Articles Tagged with maritime law

Are you contemplating a cruise ship vacation? If so, please be wise and keep your valuables at home (if possible). Theft crimes on cruise ships are not uncommon. Not only do these theft crimes take place at United States ports and at sea, theft crimes also take place while ported on foreign lands. For instance, just last month, in March 2016, while making a stop in Belize, six cruise ship passengers and one tour guide were robbed at gunpoint. The robbery occurred while the passengers enjoyed an excursion at the Altun Ha Maya ruins site. Local police detained a few people in the area as suspects.

If you were a victim of a theft crime while abroad, it is imperative that you retain an experienced attorney for your case. Contact the Miami maritime lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz PA. At Gerson & Schwartz, PA we provide high quality legal representation. For more information call us toll free at 1-877-475-2905 or contact us online.

The Basics of Robbery

Vacationing overseas on a cruise continues to be a very popular form of vacation and appeals to all generations. Despite its popularity, accidents can occur. These accidents are sometimes fatal.  Just recently, off the coast of Florida, a family boarded the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship for a Christmas time cruise. On a Sunday evening, they were headed to dinner when they witnessed blood streaming down the doors of an elevator. Jose Sandoval Opazo was killed while working on an elevator on board the cruise ship. He was employed as an electrician on the cruise ship.  This is certainly a tragic story, yet, death overseas can suddenly happen to anyone embarking on a cruise.

If a death occurs more than three nautical miles from the coast, the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”) will apply. If a loved one’s death was caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional act of another on a cruise ship, family members can recover for their pain, suffering, and monetary losses by filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. It is important that you hire an experienced wrongful death attorney. Doing so can ensure that you receive compensation for the financial consequences and for your pain and suffering from the devastating loss. The experienced Miami wrongful death attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, PA are here to help. Our Miami wrongful death attorneys are Florida board certified trial lawyers and have also handled several wrongful death cases.

Death on the High Seas Act

On October 1, 2015, a freighter ship by the name of El Fargo sank in 15,000 feet of water near the Bahamas. All 33 of its crewmembers died in the sinking. In Florida, a family of a now deceased crewmember filed a lawsuit under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as theJones Act,” against the captain and owner of the ship, Michael Davidson. The freighter ship departed from Jacksonville, Florida en route to Puerto Rico carrying cars and other cargo. The ship eventually lost power to its engine and failed to avoid a category four hurricane. The Florida wrongful death lawsuit filed against the ship’s owner and captain demands $100 million in damages. Basically, the captain and owner of the freighter ship negligently decided to sail the 41-year-old freighter ship into the dangerous storm, putting all passengers’ and crewmembers’ lives at great risk.                  

First, however, to be protected under the Jones Act, the worker must establish that he is a seaman. A seaman is a person who spends a large amount of time working as a captain or as a crewmember on a vessel that is considered to be in navigation. If you or your loved one is an injured crewmember or captain, it is imperative that you hire an experienced maritime lawyer to establish your entitlement to legal protections under the Jones Act. The maritime attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, PA provide legal representation for seriously injured crewmembers and ship employees. For over 40 years, our lawyers have litigated these complex claims. Our personal injury law firm will fight for your legal rights.

Your Rights under the Jones Act

Face it, we all love vacations. They are a time to get away, clear your head, and simply relax.  What we do not want is to face a tragedy while on vacation. Tragedy can happen anywhere and to anybody. For instance, just two months ago, a passenger fell off a cruise ship off the coast of Florida. Prior to falling overboard, the passenger was involved in a verbal altercation with several of the ship’s crewmembers. These crewmembers yelled many gay slurs at said passenger who was on a vacation with his husband. Following the verbal altercations the passenger was seen falling off the side of the ship and grabbing a hold of a lifeboat. Cell phone videos captured this scary scene. The passenger eventually lost his grip and fell into the dark, treacherous ocean. The frantic search that covered 931 nautical miles was unsuccessful, and the investigation is currently pending as to the cause of this tragic incident.

Tragic accidents, can happen to anyone anywhere, even on cruise ships. If you are a cruise ship passenger or crewmember and you are injured on the cruise ship, you should hire an experienced lawyer for your case. There are special laws, both federal and international, that govern injury and death claims at sea. Fortunately, the Florida cruise ship accident lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, PA have significant experience aggressively pursuing claims against all the major cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Lines, Holland America, Celebrity, Costa, Seabourn, Regent, Crystal and many other vessels.   

