cruise line that has not announced plans to add lifeguards to their pools. Attorney Winkleman told the Herald, “the pressure on Carnival is now going to be huge.”

In speaking with NBC 6 Miami, Winkleman gave his opinion on the situation with Carnival, explaining, “My clients and I think a lot of the public are not going to rest until Carnival also does the right thing and puts lifeguards on their cruise ships.”

And, based on a discussion with the Miami New Times, Winkleman believes it is “only a matter of time” before Carnival will have to step up to the plate.  After all,  public perception is a strong enough motivator to sway this remaining cruise giant to take better care of its most vulnerable passengers.

LMAW is Here to Help

We will certainly continue to keep watch to see how Carnival decides to respond in the long-run. In the meantime, we are confident that parents everywhere will be able to breathe a sigh of relief when taking their kids to the pools aboard Disney, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean cruises.

Our firm has handled, and is currently handling,several drowning and near-drowning cases , and we know just how traumatizing these events can be, for everyone involved. Although we hope that children will now have a lower risk of injury on cruise pools, nothing can change what has happened to your family in the past. So if you have questions about a drowning or near-drowning incident and are seeking trusted legal advice from a maritime lawyer, do not hesitate to contact us.