When you are injured on a cruise ship, you might feel like it’s impossible to obtain compensation, whether you are a passenger or a crew member.
At Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., our cruise ship accident lawyers help victims take on cruise lines, large and small, to get the compensation they deserve.
With over 165 years of combined maritime law experience and dedication, we know what it takes to get our clients justice.
- Why Choose Our Cruise Ship Accident Lawyers
- Suing the Major Cruise Lines
- About the Cruise Ship Industry
- What Every Cruise Ship Passenger Needs to Know
- Examples of Maritime Accidents and Disasters
- Common Cruise Ship Accidents and Injuries
- Cruise Ships Registered in a Foreign Country
- What To Do After a Cruise Ship Accident
- An Overview of Cruise Ship Law
- Cruise Ship Accident Statute of Limitations
- How Can a Cruise Ship Attorney Help Maximize the Value of Your Claim?
- Cruise Ship Accident Frequently Asked Questions
Why Choose Our Cruise Ship Accident Lawyers?
At Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., we are dedicated to helping all those who have been injured on a cruise ship recover the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering. Our firm is AV-rated, meaning our lawyers maintain the highest level of ethics in all we do and we work diligently to make sure your rights are fully protected. Our firm has recovered more than $300 million dollars for our clients many of which were cruise ship passengers. Our proven performance record and long history of dedication to protecting the rights of individuals injured on cruise ships is one of the biggest factors that differentiates Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. from other law firms, but these accomplishments would not be possible without a staff of maritime lawyers that possess the skill, experience, and determination needed to effectively litigate each claim our law firm accepts.
In fact, our clients appreciate the confidence that comes with knowing that all of our attorneys are experienced and familiar with the laws and regulations that will affect their case. The level of knowledge and expertise our cruise ship lawyers possess is further demonstrated by that fact that our attorneys are regularly featured in the media for their superior knowledge of maritime law, and as most accident victims know, having an experienced lawyer on your case is an essential element to ensuring that your case reaches a resolution that benefits you, the victim.
Our Legal Team is Ready to Take on the Major Cruise Lines
Most of the major cruise lines are based in Miami, Florida (as are we), and as a result, they select Miami, Florida, as the location where lawsuits must be filed and litigated. There are other cruise lines that require cases to be filed in California or Washington state, and fortunately, we have attorneys licensed in California and Washington. In almost every case where passengers have been unaware of the forum selection clause or have otherwise chosen to ignore it and filed a lawsuit in another jurisdiction, the lawsuit has been dismissed leaving the passenger with no means of recovery against the company. These unfortunate cases demonstrate why hiring experienced maritime accident lawyers who have both the legal skills and resources needed to successfully initiate and litigate claims against major cruise lines is so important. Some of the companies our cruise ship lawyers will handle claims against include:
- Royal Caribbean
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Disney Cruise Line
- Princess Cruises
- Steiner Transocean
- Holland America Line
- Costa Cruises
- Mediterranean Shipping Cruises USA (MSC)
- Crystal Cruises
- Cunard Line
- Seabourn Cruises
- Azamara Cruises
This list is not all-inclusive, but rather, it comprises some of the largest cruise lines our attorneys routinely sue. However, our cruise ship attorneys also have experience with litigating claims against third-party vendors that often contract with major cruise lines such as Starboard Cruise Services, which is a third party retail company that often contracts with many of the major cruise lines to provide onboard retail services. So, regardless of how you were injured or who is responsible, you should always contact the maritime accident lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. to have your claim evaluated by an experienced attorney for cruise ship accidents who can help you understand your legal options.
About the Cruise Ship Industry
In 2012, the cruise industry generated more than $42 billion for the US economy. The economic activity the industry generated provided more than 350,000 jobs and $17 billion in wages to American workers.
Cruise ships have evolved significantly over the years. Many of the newer ships are state-of-the-art vessels that include a number of innovations: Internet cafes, Wi-Fi zones, bowling alleys, rock-climbing walls, fitness facilities, swimming pools, spas, wave machines, water slides, and other amenities that rival some of the best land-based facilities.
When it comes to cruising, passengers make up a very diverse demographic. Statistics show the average cruiser is 46 years old with an above-average household income of $93,000 per year.
What Every Cruise Ship Passenger Needs To Know
The average person about to embark on a dream cruise ship vacation never thinks about the things that can go wrong. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cruises things go right which is why cruise ship vacations are growing at a phenomenal pace. For the cases when something goes awry, it is important to note these tips from an experienced cruise injury lawyer, in case something unexpected occurs at sea.
