By:   Charles R. Lipcon

Nation’s Leading Law Firm in Handling Cruise Ship Rape and Sexual Assault Cases

There is a hidden epidemic going on at sea where far too many passengers and crewmembers are being raped and sexually assaulted at sea.  In large part, we have dedicated our law practice to fighting for the rights of these victims and to raising public awareness about this crisis on the high seas.  

Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., is a firm of veteran cruise ship rape lawyers with over 150 years  of combined experience bringing justice to the victims of cruise line rapes and sexual assaults . A diverse background of education and representation experience allows our 12 attorneys to effectively assist clients who have found themselves in these terrible circumstances. We have recovered more than $300 million dollars for our clients, which sadly includes countless victims of cruise ship sexual assault.*  Let us be your fierce advocates, in your time of great need.  

Our Attorney TV Appearances Covering Cruise Ship Rape Cases

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Successfully Handled Over 200+ Cruise Ship Rape Cases

  1. Confidential- Cruise Passenger Rape and Sexual Assault

    A female cruise employee was showering in the female bathroom when she was sexually assaulted and raped by male crewmember.
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  2. Confidential- Cruise Passenger Sexual Assault Claim 14 Year Old Girl

    A young girl was raped and sexual assaulted by a bar waiter.
    Read More
  3. Confidential- Cruise Passenger Sexual Assault Claim Steward Assault

    Two passengers were sexually assaulted in their cabin by steward.
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  4. Confidential- Cruise Passenger Sexual Assault Claim Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

    A passenger was sexually assaulted by a crewmember during dinner service.
    Read More

Our Firm is Responsible for the Landmark Appellate Opinion in a Cruise Ship Rape Case Which will Help Countless Passengers Obtain Relief from the Cruise Lines

Appellate Opinion in K.T. vs Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD

For literally decades, the maritime attorneys at LM&W argued that the cruise line could be held responsible for passenger rape and sexual assault based on arguing the cruise line’s failure to warn of the known dangers of rapes and sexual assault at sea. In July of 2019, LM&W obtained a landmark appellate decision that requires every cruise line to warn passengers about the risk of rapes and sexual assaults on their vessels. LM&W obtained this landmark Appellate Court decision in a case where our client, a teenage girl, was raped while aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship. The Appellate Court found that cruise lines have a duty to warn passengers about the risk of rapes and sexual assaults on their cruise ships. This critically important decision shines a much-needed light on the hidden epidemic of rapes and sexual assaults on the high seas.

Although most cruises do go off without any unplanned events, the truth is that accidents and injuries can take place when you least expect it–even at sea. At the top of the list of common cruise ship crimes are rape and sexual assault. Therefore, it is important for all cruise passengers to understand the process for reporting rape or sexual assault should either of those incidents occur while you are on your vacation. As a maritime law firm experienced in handling a variety of rape and sexual assault cases, we can safely explain exactly what you need to know. 

Represented Cases Against Some of the Largest Cruise Lines in the World:

  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Cunard Cruise Line
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruise Lines
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
  • Seaborne Cruise Line
  • Silversea Cruise
  • Holland America Cruises

Hiring Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is the clear decision when it comes to working with a law firm that is experienced, aggressive, and confident enough to take your case as far as it needs to go. We are here to fight for your rights and will keep fighting until the case is resolved.

Our Verdicts, Settlements, and Awards

Cruise Passenger Sexual Assault Claim Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Plaintiff, while a passenger aboard the Defendant’s ship, was sexually assaulted by a crew member employed by the Defendant. After dinner service, the Plaintiff was having a drink with the maître d when he sexually assaulted her. As a result of the attack, she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The parties settled for an undisclosed amount.*

Here are some other notable cases handled by Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A.:

Tips for Staying Safe from Assault on Cruise Ships

Here are a few tips to remember:

1. Stay Vigilant

For some cruisers, the fact that they are riding the waters with hundreds of other excited vacationers might give them a false sense of camaraderie while enjoying their own little “floating city.” But individuals should act in the same manner they would if they were visiting an unfamiliar town. Safety, along with enjoyment, should always be at the forefront of travelers’ minds.

