December 15, 2014

What to Do When You have a Cruise Ship Slip and Fall Accident

Cruise Slip and Fall Accident.jpgCruise ship slip and fall injuries occur with regularity. These accidents occur so often that cruise lines have investigation procedures in place designed to gather evidence and information in a way to help them should they be sued.

The process starts at the ship's medical facility. It is very common for a passenger to be given a statement form at the medical facility to fill out. Within the statement form is usually a question asking "What could you have done to prevent the accident." This whole purpose of this question is to get the injured passenger to admit he or she was at fault. If the passenger indicates that he or she could have done something to prevent the accident, the cruise line's lawyers will use that statement against the passenger. The cruise line's efforts to gain evidence to support their defenses do not end there.

A safety officer is also dispatched to investigate the claim as part the cruise line's procedures when passenger reports an accident. The safety officer often times interviews the injured passenger, travel companions and any eyewitness. Part of the reason behind these interviews is to elicit admissions that the injured person was at fault and the cruise line was not at fault. Furthermore, CCTV video of the area is reviewed. If this video is helpful to the cruise line, it will save it to be played latter at trial.

Many times when a slip and fall accident occurs, there are no signs or cones placed in the area warning the passenger of the slippery condition of the deck. After the accident, crew members erect signs and cones in the area of the accident. Also, the crew members mop or squeegee the area clean. It is only after the signs are placed and the area cleaned, that a safety officer photographs the area. This is done so the cruise line's attorneys can later argue to a jury that the area was free from water, and if there was any liquid in the area, there was a sign warning the passenger about the condition.

There are things injured passenger can do to help his or her own case. First, the passenger could have a travel companion take photographs of the area immediately after the incident. In most situations, the photographs taken immediately after the accident will be admitted into evidence and shown to the jury. Therefore, the jury will see the area as it existed at the time of the accident and not the sanitized version usually depicted in safety officers' photographs. Second, a travel companion could take down the names and contact information of eyewitnesses. These witnesses are invaluable to a slip and fall injury claim as the people could testify as to the condition of the deck at the time of the incident and perhaps even establish that the cruise line knew or should have known about the hazardous condition and did nothing. Photographs and witnesses could be the difference between winning or losing in court.

Bringing a lawsuit is an important decision. If you suffered a slip and fall injury aboard a cruise ship and would like to speak with a lawyer, please contact us toll free at (800) 499-0551 for a free consultation.

December 12, 2014

Oceania Cruise Ship Claims Three Lives

Oceania Insignia Fire.jpgAn engine room fire aboard the Insignia--a cruise ship belonging to Norwegian Cruise Lines' subsidiary, Oceania Cruises--claimed three lives yesterday morning. A total of five individuals were caught in the blaze, specifically, three contractors and two crew members. According to reports, all five were taken to a medical facility in St. Lucia, where the vessel was docked at the time of the accident. One eye-witness to the tragedy stated that one individual passed away before even making it to the dock. Two of the contractors and one crew member died as a result of their injuries while another crew member remains hospitalized. No passengers were harmed. To date, the cause of the fire remains unknown.

General maritime law and perhaps select Federal Statutes intended to protect maritime workers will govern the liability and damage aspects of any lawsuits filed by injured workers or the estates of loved ones lost in this tragedy.

Certainly, the crewmembers aboard the Insignia, or their estates possess claims under the Jones Act for negligence (a Federal Statutory claim) and unseaworthiness (a general maritime law claim). Generally speaking, the Jones Act imposes liability upon a seaman's employer for defective or dangerous conditions of which the employer either knew of or should have known of. The doctrine of unseaworthiness, requires a ship owner to maintain a seaworthy vessel or a vessel that is free of unreasonably dangerous and/or unsafe conditions. A Jones Act seaman who suffers injuries will also have a cause of action for maintenance and cure (another general maritime law claim). Maintenance effectively represents wages, both unearned (through the end of a contract of employment) and sick. Maintenance also includes wages for substitute food and lodging while the seaman is convalescing. Cure represents payments for medical care and treatment needed as a result of a shipboard injury or illness. Cure payments are owed by the employer until the seaman is diagnosed as having reached maximum medical improvement. Another Federal Statue that may apply depending upon the location of a maritime tort is the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA").

In contrast, when dealing with a non-crew member or non-Jones Act employee, such as a contractor, the Longshoreman and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act ("LHWCA") may apply. The application of the LHWCA to you or a loved one's claim means that, by law, a cause of action will exist if there was any negligence on the part of the vessel that caused the victim's injuries or death.