Things to Keep in Mind
You will receive a multi-page ticket with extremely small print that virtually no one ever reads. Read it. Some very important rights are affected by this ticket. If you become sick or injured due to the fault of the shipping company a lawsuit must be filed within one year or you are out of luck. Many people, including many lawyers, miss this provision in the ticket. After one year, you are out of luck. There are a few exceptions which only apply in rare instances.
On the cruise ship, don’t think that you are in the United States. Look at the flag of the vessel. If it is Bahamian, you are in the Bahamas. If it is Panamanian you are in Panama. There are certain exceptions to this, but not many.
Just because the doctor wears a nice uniform and works in the ship’s hospital, don’t assume he really knows what he is doing. If you have a medical condition research the standards of the shipping company that you are sailing with. Some are better than others. If you have a heart condition, you don’t want to be on a ship that uses psychiatrists, as an example, as a ships doctor.
These occur on ships just like anywhere else. Be aware that the same crimes that occur on land can occur on a ship. Be tuned into this so that you do not become a victim. The same goes for your children. Make sure that they are never alone and under supervision. Sexual assaults against children occur even at a young age. Both boys and girls. Don’t just open your cabin door without knowing who is there. Don’t leave your cabin unlocked. Don’t take your safety for granted.
If something does go wrong, do not think the shipping company is motivated solely to help you
Their first instinct is to protect themselves. They will gather evidence to use against you many times. You can protect yourself by taking photographs. Get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all possible witnesses. Call your attorney from the high seas if necessary. Ask your attorney to find you an experienced cruise injury lawyer immediately to get advice on what you should do.
Where to file suit
The cruise line ticket can specify where suit has to be filed. Most of the large cruise lines specify Miami, Dade County, Florida. If suit is filed in the wrong location and one year has gone by, you could be thrown out of court and it will be too late to file in the correct location.
These are just a few matters to keep in the back of your mind. Hopefully, you will not have to worry about any of these things. However, it is better to be aware of your rights than to stick your head in the sand.
Examples of Maritime Accidents or Disasters
As maritime lawyers, our firm has seen a number of tragic accidents and crimes befall the cruise industry over the years. Though some of these incidents have been highly publicized, others have been swept under the ocean floor, never to be heard from again. We thought it would be helpful to take a look at some of these maritime disasters and what happened to the victims onboard.
Crashes, Groundings and Sinkings
Accidents of this caliber are among the worst possible. A grounding, crash, and even a partial capsizing can lead to fatal injuries, which, unfortunately, is the result of the following major cruise accidents. The first, of course, is the sinking of the so-called “unsinkable ship”, the RMS Titanic. Most of us know the story about the Titanic, but for those that don’t, the Titanic was a 52,310-ton ship that struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic while on its maiden voyage in 1912. As a result, the ship nearly snapped in two, sinking into the chilling waters below and killing over 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers and crew.
The Titanic will always go down in history as the worst cruise ship disaster of all time, mostly because the accident could have been entirely avoided. Had the captain refused to push the ship to go faster and had the vessel been equipped with sufficient lifeboats, perhaps the outcome would have been entirely different.
Nearly exactly 100 years after the Titanic, the Costa Concordia capsizing accident was a prime example of how negligence contributed to the demise of a ship and its passengers and crew. The Concordia crashed into a large rock off the coast of Giglio, Italy in 2012 and partially sank. Of the 4,200 people onboard the vessel, 32 died and 64 were injured. The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is still on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship for his role in the incident. It was allegedly Schettino’s decision to alter the course of the vessel to perform a sort of close up drive by the nearby town which resulted in the disaster, and there have been claims the giant rock was not visible in his nautical maps.
Cruise Ship Fires
Though no one was killed in the 2013 fire aboard the Carnival Triumph, over 3,500 people were left stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico with barely anything to eat and forced to endure absolutely dire sanitary conditions.
Firstly, it appears the fire could have been entirely avoided had crew members paid attention to the ship’s equipment and found the fuel leak in time, but the fact that the entire vessel lost power was probably the biggest sign that the company was negligent in equipping the vessel with emergency backup generators.
Even more astounding was the fact that Carnival barely wanted to compensate victims for their turmoil. The company proposed a refund, future cruise credit, and $500, but this compensation pales in comparison to the suffering the victims endured. Suffering that could have ended much faster had Carnival tugged the disabled Triumph to Progreso, Mexico, a port that was much closer than Mobile, Alabama, where the vessel finally ended up.
