We spoke with Brett Rivkind, one of the most experienced maritime attorneys in the United States, about the intricacies of personal injury litigation that takes place on a cruise ship and what victims should expect.
What are the most common accidents on cruise ships?
I would say the most common cruise ship accident is a slip and fall accident. There are many slip and fall hazards. For example, on the pool deck there is spilled water and sunscreen, drinks and many other substances. At a hotel like the Marriott, where you can see concrete surfaces around the pool area to make it less slippery, cruise lines tend to use surfaces that become unreasonably slippery when wet or debris falls to the deck.
Casinos and other areas where food and drink are served also get a lot of traffic and liquids or food is often spilled on the floor. Cruise lines tend to use finishes designed for appearance, such as the wonderfully shiny B. Marble. Therefore, cruise ship passengers are often exposed to slip and fall hazards, resulting in a large number of cruise ship slip and fall accidents.
What compensation options are available to an injured party in this situation?
If a cruise passenger sustains personal injury while on a cruise and negligence proceedings are brought against the shipping company, the typical damage includes so-called financial losses, such as lost wages, medical bills, and other costs. There is also non-economic damage, which refers to damage to the human elements associated with an injury, including pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, inconvenience, mental anguish, and inability to lead a normal life.
Under what circumstances could the cruise line itself be held liable for the damage in question?
A cruise ship is only liable for negligence. Negligence is the lack of reasonable care for the safety of the passenger and depends on the facts of each individual case. A passenger must prove that the shipping company did something that he should not have done or did not do something that he should have done. So, for example, in a slip and fall case, if the shipping company knew or should have known of the hazard but failed to act in a timely manner to eliminate or mitigate the hazard that resulted in the injury, the shipping company is liable.
What constitutes reasonable care in the circumstances will vary from case to case and the nature of the case. Since 1983, I have tried almost every type of cruise ship injury case imaginable. Each fact pattern must be carefully analyzed to properly present the evidence of the cruise line's liability.
What are the limitations and potential obstacles to litigation against a cruise line?
In the event that a cruise passenger files a negligence claim against the cruise line, there are many obstacles and limitations to consider. The law is state law of the sea, and there are unique aspects of state law of the sea that the attorney must be aware of that differ from many state laws.
I would say one of the biggest hurdles is making sure you hire the right attorney who is experienced in maritime law and knows the intricacies and specific laws that govern cruise ship passenger cases. In addition to knowing the applicable maritime law, an experienced cruise line lawyer will also know what evidence the cruise line may have that can be obtained to establish the case against the cruise line. Having worked on many cruise line cases since 1983, including five years on the defense side representing cruise lines before deciding that I just wanted to help injured people, I have extensive knowledge of the different types of procedures and evidence that a cruise company required a case to be filed to establish the company's negligence and seek success on behalf of the aggrieved passenger.
One of the biggest hurdles is making sure you hire the right attorney who is experienced in maritime law and knows the intricacies and specific laws that govern cruise ship passenger cases.
Another very big limitation to be aware of is the very special time limits that apply in a cruise passenger case, of which most non-maritime attorneys are unaware. For example, in the cruise passenger ticket, which by law is considered a contract, there are important provisions that should be known because they are enforceable. One of them is a deadline to notify the shipping company of the intention to sue the shipping company for negligence. The most important term is the statute of limitations, which is one year from the date of the infringement to bring an action. If you do not file the lawsuit within this one-year period, you forever lose your right to sue the cruise line for your damages.
These are just some examples. Once again, a maritime attorney knows how to circumvent, navigate over, or directly through these obstacles and restrictions.
What first steps would you advise a potential client who is injured while on a cruise?
If a cruise passenger is injured while on a cruise, it is imperative that you report it. Make sure the shipping company is informed about the accident. Take pictures. Get the names and contact details of the witnesses. Do not rush to fill out an accident statement if you feel unable to properly complete the accident report because you have just been in an accident. You should insist on waiting. It may also be appropriate to say "I would like to take the form to my stateroom and prepare it carefully so that it is correct."
If you have a working cell phone from the cruise ship and have concerns, you may want to consult a lawyer. Our firm frequently receives text messages, emails and calls directly from the cruise ship from passengers who have been in an accident with questions about how the matter is being handled. Remember that the cruise line's primary concern should be cleaning up any hazards and properly treating your medical issues, not helping them defend a potential lawsuit you might file later.
