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Why do we sue Cruise Lines?

Why Do We Sue Cruise Lines?

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

We believe that cruise lines should be held accountable when they put their corporate profits ahead of passenger safety. More than 15 million people a year board one of the hundreds of cruise ships around the world–hoping to escape the stresses of life, create lifelong memories with friends and families, and explore our world.  Cruise ship passengers expect to be safe and taken care of–not to be exposed to dangerous conditions, much less to be seriously injured.

Like modern land-based resorts, cruise ships now offer passengers incredible onboard activities, ranging from zip lining to ice skating, as well as world-class entertainment and food.  In addition, they provide casinos, spas, and shopping–all designed to make a profit while entertaining their passengers.

Unfortunately, many safety concerns are left unaddressed, and when people get hurt, cruise lines should spend as much time, effort, and money taking care of injured passengers as they lavish on television commercials that play around the clock, luring people to book their vacations on their ships.

One of the most common accidents we encounter involves a passenger who slips, trips, and falls on a ship’s threshold or the doorways that exist throughout a cruise ship, dividing the different passageways, cabins, and bathrooms.  These thresholds can be very dangerous because they are placed throughout the ship where passengers walk.

International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974

I am frequently asked why cruise ships have these high metal thresholds. One of the reasons for deck thresholds can be found in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea  or (SOLAS).  SOLAS, along with its successive editions, is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safe operation of passenger cruise and merchant ships.  In addition to safety stipulations, SOLAS specifies the minimum standards for constructing, equipping, and operating cruise ships.

SOLAS requires that cruise ships be divided into main fire zones, 32 capable of being sealed by fire screen doors. For such doors to be fire resistant and prevent the spread of smoke, a metal threshold is required to be installed on the floor where the bottom of the fire screen door would seal the door in its closed position.

However, it is up to the country under which a particular ship is flagged to enforce the codes.  The Carnival Glory is a very popular passenger cruise ship.  Currently, our office is representing a passenger who was badly injured when she fell down a staircase exiting one of the ship’s nightclubs. While the ship frequently docks in the Port of Miami, the 110,000-ton ship is actually registered and flagged in Panama.

This can and often does cause confusion over by who and where cruise ships are actually being inspected. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) provides a valuable portal to the public, with easy access to pertinent information about a particular cruise ship, such as the date of service, tonnage, and flag.

When we investigate an injury aboard a cruise ship, one of the very first things we do is request photographs and a site inspection to visualize where an accident actually happened. This often requires us to travel to different ports. Fortunately, most of the cruise lines use either the Port of Miami, Port Canaveral (Cape Canaveral), Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Jacksonville Port Authority (Jacksonville), or the Port of Tampa.

Freedom of Information & Privacy Acts

Another very valuable tool in our investigation of a potential claim against a cruise line is the Freedom of Information Act Request or (FOIA).  FOIA is based upon the public’s right to know and was enacted in 1966.  FOIA is the primary means by which lawyers for injured passengers obtain access to records in the possession of the United States Coast Guard and other governmental agencies after they have investigated a cruise ship passenger accident  The USCG can withhold certain private information in response to the FOIA request–but must specify what is excluded and why.

When We Sue Cruise Lines

Perhaps the most important and effective tool we have in investigating a cruise ship passenger accident claim is the litigation process. By filing a lawsuit against a cruise line, civil maritime lawyers have the power of subpoena. We send out lengthy questionnaires to the cruise lines (interrogatories), requesting them to explain in detail how and why a particular incident occurred. We also send demands for certain documents, known as Requests for Production. A Request for Production requires the defendant cruise line to produce certain documents, surveillance photos and videos of the scene as well as policies and procedure manuals. This information is then carefully reviewed by our team of experienced lawyers and investigators.

Taking the deposition of a corporate representative of the cruise line is another important investigative measure. Depositions are essentially interrogations, where our lawyers will ask and cross-examine cruise line employees about the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular incident, with the goal of discovering if this type of incident has ever occurred before and what if anything could have been done to prevent it, or to prevent it from recurring.

We believe that the most important service we can provide injured passengers is our experience and diligence in knowing where to look for the evidence that will prove their claim. The burden of proof, or responsibility for proving negligence, is on the plaintiff or injured passenger. We often encounter seriously injured passengers who have fallen or been injured while on a cruise, but simply do not understand how or why.

Cruise lines employ onboard investigators. The moment they are aware of an incident, they take photographs of the scene and interview witnesses and the injured passenger. The cruise lines hold a tremendous advantage in the claims process because, generally speaking, they know more about a particular incident and know it sooner than the injured passengers or their lawyers.

Time is of the essence in investigating a claim–not only because the majority of cruise lines require passengers to file their lawsuits within one year of the date of the incident, but also because the evidence of how a particular incident occurred is often deleted or destroyed before we are retained.

If you or a family member has been involved in an accident or incident while on a cruise, please contact us today for a free initial legal consultation.  We are passionate about holding  cruise lines accountable for injuring their passengers. Call us today at 1-866-597-4529, or email us at new case@aronfeld.com

 

MS Ryndam

Murder-Suicide on Holland America’s MS Ryndom

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

Couple Found Dead On Board Holland America’s MS Ryndam

An Ohio couple in their 50s were found dead in their cabin by crew members. According to reports, it appears to have been a murder-suicide on Holland America’s MS Ryndam. The bodies were discovered while the ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the FBI has taken over the investigation from local police.