From stomach bugs to land and seasickness, a cruise is often a microcosm of bacteria and illness just waiting for unsuspecting passengers.
Norovirus is the most common illness suffered by cruise ship passengers and crew members alike. Though we hear about cases involving the infamous stomach bug quite frequently, perhaps one of the worst cases happened back in 2010 aboard the Celebrity Mercury. Out of 2,600 passengers and crew onboard the ship, over 400 became sick with Norovirus, causing widespread gastrointestinal ills for those who were stricken with the highly contagious bug.
While it’s impossible to completely prevent a Norovirus outbreak, at least from the cruise line’s standpoint, it’s important to maintain the highest sanitary standards possible. Guest rooms should be thoroughly cleaned, kitchen equipment should be sanitized and anytime a crew member is ill, they should take a short leave of absence so they don’t pass their sickness to other crew members or to passengers.
The Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) is part of the CDC’s mission to help the cruise ship industry remain as safe and healthy as possible. The VSP conducts inspections of cruise ships while they are docked in American ports. These inspections help the cruise line to maintain proper health standards so that passengers and crew members can have a safe and enjoyable cruise experience.
Crime on the high seas is a very complex subject because so many types of crimes can – and have – occurred. Sexual assault is the most common type of crime experienced on cruise ships, but other incidents such as robbery, physical assault, and murder have all occurred both onboard a vessel and ashore. In 2005, one of the most horrible crimes occurred, and while no one was injured, the experience was extremely traumatizing for victims.
The Seabourn Spirits was about 100 miles off the coast of Somalia when pirates attacked the ship. Firing at the vessel with machine guns and grenades, the captain was barely able to change course and escape the perilous situation, but it was certainly a horrific situation for those onboard. A cruise ship pirate attack isn’t very common, but this particular incident will go down in history as one of the most surprising.
Some accidents are not clear cut. Even in cases where it’s blatantly obvious that an accident resulted from reckless behavior like intoxication or speeding, it can still be difficult to establish fault. So what happens when an accident is caused by unfavorable weather?
Sometimes cruise lines ignore weather warnings or sail through bad weather on purpose because missing certain ports means missing the profits generated from that destination. No matter what the reason, if a cruise line ignores weather warnings and an accident occurs, the cruise line may be found liable for any injuries that ensue.
In 2015, Keith White from London, Ontario, Canada, fell overboard the Northern Spirit cruise ship and into Lake Ontario, where he drowned. At the time, a search of the area by a maritime rescue unit did not uncover his body. He was eventually discovered 18 days later in Humber Bay.
Although it is reported that White was intoxicated when he boarded the cruise, guards apparently did not notice and, in addition to allowing him onto the vessel, continued to serve him alcohol during the evening.
It seems clear that multiple issues were at play, here. Excessive intoxication, paired with a sub-par execution of rescue protocol may have led to this man’s death.
Despite any inconvenience it may have caused to other passengers, crewmembers should have taken note of White’s intoxication when he boarded the ship, and, when he went overboard, the appropriate drills should have been immediately implemented.
Cruise Ships Registered in a Foreign Country
Almost every cruise line vessel is registered in a foreign country and flies a foreign flag. Due to this, the law of the country of registration of the vessel could potentially apply to events that occur on the cruise ship, but the laws of some foreign countries could be less favorable to the plaintiff than the laws in the United States in most cases. Consequently, this aspect of certain cruise ship accident claims can create unique opportunities that experienced admiralty attorneys can use to gain a legal advantage.
For example, an accident that occurs on a ship that begins its voyage in Miami could fall under the jurisdiction of Florida state law, federal law, or the law of the country the vessel is registered with, and international treaties that apply to events and occurrences that happen aboard the ship can add an additional level of legal complexity. To an inexperienced attorney, the overlap and interplay between these different areas of law might seem like an obstacle, but our at-sea injury attorneys view these cases as an opportunity to evaluate which body of law would be both applicable to your unique situation and most favorable to your legal position.
Common Cruise Accident & Injury Types
Maritime law is a very specialized area of legal practice, and at times, it can be confusing, even to cruise ship lawyers who are moderately familiar with maritime law in general, and while there are things you can do as an aware and alert passenger to avoid an injury while you are vacationing on a cruise ship, accidents can and do happen with a high degree of regularity. Some of the most common events that occur on cruise lines and have been pointed out by the news media recently include:
- Cruise Ship Disappearances
- Cruise Line Crimes
- Cruise Passenger SOS
- Cruise Ship Rapes & Sexual Assaults
- Cruise Ship Drownings
- Cruise Ship Fires
- Cruise Ship Injuries
- Cruise Ship Overboard Accidents
Consult with a cruise ship accident attorney after your injury to determine if you should move forward with a case. You can reach our law firm by calling the toll-free number: 888-311-9929. We can also be reached from overseas and offer all clients a free case evaluation.
