Maritime & Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

gavelIn October, the El Faro cargo ship sailed through the path of Hurricane Joaquin on its way from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. The large waves and heavy winds caused the ship to sink and all 33 crew members died at sea. Now some of the families are coming forward to file wrongful death suits against TOTE Maritime, the owner of the cargo ship. If you were injured or lost a loved one aboard a seagoing vessel, contact a Miami Maritime Accident Attorney.

Eight plaintiffs related to victims of the El Faro disaster are suing TOTE Maritime in Florida for wrongful death, claiming that tragedy could have been avoided. The remaining families have until December 21st to file claims against the shipping company due to a court order.

TOTE Maritime previously tried to block all lawsuits by the victims’ families, claiming that it was not to blame for the incident. The company filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Florida claiming that they exercised due diligence and did everything in their power to make sure the ship was safe and therefore should hold no financial liability for the accident. The court soundly rejected this complaint but agreed to cap the damages at $15 million if the company was not found to be negligent for the disaster.

TOTE’s next maneuver was to offer each of the injured families a $500,000 settlement for the lost of their loved ones. But attorneys of the sueing families found that amount to be much too low and rejected the settlement.

These cases will heavily rely on the pending investigation of the incident by the National Transportation Safety Board. The investigation will determine whether all the appropriate regulations and safety precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the ship’s crew. It will also attempt to discover whether or not TOTE officials acted negligently in allowing the ship to sail so close to a known hurricane. The ship’s course was charted to avoid the hurricane’s center by 65 miles but Hurricane Joaquin’s path was erratic and unpredictable and El Faro instead sailed right through the storm.

While the NTSB has yet to find any wrongdoing from the shipping company, a former crewmember on El Faro told CNN that the company would often be haphazardly patching up the ship instead of putting money into major repairs. At the time of the accident a five-man team of polish welders were onboard making repairs. While this is just speculation, the families of the victims lost at sea will no doubt be concerned with the overall care put into the safety of the ship by TOTE maritime.

Contact an Experienced Maritime Accident Attorney Today

Due to the complex nature of maritime law, an experienced South Florida Maritime Accident Lawyer is absolutely crucial when seeking damages for an accident. At the Law Office of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., we have a collective 80 years of fighting cases against cruise liners and shipping companies. All our cases are conducted on a contingent fee so there are no attorney’s fees unless we recover money on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation.

YACHTING 5In 2013, there were 736 reported boating accidents in the state of Florida and over 60 of those accidents resulted in at least one death, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Furthermore, over 400 people suffered injuries in those 736 boat accidents. This is quite troubling to our team of Miami maritime lawyers. We want everyone to enjoy safe and memorable boating trips.

You may be asking yourself, “Why do so many accidents occur in Florida waters?” To be fair, Florida leads the nation in the total number of registered boats with nearly 900,000 on the books. Given the sheer volume of boaters, the risk of serious boating accidents rises.

Causes of Boat Accidents in Florida and Across the Country

A boat accident can occur when a boat, watercraft, jet ski, sea-doo, or any other vessel is involved in an incident that causes significant harm to an individual, or individuals, or property. The most common types of boating accidents include:

  • Vessels colliding with one another
  • Vessels colliding with a fixed object (e.g., a marker)
  • Vessels colliding with a floating object (e.g., a crab pot, netting, etc.)
  • Accidents involving people on jet skis, water skis, or other objects
  • Accidents involving a passenger on a boat falling overboard
  • Capsizing
  • Running aground
  • Vessels sinking
  • Vessels flooding
  • Vessels swamping
  • Vessels catching on fire or exploding

Understanding Your Legal Rights When Injured in a Boat Accident

If you or a loved one was seriously hurt while on a boat or were hit by a boat, you may be able to pursue a claim for your injuries. However, the legal basis for a claim must be established. This means there must be evidence that the incident occurred because of the negligence or wrongdoing of an individual or entity.

Depending on what caused your injury, you may have a viable boat accident injury claim against the manufacturer of the vessel, if there is evidence that a defect within the vessel caused the incident (e.g., a sudden fire or sudden mechanical failure).

If you or a loved one was harmed due to the carelessness or recklessness of a boat operator, you may be able to pursue a claim against the operator individually. This usually occurs when the incident was caused by a boat operator who was intoxicated or did not have proper training resulting in a collision, sinking, capsizing, etc.

