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Man Overboard Cruise Ship – Holding Cruise Lines Accountable

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

In January, passengers and crew from a Disney’s Magic cruise ship miraculously found and rescued a 22 year old male passenger of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas who had gone overboard off the coast of Mexico near Cozumel.  The Oasis of the Seas is one of the world’s largest cruise ships, with a capacity to carry of over 6,000 people.

This month: Carol Tremblay, a 66 year-old man from Canada, was captured by CCTV aboard the Celebrity Cruise Ship, Constellation going overboard from the 11th deck (110 feet) of the Constellation at about 3:00 AM 23 miles off Summerland Key on the way to the Port of Key West.

 

Man Overboard Cruise Ship

Passengers going overboard from cruise ships do not occur frequently.  According to Cruise Junkie, in the last 15 years Carnival leads the major cruise lines reporting 51 MOB cases, followed by RCCL and Celebrity 49 and NCL with only 15.

When our cruise ship passenger accident law firm is asked to investigate a potential man overboard (MOB) claim against a cruise line– one of the first things I do is try to determine how and why the passenger actually fell off the ship. To investigate the claims we were closely with maritime safety experts, the US Coast Guard and FBI.

Sometimes alcohol is involved, sometimes foul play or suicide, but often we cannot figure out why the passenger fell. There is however, technology available now that can assist cruise lines in detecting when someone fall or jumps overboard. The systems include motion sensors and thermal detection systems designed to alert the ship’s bridge to stop and deploy search and rescue protocols.

I am a member of the The Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLA) founded in 1899. Last year, I attended a seminar in NYC at its annual convention that provided information regarding the latest available technology in man overboard detection systems.  Yet most ships still do not use them.

One reason the cruise industry seems to ignore the regulation requiring MOB technology may be due to the ‘‘Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010’’ which only requires ships that are built after 2010 to be equipped with this technology.

§ 3507 Section D of the Act states that…vessels … built after 2010…shall integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available.

If you have been injured aboard a cruise ship like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney, Norweigan, Princess or Holland America call me today for a free initial consultation: 1-866-597-4529 or email us at: newcase@aronfeld.com.  Remember most cruise lines require written notice of a potential claim within 180 days of the incident and that a lawsuit be filed here in Miami in Federal Court within one year of the accident regardless of where in the world the incident may have occurred.

 

Negotiating and Litigating Damages on a Cruise Ship Personal Injury Case

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents, Personal Injury News and Safety Resources

How to negotiate while litigating damages in a personal injury case such as as a slip and fall aboard a cruise ship is one complex issue that many personal injury plaintiffs and their lawyers face everyday.  I have found that without a filed lawsuit and trial date, most insurance companies, cruise lines and their lawyers will offer just pennies on the dollar for a claim.

Of course, I realize it is not always practical or advisable to file a lawsuit on every case, especially a case with weak liability and damages.  In those cases, one is usually at the mercy of the adjuster to make an offer in hopes of resolving a case.  I hate being in that situation, but unfortunately many small PI cases simply do not justify the expense, time, and stress of litigation.  I have learned that lesson the hard way, as I used to just file suits and often tried many small PI cases. I can say that judges and juries do not like them, and therefore they are nearly impossible to win.

One thing that I have found to be helpful is providing the adjuster with every possible document, letter, statement, medical record, and bill that support your client’s claim. I do not believe in keeping things “close to the vest” so that you can surprise an adjuster or defense lawyer once a case is in suit.  Often that “ace up the sleeve of a lawyer” was just what an adjuster would have needed to get a case settled.

I also immediately document in writing each call and message left with an adjuster.  If I leave a message, I send an email and fax stating that I have tried to reach the adjuster and was unsuccessful.  I pepper the adjuster’s file with professional and courteous documentation of everything.

Lay Witnesses

Lay witnesses are commonly called “Before-and-After” witnesses.  These are people who have no interest in the outcome–for instance, a client’s rabbi or priest, teacher, supervisor, or a fellow member of a charitable organization.  I have had dozens of clients who simply cannot come up with a single lay witness to testify on their behalf.  Others have dozens of acquaintances and associates who are credible and believable witnesses as to how the accident has diminished the quality of life of the plaintiff.