Following a few common-sense rules suggested by our cruise ship rape lawyers can significantly reduce your risk and increase both your safety and enjoyment on your vacation.

  1. Always be sure to lock your door. Monitor your room keys and keep track of them at all times.
  2. Do not open your door to anyone unexpected, including a ship crewmember.
  3. Know where your children are at all times. Do not let them roam unsupervised or unattended. This makes them vulnerable.
  4. Know where the people you are traveling with are and arrange certain “check-in” times with each other.
  5. Let your traveling companions know if and when you’ll be meeting someone else aboard the ship. 
  6. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. These vessels often offer many bars and alcohol services onboard. Alcohol clouds judgment and the ability to accurately recollect. Enjoy libations responsibly.

2. Report the Incident

Although this may be the last thing on your mind if you’re a victim, it is of the utmost importance to report the incident as soon as possible. Victims should notify cruise security, as well as the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard. The cruise line may offer to notify the FBI and Coast Guard for you. However, you do not have to rely upon them and should feel confident knowing that you have every right to notify the authorities yourself. You can reach FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. at 202-324-3000. The emergency numbers for the U.S. Coast Guard are:

  • Atlantic Area Command Center (for Great Lakes, Gulf and East Coasts) – (757) 398-6390
  • Pacific Area Command Center (for the Hawaiian, Alaskan and Pacific Coasts) – (510) 437-3700

We understand that, for many passengers, speaking about the incident may be an emotionally triggering experience. However, in order to create the strongest legal case in your defense, it is important to ensure that you have notified the necessary parties as soon as possible.

3. Preserve the Evidence

Another key element of the reporting process is to preserve the evidence. This means that you should visit the cruise’s infirmary for a medical exam, so that the medical professional can document any physical signs of harm before you change clothes or take a shower.

Victims should also photograph the scene of the crime and take notes about the incidents, as they occurred, directly before the attack. As time passes, it is not uncommon for individuals to forget or fail to recall certain things that took place on the day of the incident, but jotting down notes can be beneficial when discussing the sexual assault or rape with an attorney who will be handling the case. 

We understand that documentation may be challenging, depending on your level of clarity in the wake of the attack. To help make the documentation process simple, our firm has created the Cruise Ship Lawyer App, which makes it convenient to keep all of your photos and notes in one place. It also makes it easier than ever to contact us, no matter where you are in the world.

4. Contact a Trusted Lawyer

When facing a legal burden related to rape and sexual assault, it is important to have a skilled cruise ship rape and sexual assault lawyer on your side. Many individuals do not realize that the perpetrator of their crime can be held responsible for their actions. That is why we are here, to help provide closure for victims and hopefully prevent more of the same incidents from happening in the future.

Maritime Law Requires Reporting of Sexual Crimes

The number one crime reported on cruise ships is sexual assault, yet victims seldom obtain justice for their pain and suffering. Despite the fact that the event may take place at sea, and in some cases, in a foreign legal jurisdiction, it is safe to say that, from a legal standpoint, a sexual assault on a cruise ship is a crime. Ocean liners have a responsibility under maritime law not only to provide a reasonably safe shipboard environment for all guests and crew members, but they are also required to report serious crimes to the FBI, especially sexual crimes. But despite the laws that are in effect, few companies actually follow them. 

In an effort to increase transparency regarding cruise ship crimes, Congress adopted the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA), which requires companies to report crimes to the FBI as soon as they occur as well as requires all alleged crimes to be publicly reported by the Coast Guard. Yet, the public still wasn’t getting an accurate account of these incidents because it only required actual crimes to be reported, not those that were “alleged.” As a result, much fewer crimes have been reported to the public than to the FBI over the years since the Act came into effect. In fact, out of the 959 crimes reported by cruise lines to the FBI since 2011, only 31 crimes were reported to the public.

In a disclosure made by only four of the major cruise lines, a total of 25 allegations of rape, statutory rape, and sexual assault were reported in the brief six-month period between January 1, 2013, and June 30, 2013. A recent Senate report on cruise ship crime supports the conclusion that these statistics are just a fragment of the epidemic frequency of these terrible crimes.