Contact a Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today

A boating accident can turn a fun day on the water into a tragic accident in the blink of an eye. If you or a loved one suffered significant injuries, you need experienced representation by attorneys who understand both Florida law and maritime law. The boat accident attorneys at Gerson and Schwartz, PA are licensed to practice law in all Florida state and federal courts. We are affiliated with other lawyers in virtually all jurisdictions where we are not admitted to practice. Our Florida law offices are located in the heart of Miami, Florida close to the port of Miami and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. All cases are handled on a contingent fee so there are no attorney’s fees unless we recover money on your behalf. Contact us today at for a consultation at 1-877-475-2905.

A strange rash of cruise passengers falling overboard has struck the cruise industry lately. And while no lawsuit have been filed, the stories still highlight safety issues in the cruise industry, and problems that need to be addressed.


Laundry List of Overboard Cases

A Carnival Triumph passenger’s body was found at sea after he fell off the deck of the ship. The incident happened just off the coast of Mexico. There was surveillance video, but no word yet on why the man fell or how.

In an unrelated incident, an elderly man took his own life, after jumping overboard. That conclusion was reached after review of surveillance video, which showed the man jumping overboard without hesitation. There was a report that the man had been arguing with his wife that night, and may have had some cognitive disabilities.

In the Bahamas, a man went overboard on the Carnival Glory. That man has not been found, despite other ships and the coast guard trying to find him, and the search has been called off. The man was a 21-year-old student at Virginia Tech.

Recently, a man fell overboard on a Liberty of the Seas ship off the coast of the Florida Keys. Surveillance showed that man climbing over the railing.

In December, a Holland America employee was found dead, after having fallen overboard about 20 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida. That was ruled an “accident.”

How People Fall

Why do people fall off cruise ships? The use of surveillance video has given us some insight. But in some cases, the reason still isn’t clear.

Of course, little can be done to avoid someone determined to take their own life. Some are accidental, either the result of horseplay or drunkenness. But it’s generally very hard to determine which are intentional and which are accidental, largely because in many cases bodies are not found.

But before you hold the cruise industry blameless, consider this: there is technology to immediately detect when someone is overboard. It uses drones, and heat sensors, which would provide ships immediate notice that someone has fallen. Of course, the sooner you know about a man overboard, the quicker the search starts, and thus the better chances of finding them.

Sadly, despite such technology being suggested by cruise oversight organizations, only one cruise line—Disney Cruises—currently uses the technology in pre-2010 ships (all ships built after 2010 must have the technology). There is also minimum height restrictions of guardrails outside of cabins for post-2010 ships.

One would think that the rash of overboard situations would cause concern over safety in the cruise industry. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case just yet.

If you are injured while a passenger on a cruise ship, you have rights. Make sure you have attorneys that understand complex federal maritime laws, and the safety regulations that cruise ships are required to abide by. Talk to the Florida cruise ship attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your cruise injury case.

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Earlier this week, the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian news outlet, reported that the body of a man who had fallen overboard from Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas on December 21st had been recovered, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.  The ship was sailing towards Noumea, New Caledonia, approximately 550 kilometers east of Brisbane when the unidentified man went overboard. Our Florida maritime accident lawyers  have been covering this news extensively, and can provide legal advice to anyone that may find themselves in an accident related to time spend on a cruise.

Life Raft

An alarm was raised around 1 AM Queensland time after another passenger witnessed the man fall. According to reports, the ship’s crew threw life preservers and smoke markers into the water, and even launched rescue boats, but, however, they could not locate the man.  New Caledonian Law Enforcement Services will be investigating the death.

This incident is just another in a long line of unfortunate man overboard accidents which have plagued the cruise industry the last couple years. Last year, 30-year-old South Floridian Sarah Kirby fell overboard from the Carnival Destiny as it sailed from Miami to Jamaica. Kirby fell 100 feet to the water, striking a lifeboat on the way down. Kirby then spent the next two hours floating in the ocean at night, injured and struggling to stay afloat. Kirby’s story ended much more fortunately than many others.

Another man overboard incident in Australia occurred in May of this year, when Kristen Schroder and Paul Rossington both fell over the railing of the Carnival Spirit as it returned to Sydney at the end of a 10-day cruise.  It was not until the couple failed to disembark the next day that anyone even realized they were missing.  The couples’ bodies have never been found.