Thus, in this case and as a matter of first impression, it is plausible that the LHWCA may apply to any case arising out of any death or injuries involving the contractors harmed in the Insignia fire. In regard to the crew member injury and death, these claims will be governed by the Jones Act and General Maritime Law.

Witnesses to this tragedy or persons with information are urged to contact the firm through this blog post or via the firm's website.

The maritime and board certified attorneys of Brais, Brais & Rusak possess the requisite expertise and skill necessary to handle these types of claims. Two partners within the firm are board certified in the field of Admiralty and Maritime law and have collective trial experience spanning nearly 40 years. Based upon blind peer review ratings the firm achieved and has maintained for more than 15 years an "AV" Preeminent Rating with Martindale Hubbell (< 5% of all attorneys). The firm is also a member of the Million and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates forum (< 1% of all attorneys), with collected recoveries exceeding $20,000,000.00 (20 million) in 2014 alone. Notwithstanding which set of laws apply, the lawyers at Brais, Brais & Rusak are prepared to handle your maritime claim and have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve.

November 30, 2014

Rescue Mission Ends for Missing Princess Cruise Passenger

Sun Princess Cruise Ship.jpgAustralian authorities call off a search for an elderly man who fell off and went missing from the Princess cruise ship Sun Princess. CCTV footage retained by the cruise line shows an 84-year-old passenger falling of the liner into the water on the night of November 24th. Princess stated the cruise ship turned around to look for the missing passenger after the man could not be found on board. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority stated survival was very slim given the man's age and weather conditions. This is not the first time in recent memory that a passenger fell off the Sun Princess. In October last year another elderly man went missing from the deck of the ship while it was off the northern Australian coast.

November 16, 2014

Cruises Passenger Medical Malpractice Victims Receive New Rights

Cruise Medical Malractice.jpgIt is no secret that cruise lines are for-profit businesses. Companies such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, Disney and Princess constantly look for ways to add revenue and limit costs in order to increase their bottom lines. Some areas where cruise lines make money from their passengers are obvious. Casinos, bars, ticket sales for excursions are all well-known profit centers. One location aboard the ships where cruise lines make money that is less obvious to those who are not industry insiders are the ships' medical facilities.

Cruise lines dedicate space aboard their ships for medical facilities. They stock those facilities with drugs, bandages, x-ray machines and hire doctors to treat ill or injured passengers. Passengers who use these medical services are charged on their shipboard accounts and must pay those charges before leaving the ships. What is not known by many is that if the ship doctors are negligent in their care, cruise lines disavow liability. In essence, the cruise lines found a loophole in the law to make money but not be assessed with liability should their doctors commit medical malpractice. This loophole is found in the 1988 case of Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star decided by the Fifth Federal Circuit wherein it was determined that since cruise lines have no obligation to provide onboard doctors for their passengers they should not be liable for the negligence of those doctors.

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November 13, 2014

Run Over Haulover Snorkeler Brings Maritime Tort and Lien Against 43' Midnight Express Named The Golden Rule

Golden Rule Midnight Express.jpgThe Florida Admiralty and Maritime Board Certified attorneys of Brais, Brais & Rusak filed a verified complaint in rem against a 43' Midnight Express go-fast boat for allegedly running over Marc Craddock while snorkeling more than 1 mile off Haulover Inlet. The all gold colored speed boat, aptly named The Golden Rule, equipped with five outboard engines is technically owed by FLC Marine LLC., a Florida limited liability company, whose managers are Adam Gordon and his father Michael Gordon.

Court documents state The Golden Rule was returning from the Bahamas on October 17th when it ran over Mr. Craddock causing life-threatening injuries. Mr. Craddock was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami and underwent multiple emergency surgeries before being transferred to an Orlando hospital.