You can get affidavits or short videos that can be shown to the adjuster, detailing in an informal style how the accident has affected the claimant.  They can be quite powerful tools, and I use this technique often when an injury and its effects are not obvious.

Expert Reports and Testimony

Most cases involve an orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, or. . . gasp . . . a chiropractor.  Insurance adjusters are not easily persuaded by these typical experts when evaluating a claim.  Think outside the box and consider enlisting the testimony of pain management doctors, traumatologists, physiatrists, and neurosurgeons.

Either get reports from them, or simply snap a 30-second video with your Iphone at your next conference and have them explain why and how they believe your client has sustained a permanent injury.

It pays to get a copy of the latest AMA Guidelines: “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Sixth Edition, Clarifications and Corrections.” This resource provides the criteria that most physicians rely upon in formulating whether a patient has sustained a permanent injury as well as the extent or percentage of their impairment.

Use of Demonstrative Evidence

Confucius:

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

I love demonstrative evidence, and so do juries. In fact, I believe in this day of the CSI Effect that they demand it.  In other words, modern juries get their information online, on their phones, and by watching shows like CSI and Elementary.  In these shows, graphic animation is often used to explain how a crime occurred or a victim died.  Jurors today want to see this, and while it can be somewhat expensive, I recommend that it not be a static image but a moving image.

Earlier in my career it was nearly cost-prohibitive to create an animated exhibit illustrating how an accident may have occurred or the development of an image.  With today’s technology, it is very affordable.  There are dozens of companies that produce animated visuals for lawyers, and prices are very competitive.

Bear in mind each jurisdiction has specific evidentiary requirements for use of graphics, whether as demonstrative aids or to be admitted into evidence.  But for simply trying to settle a claim, there are no rules.  Just be sure that the exhibit is professionally created and accurately depicts the relevant subject matter.

Key Pleadings and Motions

I think one of the best pleadings to encourage settlement is a Proposal for Settlement (PFS).  This simply provides the prevailing plaintiff an opportunity to collect attorney’s fees on top of a judgment.  There are specific rules that apply to the timing and language of these documents. A similar document that is available to the defense to add extra pressure on the plaintiff to settle is called an Offer of Settlement.

The rules and laws pertaining to these pleadings change frequently and are hotly contested virtually every week in Florida’s appellate courts. I recommend that, before submitting a PFS, you consult with competent appellate counsel or trial support rather than utilizing someone else’s form, or even mine.

If you have been injured on a cruise ship, we offer passengers who have been injured on a cruise ship a free case evaluation. Please call us today at 866 -597-4529

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Newly Renovated Serenade of the Seas Tugged Back to Port

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s newly renovated Serenade of the Seas–experienced both plumbing and electrical problems off the coast of Louisiana yesterday-requiring it to be tugged back to port in New Orleans.  The flooding affected nearly 200 cabins of the nearly 90,000 ton vessel.

As of this morning, the ship has power – its navigational systems are down requiring RCCL to cancel an undisclosed number of passenger reservations.  Apparently RCCL is offering their inconvenienced passengers a “free cruise” but nothing for their lost accommodations and time.

serenade of the seas

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s newly renovated Serenade of the Seas–experienced both plumbing and electrical problems off the coast of Louisiana

A statement issued by RCCL today said:

“We understand the anticipation and excitement leading up to their cruise, and we apologize for impacting their vacation. Royal Caribbean international will provide these guests with a full refund of the cruise fare paid.”

The Serenade was set to depart on January 24, 2015 on a seven night Bahamas cruise with stops including Key West, Nassau, Coco Cay and returning back to New Orleans on January 31, 2015.

Fortunately, for passengers aboard the Serenade the leak occurred just a few miles outside of port and it does not appear that anyone was injured, unlike the passengers who were aboard Carnival’s Triumph– who were towed for days across the Gulf of Mexico with no plumbing water or electricity.  

We are often contacted by passengers who have been involved in a slip, trip or fall and seriously hurt on board a cruise ship while they are still in the midst of their voyage.  To find out what to do first when you hurt a cruise, click here.

Cruise ship passengers have very specific limitations on their legal rights and should always consult with an experienced attorney. We offer free initial consultations for anyone who has been seriously injured during a cruise.  Call:  1-866-597-4529 or email us today.