In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which requires cruise lines to equip their vessels with systems designed to automatically capture images of persons going overboard or to notify the crew if a person falls overboard.  The law is intended to spur immediate rescue action when a passenger goes overboard, however, few cruise lines have implemented any technology that complies with the law.

Man overboard accidents and passenger disappearances are becoming more and more common, rendering the rendering the need for experienced legal counsel for the victims and victims’ families injured or killed in such accidents increasingly important.  According to one estimate, since 2000, there have been more than 200 man overboard cases around the world, despite the fact that only a fraction of such numbers have actually been reported by cruise lines.

As this blog has mentioned before, because cruise ship accidents are subject to different laws and much shorter statutes of limitations, sometimes as short as one year, they are best handled by experienced cruise ship accident attorneys.  The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and has been representing the victims of cruise ship accidents for over four decades.  If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident, contact the Florida cruise ship lawyers of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.

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Earlier this week, the cruise ship industry suffered yet another disturbing incident when MSC Cruises’ Magnifica ship, transporting 2,469 passengers and 976 crew members, allided with a pier in Piräus, Greece. Alliding is a term often used in nautical contexts to describe an impact with a stationary object. The Magnifica suffered minor damage to its hull, although there were no immediate reports of injuries to the passengers or crew. According to reports, the ship was blown into the pier by strong winds while it was being berthed.

Although the initial reports indicate that the cause of the incident was inclement weather, further investigation might reveal that there’s more to the story. Unfortunately, as this blog has discussed recently, the cruise ship industry is not always forthcoming with negative information regarding its safety record. In fact, docking and berthing incidents are more common than expected with a number of serious accidents having occurred in recent years.

Open Seas Credit

Perhaps the most memorable, and tragic, of these incidents was the sinking of the Carnival cruise ship Costa Concordia, which crashed into the rocks off the coast of Giglio Island, Italy, resulting in the deaths of thirty two individuals and injuries to dozens of others. Carnival and ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, took heavy criticism for the botched evacuation efforts, which suffered from significant delays, allegations of bribery, and the captain’s early abandonment of the ship.

Earlier this year another Carnival ship, the Triumph, broke loose from its moorings while docked at the Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal. The ship was ultimately resecured without injury to any of the several hundred crew aboard. Last year, a Saga Cruises crew member fell more than seventy feet into the water during a lifeboat drill while the ship was docked in Southampton, United Kingdom.

Despite enhanced protective measures and policies designed to ensure passenger safety, cruising can be a risky activity. As demonstrated by the tribulations of the Magnifica, Costa Concordia, and Triumph, cruise ship accidents are becoming more and more common and don’t only occur while at sea. The increasing risk of cruising has rendered the need for experienced legal counsel for those injured in such accidents more important than ever.

Cruise ship accidents must be handled differently than ordinary personal injury cases, because they often arise under a different type of law, such maritime, admiralty, or contract law, and are subject to much shorter statutes of limitations to pursue a claim, sometimes as short as one year. Further, cruise companies often utilize various tactics to delay litigation, resulting in the degradation of evidence and, in certain cases, loss of the right to compensation.

The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and has been representing the victims of cruise ship accident for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident, contact the attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.

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Almost everyone felt the sting of the financial crash of 2008, but good news: we are coming back. Recreational industries are a great marker of how strong the market is; if consumers feel the pinch they let go of the fun stuff first. It should make you breath a fresh sigh of relief, then, to find out that the boating industry is on the upswing.
2012 saw a ten percent increase in recreational boat sales, nationally. It may not seem like much, but 2013 is expected to see the growth continue. The Miami Herald reported that Miami and Fort Lauderdale boat retailers and servicers have seen a steep increase in sales. Les Stewart, the sales and marketing director of Contender Boats Inc. in Homestead, FL, said that the company expects to sell 260 boats this year. That’s over a 100 percent increase from 2009 when they were, “lucky to sell a hundred boats…” according to Stewart. Contender also touts a 30 percent increase in the number of people it employs in the same timeframe. And that’s not the only South Florida company enjoying the return to recreation.

Companies like Deep Impact and Concept Boats are operating at maximum capacity. Deep Impact invested in development of new models during the recession and it paid off. They have already sold four of the 399 Cabin since its recent unveiling. Concept Boats is swamped with potential buyers who are attracted to the affordable prices they offer. The 30-foot open and 36-foot open are their best sellers.