Continue reading "Run Over Haulover Snorkeler Brings Maritime Tort and Lien Against 43' Midnight Express Named The Golden Rule" »

October 23, 2014

Snorkeling Accident Near Haulover Inlet

Midnight Express Runs Over Snorkler .jpgJust last week, on October 17, a snorkeler was involved in a tragic accident when a speed boat struck him at the Haulover Inlet. According to Officer Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the victim, who has not been identified, suffered "critical" injuries from being run over by a go fast boat. According to reports, the individual was snorkeling with a friend in the water when they saw a golden speed boat--equipped with five motors--heading towards them. Officer Pino added the snorkelers tried to make their way back into their boat when the victim was struck by one of the boat's multiple motor propellers. The victim was immediately taken to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Officer Pino stated the FWC is now determining exactly how this run over incident happened. The speed boat's operator was interviewed at the scene and later taken to FWC's headquarters. The operator's father later appeared at the Haulover Marina with an attorney. The attorney gave a statement that the divers did not display the proper flags. This statement conflicts with the information gathered in the FWC's investigation.
The use of a diving flag and the location of said flag in relation to the parties involved will be material issues for a trier of fact in the event that a civil suit arises from this tragic event. Section 327.331(5) of the Florida Statutes states, "Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy on all waters other than rivers, inlets, and navigation channels. A person operating a vessel on waters other than a river, inlet, or navigation channel must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from any divers-down flag or buoy." No information or evidence has been released regarding the location of the victim or speed boat driver in respects to the diving flag.

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October 20, 2014

Cruise Ticket's Hidden Provisions Can Be Costly

Miami Cruise Ticket Provision.jpgCruising is wildly popular. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people cruise from the several ports that line the United States coast. Often times, people have a good time on their vacations without incident. However, sometimes, vacations can go horribly wrong. Our law firm receives multiple calls each week from passengers who unfortunately were injured or from family members whose loved one tragically died while cruising. From our conversations, we have found that nearly all passengers have little or know knowledge about the provisions found within their cruise ticket.

The cruise ticket is a contract between the passenger and the cruise line that sets forth the obligation of both parties. As such, it is VERY IMPORTANT to save and read your ticket if you think you may want to sue a cruise line for its wrongdoing. Cruise lines for years have hired very capable attorneys to insert contract provisions into the tickets designed to limit liability and your recovery. Three important provisions are the six month or 180 day written notice provision, the 1 year suit time provision and the federal court provision. Failure to comply with these terms can be very costly.

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October 19, 2014

Five South Florida Drownings in Three Weeks

Florida Canal Drowning Death Attorney.jpgUnfortunately, South Florida's sunny climate is accompanied by a number of natural and man-made bodies of water that claim lives every day. Making matters worse--the victims are normally our most prized and precious possessions--our children. Just this week, five individuals drowned in a canal, pool or lake. Four of the five individuals were children under the age of ten years old.

One of the children, Jac'Quez Osborne, 9, drowned at a pool party in Southwest Ranches. According to Capt. Engle of the Davie Police Department, Jac'Quez "didn't know how to swim and somehow ended up in the pool." Sadly, there was no one within reach that could administer CPR in time.

Another child, Leila Fleming, 4, left with her grandmother, Laura Zulema Fleming, 59, to go feed ducks by a lake in their Silver Shores gated community. They did not return. Both of their bodies were eventually found and recovered from the lake. Autopsies revealed that both Leila and her grandmother drowned. Unfortunately, neither of them knew how to swim.

Continue reading "Five South Florida Drownings in Three Weeks" »

August 27, 2014

Cruise Tender Injuries and the Law

Cruise Tender Injury Lawyer.jpgOur law firm is receiving an increasing number of inquires about cruise passengers injuries occurring on tenders. Generally, when a cruise liner is too large to dock at a pier, it requires tenders to shuttle passengers back and forth from the ship. With ships increasing in size each year, tendering is becoming more and more prevalent. There are two basic ways passengers are tendered. One option is to lower the cruise ship's life boats and use them as the tenders. The other option available to cruise lines is to contract with local tendering services which use small boats to shuttle the passengers.

The Cruise Line's Legal Responsibility to Passengers

A Cruise line has the non-delegable legal obligation to provide their passengers safe ingress and egress, under adequate supervision, to and from the ship. This legal duty remains the same no matter if the cruise line decides to use its own life boats or contract with local boat companies to provide tender services. As such, if a passenger is injured due to the unsafe operation of a tender, that passenger has a legal claim for negligence against the cruise line even though the tender was not operated by the cruise line. Given the legal duty to provide passengers safe ingress and egress to and from the ship, United States law precludes a cruise line from exculpating or limiting its liability for injures arising from negligent tendering.