In previous years, the companies could avoid cooperating with the local police and federal authorities if a major crime took place on their ships. However, first-time cruisers and repeat vacationers alike should be aware that if they are raped or sexually assaulted by ship employees, the companies that are found guilty can and will be held strictly liable for the wrongful, intentional, and criminal actions of those employees.

What Do You Do if You Have Experienced Rape or Sexual Assault on a Cruise Ship?

Passenger Rights on a Cruise Ship

As a passenger on a cruise ship, you have rights and it is critically important that you immediately speak to an experienced attorney to protect those rights. If you are a U.S. citizen, then the FBI has jurisdiction and they should be immediately notified of the assault. The additional rights of a victim have stemmed from Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS), the Passenger Bill of Rights, and the “Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act” of 2010 that President Barack Obama signed into law, which compels all cruise line companies to report sexual assaults—whereas they had previously been able to avoid disclosing certain cases because of international law specifications. Because there are a number of various laws at issue, this is why it is imperative to consult an experienced maritime attorney to protect you.

It is important that you have an attorney who can help you unravel the complexities of local laws, maritime law, passenger rights, and more. Working with a maritime attorney is the best way to ensure that your legal representation is competent and experienced with the specifics of this situation, which can be significantly different from a sexual assault that takes place on land.

Crewmember Rights on a Cruise Ship

Crewmembers have equally significant rights that can be enforced and protected when a tragedy such as rape or sexual assault occurs.  As a crewmember on a cruise ship, you are entitled to certain rights under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act. The Jones Act provides U.S. seamen with rights beyond those that are afforded by international maritime law.  The Jones Act provides a negligence cause of action against the employer and this includes claims arising from intentional torts such as rape, battery, false imprisonment and sexual assault.  

Furthermore, under the Jones Act, a cruise ship crew member who qualifies as a seaman (an employee who spends more than 30 percent of their time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters) is entitled to what is known as maintenance and cure while they are recovering from illnesses or injuries sustained during their employment. Regardless of the cause or reason for the injury, a crew member is entitled to benefits that will pay for their necessary household expenses and medical expenses until a doctor has determined that the patient has recovered as much as is medically possible.  This right includes treatment for any and all injuries sustained as a result of rape or sexual assault, including psychological or psychiatric care.

Many crewmember injury claims now involve the use or arbitration clauses that call for the application of foreign law.  We are deeply experienced in handling international crewmember arbitrations including those which fall under foreign law.  Fortunately, no matter what law applies, in our experience that law will provide for significant rights in situations like these.

Understanding How Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Cases Are Reported

As of August 2013, four of the major cruise lines began publishing the statistics of serious crimes reported on their ships; Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines now make their crime statistics available online to the public. The reports include statistics on the number of passengers who report being raped on a ship, as well as other sexual assaults dating back to 2010.

The reporting information represents more than 80 percent of the market share of the industry. The data includes statistics from passengers and crew members who reported being assaulted or raped on cruises as well as victims of statutory rape incidents. While this action is a step in the right direction, Senate leadership acknowledged that there are still “serious gaps” in bringing to light the full story of these occurrences. As founding attorney Charles Lipcon noted in his tell-all e-Book ”Unsafe on the High Seas,” and as industry professionals have argued for years, the recently released figures prove that the cruise lines had been reporting more cases of assault to government law enforcement officials than they had to the general public.

Determining the Types of Cruise Ship Sexual Assault

Countries like the Bahamas, Panama, and Liberia compete for cruise ships to register with them because it means incoming revenue. In an effort to look most appealing, these countries loosely regulate what happens onboard the cruise ships. They often turn a blind eye to crimes and the rape culture that happens at sea in an effort to get more business.

Alcohol-Involved Sexual Assaults

Sexual Assaults involving Minors

Crewmember-on-Passenger Sexual Assault

Crewmember-on-Crewmember Sexual Assault

Passenger-on-Passenger Sexual Assault

How Attorneys Calculate Recovery and Damages After Cruise Ship Rape

Once we have established fault and liability for the assault that you were the victim of, the next step is to determine how we will move forward in seeking compensation and recovering damages for your suffering. Simply put, we will seek to compensate the victim financially for what has been done to them. There are many different things that we consider while building this part of our case, and we will then work aggressively to seek a successful resolution with the cruise lines.

