Last Saturday, at roughly 5:00PM EST on September 22, 2018, crew members aboard Norwegian Escape — a large cruise ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines for weeklong journeys between New York and Halifax — notified Cape Cod Coast Guard watchstanders of the need for a medevac due to a 78-year-old passenger having suffered what appeared to be a stroke.
According to reports, Norwegian Escape was located about 40 nautical miles south of Nantucket at the time, thus precipitating the use of Coast Guard aircrew. Coast Guard Air Station helicopter crew were subsequently dispatched, and they arrived at 7:30PM to hoist the passenger from the cruise ship and transport him to Rhode Island Hospital, a higher-level shoreside medical facility. The passenger was accompanied by one of the ship nurses during the medevac.
The passenger’s condition was reportedly stable at the time of the helicopter hoisting. It is unclear, however, whether the passenger’s condition has remained stable, or whether his condition has further deteriorated.
Information on this incident — and the timeline of events as they occurred on the cruise ship prior to notifying Coast Guard authorities — is unfortunately lacking. Still, we are encouraged by the initial reports. Based on the rough timeline described in those reports, it appears as though crew members and Coast Guard rescue authorities coordinated a timely and effective medevac, given the severity of the situation. Unnecessary delays, particularly in the context of a stroke, can lead to an exacerbation of the injury and potentially life-altering impairment.
Had crew members delayed in notifying Coast Guard authorities, or otherwise mishandled the coordination of a medevac — thus causing the passenger to suffer further injuries, or an exacerbation thereof — then the passenger and their family members would likely have an actionable claim for damages against the cruise line.
Crew Members and Rescue Personnel Must Coordinate to Ensure a Timely Medevac
Cruise lines tend to maintain very basic medical facilities on-board their vessels, despite the fact that cruise ships can house thousands of passengers, and the target demographic skews older than the general population. Cruise lines maintain such basic facilities to minimize their overall costs, but in doing so, they must be careful to ensure that those passengers who experience a sudden and severe medical emergency can obtain adequate treatment in a timely manner.
Medical personnel aboard the cruise ship must be trained and equipped to identify when a situation is clearly beyond their ability to treat, and when a medevac must be requested for immediate assistance. Likewise, crew members must coordinate the medevac as quickly as possible to ensure that not a minute is wasted. Delays can have fatal consequences and could expose the cruise line to significant liability.
Here it appears that the crewmembers recognized and timely effectuated the medical evacuation. However all too often this is not the case. The interests of cruise lines and their passengers can be fundamentally misaligned at various times. When a medical emergency occurs on-board a cruise ship, the cruise ship operator is not always “exclusively” concerned with the health of the passenger. Instead, the operator is likely weighed down by concerns relating to the profitability of the cruise, and whether the seriousness of the medical emergency at-issue warrants a medevac response that could stall the trip or otherwise interfere with normal scheduling. Other times shipboard medical personal may fail to recognize the seriousness of the situation and the need for an evacuation or may simply misdiagnose the condition.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to a delayed medevac, or any other issues that arise due to a failure of crew members and other personnel to coordinate adequate medical care in a timely manner, then you may be entitled to bring a claim against the cruise ship operator for damages. Civil litigation against cruise lines can be difficult, however, as cruise lines have extensive resources at their disposal. We therefore encourage you to contact a qualified attorney who has experience handling complicated maritime disputes, such as those that involve medevac injuries.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our maritime lawyers have over a century of combined experience representing cruise ship passengers and crew members in a wide range of disputes with cruise ship operators, include medical emergency situations that may involve negligence related to on-board provisions and untimely medevac coordination. Unlike many of our competitors, we work closely with clients (and their families) throughout the litigation process and develop individualized strategies for every case.
Our offices are located in Florida, but our firm has a global focus. We have successfully litigated claims in courtrooms throughout the country, and worldwide. No matter where the medevac injury occurred, we can represent you in the connected dispute.
Contact Lipcon today to speak to one of our experienced maritime lawyers for a thorough evaluation of your claims.