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August 13, 2014

Young Boy and Woman Die in Indian River Boating Accident

Local news outlets are reporting that a young boy and a woman were killed in a boating accident on the Indian River near the Eau Gallie Causeway in Melbourne. Eyewitnesses at the scene stated that the 18-foot boat flipped over when attempting to assist a sailboat in distress. Four of the other people on the boat were rescued by good Samaritans as well as first responders. The victims of the boating accident, Ares Aronoyos and Stephanie Coleman were taken to Holmes Regional Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead. Florida Fish and Wildlife is handling the investigation

July 9, 2014

Miami Boat Accidents and a Little Known Law

Miami Boating Accident Lawyer.jpgBoat accidents are nothing new in Miami. Sun, fun, inexperienced operators and alcohol all play a role in both recent and past boating tragedies. After such horrific events there is a public outcry for more law enforcement and tougher laws aimed to prevent more injuries and deaths. This is a normal and well intended reaction. However, flying under the radar from public scrutiny is an over 150-year-old Federal law that allows boat owners, or should it be said the boat owners' insurance companies, the ability to limit the amount of money damages paid to the victims of the boat accidents to the post-loss value of the vessels. This law, known as the Limitation of Liability Act, can be devastating to an already overwhelming situation. Imagine a situation where a boat passenger who one minute was enjoying a holiday weekend and the next cannot walk or the children left parentless after the accident. This statute allows the boat owners to ask a Federal judge to limit the amount they must compensate these victims to a few thousand dollars or less.

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July 7, 2014

Another Biscayne Bay Boat Crash Claims Lives

Biscayne Bay Boat Accident.jpgIt seems every holiday weekend someone has lost their life in a boat crash on Biscayne Bay. Ernesto Hernandez was killed in May when a boat operated by DJ Laz backed over him on Nixon Beach in Key Biscayne. On Memorial Day Weekend, Giovanna Patricia Santos was killed when the boat on which she was a passenger collided with an anchored boat near Elliot Key. Now this past 4th of July weekend, four people died and several other injured when three boats collided near Dinner Key in Coconut Grove.

This past tragedy occurred after a fireworks show. After the fireworks concluded, many boats began racing back to the marina. Reports state that a 32-foot Contender center-console boat operated by Andrew Garcia collided with another vessel owned by the Hanono family. Garcia and most of his passengers were ejected causing the unmanned boat to collide with another.

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June 17, 2014

Florida Snorkeler Dies after being Run Over by Boat

Florida Snorkler Death.jpgA Florida snorkeler was run over and killed in Jupiter Inlet. Andrew Harris and Nicole Kapfer were snorkeling on June 8th when two motor boats entered the Jupiter Inlet. The lead boat was able to avoid the snorkelers. Unfortunately, the second boat did not. Both boats stopped to render assistance after the accident. Harris, a 27-year-old graduate of Florida State University, was air lifted to St. Mary's Medical Center where he later died from his injuries. Kapfer luckily only sustained minor injuries.

June 5, 2014

Slippery Decks on the Carnival Paradise

Carnival Paradise Slippery Deck.jpgOur law firm receives many calls from vacationers who were injured after slipping and falling aboard the Carnival Paradise. Currently home ported in Tampa, Florida, the Carnival Paradise is a 17-year-old cruise ship - a veritable dinosaur in this day-in-age where cruise lines pump out new ships each year. The exterior decks are mostly made of wood. It seems water tends to pool in certain areas after rain or washing causing the unsuspecting passenger to hydroplane when walking across the deck. This often times results in slip and fall injuries.

The two most common injuries we see from Carnival Paradise passengers are torn menisci and broken wrists. A meniscus is a piece of cartilage that protects and cushions the knee joint surface as well as the upper ends of the femur and tibia. This cartilage is torn when the knee is hyper or hypo extended which occurs with regularity when someone is falling down after their feet fly from underneath them. Fractured wrists many times occur when the passenger extends their arms to break their fall.

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June 1, 2014

Two Arrested for Raping Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger

Galveston Cruise Rape.jpgJamaican news outlets are reporting two men were arrested for raping a fellow passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas. The rape is reportedly to have occurred approximately 50 miles outside Jamaican waters on Thursday morning (5/29) while the cruise ship was approaching Falmouth. The men (both Americans) were supposedly partying with the victim the night before. The Navigator of the Seas conducts weekly voyages to the western Caribbean from Galveston, Texas.

Rapes and sexual assaults unfortunately occur with regularity aboard cruise ships. Our law firm is routinely contacted by cruise rape and sexual assault victims. Our attorneys are currently representing a victim of sexual assault which occurred in a ladies room aboard the Carnival cruise ship Magic which also leaves from Galveston.