Although many boaters downsized during the recession to save on maintenance and crew costs, the large luxury yacht industry has gained strength. In just two years, 2010-2012, yachts falling in the range of 80 to 200 feet saw a 30 percent increase in sales. Of course, the people who buy these multi-million dollar machines didn’t experience the economic decline like most of us. The smaller yachts are still moving slow, and the companies that manufacture them are relying much more on servicing for revenue than they were before 2008.

Since Broward Shipyard was bought and sold in 2009, the company’s income from servicing is 35 percent higher. Although
their engineering sector has declined, it still remains a focus for the company. Two 135-foot yachts are under construction for their client, World Sea Yachting.

It seems that although boat sales have climbed, many water enthusiasts are opting for chartering, and family friendly boats are proving to be the most popular. Not only has the boating industry seen growth but so has the cruise ship industry. Larger ships, more voyages and unfortunately more accidents as well. Whether staying close to home or island hopping, it’s important to understand what law governs your time on the open waters. Once a boat or cruise ship travels three nautical miles from shore Federal maritime jurisdiction rules over state laws. Gerson and Schwartz P.A. are experts in maritime law. If an accident occurred on or around the water you can count on Florida maritime attorneys at Gerson and Schwartz P.A. to give you sound advice. They represent clients injured in a number of different situations and have years of experience.

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Passengers Badly Rattled As Cruise Ships Ventured Through Superstorm Sandy

As Americans continue to tune into coverage of the massive land damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, it may be inconceivable to many that cruise ship operators did not uniformly cancel Florida-based cruises that were set to sail into or near the well-mapped hurricane. Yet, while some cruise operators made the sound decision not to expose cruise passengers to the risks of Sandy, others directed their ships to proceed full steam ahead, with only minor course adjustments, arguing that modern cruise ships’ elaborate stabilization systems would protect them from the ravages of severely rough seas and exposing them to any accident or injuries. Unfortunately, top-heavy floating resorts proved no match for Sandy, and passengers trapped on these during the hurricane ended up witnessing frightening chaos and destruction.

The Show Must Go On, Say Cruise Operators

The October 29, 2012 edition of the Salisbury Post recounted the experience of a North Carolina family whose cruise on Disney’s Fantasy put them into the path of the storm. That account credits the ship’s captain with charting a course that avoided the fiercest zone of the hurricane, and with warning passengers to stay in their cabins; but it also conveys the great anxiety suffered by the family when it realized that “anything not bolted to the walls or floors was sliding side to side,” and that “deck chairs had crashed through doors.” Ultimately, said the mother of this family, one had to resort to faith in God in order to survive the terrifying ordeal.

At the time superstorm Sandy was brewing, the Bradley family of Cascade, Iowa, was scheduled to sail from Port Canaveral to the Caribbean on Disney’s Dream. According to coverage by KWWL TV in Iowa, the Bradleys tried to cancel their cruise reservations when they learned of the impending storm, but they were told by Disney that they would not receive a refund if they cancelled, and that they should rest assured that the cruise would safely avoid the path of the storm. Thus pressured to sail, the Bradleys traveled to Florida and boarded ship, but only hours after setting sail, the ship began to experience direct effects of the hurricane. According to the news report, the Bradleys watched unanchored objects rain down from shelves, and felt their cabins rattling. The severe rocking of the ship caused the Bradleys’ grandson to fall out of bed. Mrs. Bradley told KWWL that Disney “should have canceled instead of putting our lives in danger out there in 20 foot swells.”

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134152096.jpgMIAMI, FL—Authorities from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard are investigating what might have caused a 25-foot charter boat to sink in the Florida Keys on Dec. 18. According to information provided by the Miami Herald, eight people were aboard the Key Largo Scuba Shack-operated vessel when it sank at approximately 3:15 p.m., ultimately claiming the life of a Washington State woman.

Eight individuals, including six divers, were aboard a Key Largo Scuba Shack-owned dive boat—the “Get Wet”— when for unknown reasons, the boat capsized and sank. Officer Bobby Dube of the FWC stated that according to witnesses, it only took “about two minutes” for the charter boat to sink.

Reports indicated 36-year-old tourist diver Aimee Rhoads was trapped inside the cabin of the dive boat when it capsized. Rescue crews performed CPR on Rhoads in an attempt to revive her, but to no avail. The victim was ultimately pronounced dead.

