We hear about cruise ship accidents all the time here at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., most of which involve passengers. We hear about the terrible illnesses, injuries, disappearances, and deaths, many of which could have been entirely prevented had the cruise line employed better safety standards. Far too many passengers are hurt or killed because a cruise company chose not to have lifeguards onboard, failed to report a medical emergency in time or simply, because the line didn’t want to face the legal ramifications of being found guilty of negligence. Endless factors can contribute to the injuries or deaths of guests, but when the victim is a crew member, things get even more complicated.
As little as the public gets to hear about accidents involving cruise passengers, we hear even less about accidents involving crew members. Why is that? Do lines work even harder at concealing accidents involving their own crew? What could possibly be the reason behind this?
Well, our years of experience in maritime law has taught us that a crew member’s contract is filled with arbitrary clauses and fine print that can limit a line’s liability, but maritime law supersedes these clever tactics cruise lines use so they can avoid paying victims compensation for their negligent actions. Because cruise ship crew members are considered “seafarers,” there are many laws that protect them in the event of harm, and aside from accidents, these laws also protect crew against any form of carelessness, discrimination, underpayment, overworking, and many, many other wrongful acts.
Cruise lines and other maritime companies are required to provide a safe environment for crews, which also includes providing them with food, shelter, medical care, wages, and other contract benefits. When lines violate these terms, they can be held liable for even more damages than for a passenger-related accident.
So naturally, after hearing about the tragic death of a young cruise ship crew member this weekend, our maritime lawyers are left wondering: Did the victim die of natural causes, or is there more to this tragedy than meets the eye?
According to reports on the incident, a 23-year-old Cunard crew member died of “natural causes” this weekend while on a Mediterranean itinerary. Cunard, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., is a luxury ship, so naturally, we would expect crew member conditions to be up to par (if not to surpass) industry standards. We also expect news regarding the death of anyone onboard a luxury cruise ship, crew member, passenger or other, be kept under wraps a lot more tightly due to the general consensus that a luxury line should have better safety protocols in place as well as better crew member treatment policies.
The crew member, who has yet to be named, was originally from the Philippines and was working as a deckhand on the Queen Victoria. A Cunard spokesperson confirmed the crew member’s death and explained the line is offering support to the victim’s loved ones back home.
The Queen Victory continues on its Mediterranean voyage and is currently on its way to Palma, Majorca in Spain with a scheduled return to Southampton on October 24.
So, in a nutshell, we are told the crew member death was “natural,” but what 23-year-old dies of “natural causes?” It is doubtful a cruise line would employ a worker who is gravely ill and requires constant medical attention, so then what exactly are these natural causes of which Cunard speaks of?
Honestly, we can’t think of any natural causes that could claim the life of such a young man, unless he had a severe heart condition no one knew about or some form of cancer that came on rapidly and claimed his life before it was ever properly treated. It could very well be any of these horrible illnesses that claimed the young man’s life, but if it really is a natural cause that contributed to his death, why doesn’t Cunard give a better explanation?
Generally, negligence is to blame for many cruise ship injuries and deaths, and unfortunately, some will always remain a mystery. The ocean floor is vast and holds many cruise line secrets that are often swept under the proverbial maritime rug. Hopefully we’ll learn more about the Cunard crew member’s death in the days to come. Hopefully we’ll also hear that Cunard did everything possible to get the victim the medical treatment he deserved and needed and that cruise officials notified the proper emergency personnel (like the Coast Guard) in the moments leading up to the tragedy.
In the meantime, our hearts go out to the crew member’s loved ones and we hope they can find peace during this terrible and difficult time.