What Should I Do After Being Involved in a Cruise Ship Accident?
Due to the numerous ways a cruise ship accident can occur, many accident victims often ask “What should I do after an accident on a cruise ship?” or “What steps should I take if I am injured on a ship?” The answer to these questions often depends on the type of accident you were involved in and the circumstances surrounding how your accident occurred, but as a general matter, you should:
- Make sure you file and obtain a copy of an accident report or a report of a crime
- Document your accident as much as possible including taking pictures of the accident scene, obtaining the contact information of any witnesses, and recording the names of any of the crew members to whom you report the accident.
- Seek medical attention immediately with the medical staff on the ship.
- Contact a cruise ship passenger injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Moreover, the maritime lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. have created a free cruise ship lawyer app that you can download to help you record, track, and gather evidence following an accident that can later be used to strengthen your claim. Through our app, you can:
- Capture and record data and photos about your accident or injuries;
- Input and track injury-related expenses;
- Review incident response checklists to help you in a cruise accident;
- Find the closest medical facility;
- Place Skype calls from your device, even if you are injured at sea;
- Submit a free case evaluation form to our team;
- Contact our law firm;
- And more.
If you have been injured in a cruise ship accident, it’s important to speak to a cruise accident lawyer immediately. We will take the time to give your case the personal attention it deserves, and advise you relating to the rights that you have under the law, and regarding the statute of limitations-how much time you have to file suit after an accident—as it pertains to your particular case.
An Overview of Cruise Ship Law
Cruise ship accidents and claims involve unique aspects of maritime law that apply only to cruise ships, which is why these types of cases are sometimes referred to as falling under cruise ship law. While much of the general maritime law applies to cruise ship injury cases, there are special circumstances that apply just to events that occur on cruise ships. For example, cruise lines always insert special provisions into their passenger ticket contracts, which is generally a permitted practice under federal law, that shorten the length of time in which a passenger may file a lawsuit against the cruise line to one year, whereas the normal statute of limitations for admiralty and maritime matters is three years. Also, cruise lines always designate, within their passenger tickets, the only location where they can be sued. This is referred to as a forum selection clause.
However, there are exceptions to these unique rules. For example, in Boehnen v. Carnival Cruise Lines Inc.778 So.2d 1084 (2001), Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals ruled that the shortened statute of limitations imposed on a passenger by way of the contract on a passenger’s ticket did not apply to mentally incompetent passengers that did not have a legal guardian appointed pursuant to 46 U.S.C.§ 183b(c). The various court decisions and laws that create exceptions to certain rules demonstrate why hiring an experienced cruise ship accident lawyer is one of the most important decisions you can make if you are harmed or injured on a cruise ship.
Cruise Ship Accident Statute of Limitations
By statute, a cruise line with a properly worded ticket can limit the time for the filing of a lawsuit to a period of not less than one year. Normally the statute of limitations for an admiralty action would be 3 years. However, almost every, if not every, cruise line uses a one-year limitation.
If you have missed your deadline, however, all is not necessarily lost — depending on the circumstances, you may be able to show that the contract-based limitations period was unreasonable and unenforceable, or that you qualify for an exemption.
How Can a Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer Maximize the Value of My Claim?
Achieving a favorable recovery for a maritime personal injury or fatality case requires lawyers that have specific knowledge of the laws that govern maritime matters. These types of cases can be difficult due to the advantages companies in the cruise ship industry have including:
- Non-disclosure policies that attempt to prevent them from releasing the names of those who are hurt, go missing, or who sustain fatal injuries.
- The commonly used arguments that courts in the United States have no jurisdiction over what transpires over international waters.
- The lack of responsibility cruise lines commonly assert when dealing with injured crew members and passengers in order to give accident victims the impression that their claim is not valid.
Our maritime lawyers understand the numerous legal tactics cruise lines typically use and have a proven track record of overcoming these obstacles in order to ensure that accident victims are the ones that benefit from the legal framework of the domestic or foreign legal jurisdiction a particular claim falls under.
Frequently Asked Questions
With over 150 years of combined experience litigating maritime and admiralty law cases, the cruise ship accident attorneys of Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. recognize the anxiety that an injury victim experiences when moving through the legal process. The following are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions that we hear from clients.
What are the types of accidents that occur on cruise ships?