In light of the fact that we have successfully represented more than 100 victims of cruise ship rapes and sexual assaults, the cruise lines know that we mean business.

Why Attorneys Use Visual Aids in Cruise Ship Rape Trials

Part of the thinking process is visual conception, and visual aids reinforce key points and eliminate the need for the audience or jury to imagine the scene. Pictures and diagrams are concrete and leave no room for imagination, which makes them a valuable tool in the courtroom. The following are a few ways our lawyers use visual aids.

Explain Complex Concepts 

Court exhibits help to strengthen arguments, ingraining certain points in the minds of the jurors more effectively than presenting them verbally. These aids also help cruise ship rape lawyers explain complex ideas in a manageable way, as maritime concepts are unfamiliar to most people who do not work in the industry.

Bring a Situation to Life

A photograph or diagram provides perspective and depth and gives the jury a sense of environment. Understanding how these elements affect the case is key to delivering a fair verdict, which is why our attorneys use cutting-edge visual aids in the courtroom.

Provide Credibility

Visual aids also bring credibility to important ideas. The age-old maxim that “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true in the courtroom. It allows a fact-finder to visualize a situation and draw conclusions based on the facts more accurately. For a cruise ship rape attorney trying to explain the layout of a cabin or attempting to prove that it was negligent to operate a large vessel in a confined area, visual aids are often the best method to convey the facts.

Settlement Compensation for Cruise Ship Sexual Assault and Rape

In order to calculate the compensation that you truly deserve, we will need to look at this situation like any other civil case and consider both the economic and non-economic impacts of your injuries.

You may also be able to seek damages from the perpetrator, as well. In order to make sense of the options in your particular case, contact us as soon as possible so that we can begin to work through the details of the situation. It is extremely important that you consult with a maritime lawyer before agreeing to any sort of settlement, either with the cruise line or the individual perpetrator. While it may make sense to settle the case without a lawsuit, you deserve to have your settlement negotiated in order to get you the money that you deserve, NOT just what the cruise line hopes to spend.

Suing Cruise Ships for Rape and Sexual Assault Onboard

We will help you through initial negotiations and establish the basis of your case before moving forward with anything. As mentioned before, we will need to understand all of the details and your available options before determining the most appropriate course of action to seek justice for your case.

To sue a cruise ship, we will need to go through all of the legal provisions and details pertaining to the company, your passenger ticket, and more. As an example, different cruise lines require you to file any case in a certain location such as Miami, Los Angeles or Seattle. Fortunately, we have attorneys licensed to.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are just a few common questions that we can help you answer following a cruise ship rape. However, keep in mind that the specific answer depends on the situation, and the best way to reach a conclusive answer is to work directly with the team at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A.

Do I need to hire a maritime attorney to represent my cruise ship rape case?

How much is my case worth?

Should I settle with the cruise line?

Should I sign anything with the cruise ship after this incident?

Work with the Undisputed Leaders in Cruise Ship Law Litigation

Our firm frequently renders legal commentary to local and national news, situating us as a leader in the world of maritime law. Given our experience with the issues surrounding cruise ship rape, we know how to handle the many twists and turns that are you will encounter during your ordeal.

We stand by our mission of integrity first, compassion, and excellence in all we do. This means that we are prepared to fight for our clients until their case is resolved. There is no excuse for the perpetrator’s behavior, and you should be able to rest assured that they and those that enabled their actions face the consequences of doing so.

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault or rape on a cruise ship, contact us at 877-233-1238 for an initial consultation, where we will be able to discuss the specifics of your situation and give you a better understanding of how we can help you move forward with dignity and support. You deserve justice, and we will be happy to help you get it.

*Due to a confidentiality agreement, the names of the plaintiffs, the cruise lines, and the settlement amounts have not been mentioned even though the confidentiality agreements only apply to the amounts of the settlement.