What to Do if You or a Loved One is Injured on a Cruise Ship

While the exact details of the accident are still under investigation, what is clear is that a crew member died in a Carnival Ecstasy elevator while passengers caught glimpses of the gruesome scene. The ship was in the last legs of a Caribbean cruise departing from Miami when Florida residents Matt Davis and his wife were walking toward the elevator and noticed it was malfunctioning, only partly open and dripping with a copious amount of blood. When they alerted the cruise ship’s staff, they were told to leave the scene and enter the restaurant.

Miami-Dade police are currently investigating the freak accident that killed electrician Jose Sandoval Opazo, 66, of Liguria, Italy. Carnival Cruise Line has been reluctant to provide many details regarding the incident but do extend their support to the victim and his family. Witnesses of the accident say that crew members told them that Opazo was working either inside or behind the elevator when the elevator came down. If you were injured or lost a loved one aboard a cruise ship consider contacting a Miami Cruise Ship Accident Attorney.

Carnival Cruise Line has been fraught with controversy surrounding various catastrophic accidents in recent years. In 2012 the Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people. The cause of the accident was the hubris of the ship’s captain who intentionally steered the ship too close to shore. In 2013 the Carnival Triumph caught fire, which knocked out the ship’s power, leaving the cruise stranded for four days without working toilets.

Cruise ship season has begun in Florida. As cruise ships leave the coasts of Europe and Alaska, seeking warmer waters in Florida and the Caribbean, many Americans are choosing cruise ships as the venue for their wintertime vacations. Cruise lines have been reporting increased numbers of bookings from last year, with Carnival Cruise Corp. boasting a 20% increase in early 2016 bookings from the previous year. With an increased number of Americans choosing to sail on cruise ships comes increased numbers of accidents that cruise ship companies could be liable for. If you were injured or lost a loved one aboard a cruise ship, contact an experienced Miami Cruise Ship Accident Attorney today.

Cruise Ship Season in Florida

Cruise ship season in Florida typically stretches from November until April. Americans suffering cold winters flock to Florida for reprieve from blizzards and subzero temperatures. 62% of all people who have left the US on a cruise ship has done so through a Florida port. With Hurricane season ending in October, the winter months are some of the safest times to travel the sea.

Pre-paid beverage plans offered by most of the major cruise lines could be putting profits ahead of passenger safety. These plans, which offer unlimited alcoholic beverages to passengers for a set price, encourage passengers to drink more than they would if they paid for each drink individually. If you were injured or lost a loved one due to the negligence of cruise line companies, contact an experienced Miami Cruise Ship Accident Attorney today.

Cruise ships inherently possess greater dangers than most bars and common drinking establishments. Slippery surfaces, narrow staircases and the ever present perils of the high seas can lead to serious injuries and even death especially when coupled with heavy alcohol consumption.

In the last few months alcohol was a contributing factor in at least one cruise ship death. On a Royal Caribbean cruise that disembarked from Miami, an intoxicated man involved in an argument with cruise ship employees fell off the side of the ship onto a lifeboat and later into the sea. The man was never found, even after extensive search and rescue efforts by the coast guard.

In 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.

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Splendour of the Seas, caught on fire in the engine room as the cruise ship was sailing in the Mediterranean near the Greek islands. The fire was so large that crew members had to remain at their emergency stations for hours on end. Passengers reported not feeling well and struggling with the constant smell of smoke. Some passengers and crew members had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Our team of cruise ship injury lawyers are not surprised by this news. If something goes wrong on a cruise ship that is out to sea, help is not around the corner.

This is not the first time Royal Caribbean has had a large fire on a cruise ship. For example, in July 2015, a fire broke out on the Freedom of the Seas as it traveled toward Falmouth, Jamaica.  Additionally, in May 2013, a large fire suddenly developed on the Grandeur of the Seas and the crew battled with the fire for over two hours.

One passenger aboard the Splendour of the Seas reportedly stated that the ship was operating on just one engine resulting in a very rocky, turbulent trip. It was even difficult to simply walk around and numerous passengers are sick.

When you fly on a commercial airplane, you have an expectation that the airline has met specific safety regulations. The same goes for a trip on an Amtrak train. However, such an expectation is absent, or at least should be, when you purchase a ticket on a cruise ship. Why? Because the cruise ship industry is an unregulated industry. This is extremely concerning to our team of cruise ship injury attorneys.

International Waters: Free For All

When a cruise ship visits a U.S. port, it must meet some regulations and is subject to inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard. However, if you are taking a cruise that goes into international waters (e.g., cruise voyages to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, etc.) only the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has authority over safety and operational standards. The IMO is part of the United Nations and generally does not exercise strict regulatory oversight. In fact, the IMO has never ordered the docking of multiple ships based on safety concerns and it is unclear that it even has that authority, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

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