Many accidents that occur on cruise ships are also the sort of incidents that can occur on land: slip and fall, assault, rape, and sexual assault. There are, however, some types of accidents that are more prevalent given the unique nature of ships. Some of these include gangway injuries, shore excursion accidents, overboard accidents, and injuries aboard tenders. No matter the type of accident, If you’ve been injured, harmed or assaulted on a cruise ship due to someone else’s negligence, you should discuss the incident with an experienced cruise ship lawyer.
How are cruise ship lawyers compensated?
At Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. our cruise ship lawyers work on a contingency basis for cruise ship personal injury cases. That means that we are compensated when the case settles or the court awards damages. Our attorneys do not charge a retainer, so there are no out-of-pocket costs for our clients. Simply put, this means if there is no recovery, there is no fee. We are only paid when we win for you. There is no charge for any consultation so contact us immediately so we can clearly and simply explain your rights.
Where do I file my case?
Most cruise ship passenger cases have to be filed in Miami, Florida, as set out in the passenger ticket contract. This enforceable contractual provision is called a forum selection clause and with all cases against Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL and most other cruise lines, the clause calls for all cases to be filed in Miami, Florida (our primary base of operations). Other cruise lines such as Princess Cruises call for all cases to be filed in California, and Holland America Cruises cases call for all cases to be filed in Washington State. That is why we have attorneys licensed in California and Washington on our team of 11 attorneys, so that we can handle any and all major cruise ship injury cases.
For a non cruise line injury case, most typically, the case has to be filed in the location of the incident or accident, unless there is a written agreement for the case to be filed elsewhere.
How long do I have to file a claim against a cruise ship?
With all cruise ship passenger cases, there is a strict one year time limit to file the case from the date of injury. There is also a 6 month notice provision which means the cruise line must have notice of the incident within 6 months of the incident. This is the main reason why it is so critical to immediately contact a maritime attorney after an incident.
With most other maritime related injury claims, there is a 3 year period of time to bring a case. This is known as a statute of limitation and it is a critical date to abide by otherwise the case can be thrown out of court.
Can I sue a cruise line if I’m the victim of a violent crime, rape, or sexual assault?
Absolutely. There is an alarming amount of crimes, rapes and sexual assaults aboard cruise ships. We are the leaders in the industry in holding the cruise line’s accountable when such preventable tragedies occur. If you have been the victim of such a crime, call us immediately, we can take the immediate steps you need to take in order to protect yourself and your rights.
If you were assaulted on a cruise ship, contact our cruise ship rape lawyers to discuss your case.
Can I sue a cruise line for refusing to accommodate special needs?
The 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line, requires that all ships docking in U.S. ports comply with the ADA. However, some cases have been reported where cruise lines refuse to allow passengers to board due to their disability or kick them off after being injured due to low-standard facilities.
In 2013, 22-year-old Kevin Chenais was trying to get back to his home country of France from the U.S. was denied transportation on a cruise ship due to his weight. Chenais, who suffers from a hormonal imbalance that affects his weight, was undergoing treatment in the U.S. for his condition when he was met with unaccepting patrons in several modes of travel.
This isn’t the first time a cruise line has refused to help a special needs passenger. In 2011, a 66-year-old Celebrity Cruises passenger was forced to disembark the vessel after crew members couldn’t accommodate his needs. The issue stemmed from the fact that his room, which was labeled as handicapped accessible, did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s guidelines, which require toilets to be 19 inches high. According to the passenger, the toilet in his room was only 15 inches high and caused him to slip. The bathroom also lacked bars for him to hold onto.
Our Cruise Ship Injury Attorneys are Ready and Willing to Take Cases to Trial
In addition to our knowledge and extensive experience with cases involving injuries at sea, we prepare and try our own cases, so you can rest assured your individual case will not be referred out to another law firm. Our cruise ship lawyers also take the time to carefully and extensively review the details of your particular incident to give your case the personal attention it deserves. When working with a cruise ship injury lawyer from our firm, you know that you will always have an ethical legal professional at your side who will tirelessly strive to keep you well informed regarding the status of your case. Moreover, our attorneys are dedicated to always making themselves available to offer you advice and support throughout the entire duration of your case.
As regulated by the Florida Bar, our lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will never have to pay a single penny unless and until we obtain a successful recovery for your cruise ship injury case. Contact us today to work with an AV-rated lawyer who will diligently and passionately fight for your rights.
*Disclaimer required by the Florida Bar: The numbers above are the gross recoveries, before deduction for attorneys’ fees and expenses. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.