Dying onboard a cruise ship is a very rare occurrence.  According to the the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the trade association of cruise lines industry, from 2005 to 2011 only 16 people died in cruise ship related accidents, out of over 100 million passengers.  However, in 2012 the number doubled when the Costa Concordia ran aground with confirmed 32 dead.

There currently is no public data base, or reporting requirement for the cruise lines to verify the fatalities numbers provided by the CLIA or the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) other than the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), which was passed in 2010.  The CVSSA is designed to enhance passenger safety and creates reporting requirements for the cruise industry. It requires that both passengers and crew have the means and assistance to confidentially contact law enforcement and/or a lawyer by a private telephone line, and/or an internet-accessible computer terminal. The law also requires cruise lines to record and log all complaints of crime and log any alleged theft over $1,000. Unfortunately, this law only applies to cruises to or from a U.S. port.

Cruise Ship Related Fatalities Are Much More Common Than We Think

Skeptics and industry observers believe that the actual number of fatalities aboard cruise ships is far greater than those reported by the CLIA.  For example, professor Ross Klein of Memorial University Newfoundland, who runs the independent website Cruise Junkie, and serves as an industry watchdog, has published reports of 644 incidents for the same period.

Passengers and their families who may believe that they have a potential claim against a cruise line for the injury or accidental death should contact a lawyer who is experienced in holding the cruise industry accountable.  Most cruise lines require that claims be reported in writing as a condition precedent to filing a lawsuit.

In most cases, a passenger accident law suit against a cruise line must be filed within one year of the date of the incident in United States Federal Court. The world’s largest cruise lines; Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian, require that case be filed in the federal courthouse in Miami, which is located near the Port of Miami and within a few miles of their corporate headquarters.

We provide free initial consultations to anyone who has been hurt onboard or during a cruise (anywhere in the world). Call or email us today at 1-866-597-4529 for a confidential evaluation.

Mega Cruise Ship

New Mega Cruise Ships in Store for RCCL, Carnival, and Norwegian

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

New Mega Cruise Ships Heading Our Way!

The major cruise lines seem to be focused on surpassing each other by building bigger and more elaborate mega cruise ships that resemble floating resorts or Las Vegas hotels than actual cruise ships. The competition is particularly strong among industry giants Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian.

For example, Carnival Cruise Lines, which also owns Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn, Cunard, and Costa, has nine more  “next generation” cruise ships scheduled to go into service between 2019 and 2022. The Carnival Vista will be the biggest ship in the Carnival line with almost 4,000 passengers.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced its latest ship: the Escape. The ship is due later this year and is set to carry 4,200 passengers. It will feature a special lounge called the “Tobacco Road” in memory of the legendary Miami night spot that closed recently.

RCCL’s Harmony of the Seas will join the Oasis of the Seas next year, and is already touted as the world’s next largest cruise ship. MSC is right behind them with four new ships on order; each capable of transporting more than 4,000 passengers.

The “bigger is better” focus of the cruise industry has allowed two new cruise lines to enter the fray by offering something different, smaller and more intimate cruising experiences.  For example, all new cruise ships being built for Regent, Seabourn and Viking Ocean will carry fewer than 1,000 passengers.

Smaller Cruise Ships Still in Demand

Viking River Cruises, which dominates the river cruise market in Europe, Russia, and Egypt is launching a brand new cruise line (the first in many years) called “Viking Ocean Cruises”.

The line will have three new ships; the first, Viking Star, which accommodates 930 passengers and will be christened next month in Norway. Its maiden voyage itinerary is a spectacular 50 day cruise which visits 20 countries and 33 resorts.  The ship has extraordinary cabins that all have private verandas; two pools, a spa, multiple lounge and dining, and a large theater.

Viking’s news comes on the heels of Richard Branson’s December announcement that his Virgin Group formed a new Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company, Virgin Cruises, which is not to be confused with Virgin Holiday Cruises, which works together with other cruise lines in creating vacation packages.  The dates and details of Virgin’s new cruise ships-has yet to be set, but their plan is to start with two new ships each said to cost more than $1 billion to build.

Virgin Cruises is already suffering a sluggish and rocky start. Former NCL CEO Colin Veitch filed a lawsuit against Virgin claiming that he was muscled out of a potential joint venture. The suit alleges breach of contract, misappropriation, violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Practices Trade Act, and unjust enrichment.

What must remain as the top priority for the cruise industry is passenger safety.  The race for bigger and better creates more opportunities for passengers to be hurt on board cruise ship by slipping, tripping, and falling. A frequent defense I hear from lawyers who defend the cruise lines when people are injured is, for instance, if a client falls down staircase while on board a cruise ship, the defense often is: “well a ship rocks and rolls,  the passenger should have been aware of the fact; they are on a boat.” But the more sophisticated and elaborate these new mega ships are, the more difficult it is for people to remember that they are in fact on board a boat.

This is a key issue for anyone who is about to go on a cruise. We recommend passengers always use handrails when descending or ascending staircases and to use caution when walking on wet decks or over thresholds that separate different areas of the cabin or ship.

Our lawyers have successfully sued cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, and Disney for nearly 25 years.  We provide free initial consultations to anyone who has been hurt during a cruise.  Please call us at 1-866-597-4529 or email us today.