A second diver, 27-year-old New York man Amit Rampurkarl, was rushed to Kendall-based Baptist Hospital after he too became trapped in the cabin of the sinking dive boat. FWC spokesman Bobby Dube said that victim was hospitalized in critical condition.

The boat captain, one crew member and four other divers who were rescued following the Florida Keys accident managed to escape serious injury. The boat was reportedly headed to a well-known dive spot on Molasses Reef—located near Key Largo—when the boat began to take on water.

Dube told reporters the FWC will be looking into not only what caused the boat to sink, but why two of the divers on board became trapped. “Right now it’s a mystery why it sank, with more questions than answers… Even with just two minutes, they should have had time to get out… Maybe they went back to retrieve personal items. We don’t know. It’s just speculation right now,” he said.

Statistical data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  indicated 668 boat accidents occurred during the year 2010. Those boat crashes and accidents resulted in 79 boating deaths and 389 injuries. Statistics suggest Florida has more boating accidents than any other state in the nation.

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web.jpgMIAMI, FL— November 30, 2011 – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators are looking into what might have caused a powerboat to plow into a seawall during the early hours of Nov. 28, killing one boater and leaving another hospitalized with unspecified injuries. According to the Sun Sentinel, the fatal boating accident occurred at approximately 1:20 a.m. along the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Fla.

Reports suggested Aldo Antonio Rodriguez, 41, and female passenger Odalys Diaz, 45, were aboard a 25- to 26-foot center console vessel, navigating the Intracoastal Waterway in the dark, when the boat slammed into a western seawall. Diaz was thrown from the boat on impact. Rodriguez, on the other hand, became trapped in the vessel’s damaged bow as a result of the watercraft accident.

The crashed boat then mysteriously went on to circle the accident site, even after striking a second wall on the eastern side of the Intracoastal. According to Hollywood Fire Rescue Division Chief Mark Steele, who responded to the scene along with other paramedics from the department, “When they first saw it, they were like, ‘How is this happening?’”

Although emergency medical crews rushed both Rodriguez and Diaz to Memorial Regional Hospital following the violent boat wreck, Rodriguez’s injuries proved fatal at the hospital. The extent of Diaz’s crash injuries remained undisclosed.

While FWC detectives have yet to determine the cause of the Hollywood boat crash, speed was suspected to have contributed to the fatal accident. “That’s definitely something they’re going to take a look at… It is likely a factor considering the force involved in the accident… It will be under investigation for probably quite a while,” explained Carli Segelson, a spokesperson for the commission.

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powerboat-crash-key-west-super-boat-world-championships-racers.jpgMIAMI, FL— November 10, 2011 – A horrific South Florida boat crash claimed the lives of two offshore powerboat racers who were participating in the Key West Super Boat World Championships that took placed on Nov. 9th According to information provided by the Miami Herald, spectators were watching the powerboat race from Mallory Square, a waterfront plaza in Key West’s historic district, when a 46-foot powerboat went airborne, flipped, and wrecked upside down during the third lap.

Reports suggested Jeffrey Tillman and Bob Morgan, both Missouri residents, were racing Big Thunder, a Skater powerboat equipped with four 1,200-horsepower engines, in Key West Harbor when something went horribly wrong. During the third lap of the Key West Super Boat World Championships, the powerboat allegedly did a barrel roll and landed upside down, crushing the high-speed boat’s cockpit on impact.

Upon arriving at the site of the violent boating accident via helicopter, emergency personnel leapt into the water to rescue the severely injured powerboat racers. The accident victims were subsequently pulled aboard a rescue vessel and taken back to shore, where an ambulance was awaiting their arrival.

Unfortunately, both Morgan—who owns Big Thunder Motorsports Park and Marina Complex on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri—and Tillman—a Lake of the Ozarks developer— ultimately succumbed to their traumatic injuries and were pronounced deceased at Lower Keys Medical Center.

Beyond the fact that powerboat was clearly traveling at a high rate of speed when it flipped over and crashed, reports did not specify whether any other factors are suspected to have played a role in the fatal boating accident. Investigations are expected to continue.

Statistical data provided by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) indicated 668 boat accidents occurred during the year 2010. Those boat crashes and accidents resulted in 79 boating deaths and 389 injuries. Statistics suggest Florida has more boating accidents than any other state in the nation.

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