You don't need to be questioned or fill in a lot of details. You don't want to leave out important details, such as B. the fact that she slipped and fell on a slippery substance on the deck. However, for the first meeting on the cruise after an accident, there is no obligation to provide detailed information about her accident. All you have to do is report an accident and if you are injured you should seek medical attention with a brief description of how the accident occurred and your injuries.
Often cruise ship staff, including doctors, are more interested in questioning you, hoping you will say something that could later be used against you if you file a lawsuit. I always suggest you don't block anything unless they grant you the ability to photocopy it before giving it to you. Sometimes simply refusing to testify can be appropriate, although sometimes it can be used against you later in court proceedings as it tries to suggest that you have been hiding something.
If a cruise passenger is injured while on a cruise, it is imperative that you report it. Make sure the shipping company is informed about the accident. Take pictures. Get the names and contact details of the witnesses.
Cruise lines often try to claim alcohol as the cause of your accident, so be careful. Don't lie about drink consumption though, as they keep records of the number of drinks purchased on the cruise, although they can't be sure if you actually consumed what you bought.
Again, it's hard to come up with any hard and fast rules other than say, take photos, collect as much evidence as possible, and understand that no matter how nice they are to you after your accident, the cruise line staff is their job to gather information. . that will help the cruise line avoid potential lawsuits in the future.
Why is it important to hire an attorney after a cruise ship injury?
Due to very short statutes of limitations and notice periods, and the fact that physical evidence can disappear, including surveillance video that may have recorded your accident, or other important evidence that helps determine liability, it is imperative Consult a lawyer specializing in maritime law. with the cruise line. We immediately submit our letter of representation to let the cruise line know you have an experienced maritime attorney representing you and then request any ship documentation we are entitled to receive. We also require surveillance video showing your accident. If the shipping company knows that our law firm is involved, they often try to settle the case amicably with us because they know our experience and success rates with the shipping companies.
What specific skills and experience should the ideal attorney look for?
The ideal lawyer should not be the first lawyer that appears in a Google search, especially in the sponsored ads that lawyers pay for. The ideal lawyer should have experience in maritime law and someone he can trust and feel comfortable communicating with. I always suggest that you talk to your lawyer, consider hiring him, and get a sense of how fluent he is on the subject and how comfortable you are with that lawyer in the sometimes time-consuming process involved. .
I am an AV-rated law firm of Martindale Hubbell, have spoken in the United States Congress as an invited expert on shipping to address cruise ship safety laws, and have been a solely shipping attorney since 1983. I always welcome to a prospective client setting up a Zoom, Skype, or in-person meeting with me so they can meet me in person and not just read about who I am, but see who I am and feel good about it when they hire me. to represent them in a very important matter.
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Often people just hire a lawyer who was at the top of the first page of Google and that is a big mistake. Not only will you have no connection to the attorney during the process, but the attorney may not be the one handling your case.
Can you tell us about your own experience in this area of law?
I have already hinted a little at my experience. But I started out as a maritime attorney in 1983 for a large defense firm that represented cruise lines. During my five years there, I gained extensive experience handling all types of personal injury and wrongful death at sea cases. However, my heart is not in being an advocate. After five years with the defense firm, I decided that I wanted to become a plaintiffs attorney, representing injured individuals and family members who lost loved ones to cruise line negligence.
I have never looked back and have helped thousands of people injured on cruise ships. I have worked on many high-profile cases, some of which have become the subject of a book, some of which have become the subject of movies, and some of which have resulted in very important case decisions that have opened doors for cruise lines held accountable. . The congressional hearings in which I testified eventually led to the passage of legislation to make cruise ships safer for passengers. I am the former Chairman of the Admiralty Committee of the Florida Bar. I have written articles and given lectures on the law of the sea, I was even selected to be a speaker at a law school where I spoke on the law of the sea to judges.
Brett Rivkind, founding partner
169 E Flagler St, Suite 1422, Miami, FL 33130, EE. UU.
Telephone: +1 305=374-0565
Brett Rivkindis a renowned maritime personal injury and wrongful death attorney. After 40 years of experience in maritime law cases with both defense and plaintiff experience, he is dedicated to assisting victims of accidents and crime. Many of his cases have been high profile, representing thousands of individuals and hundreds of families of victims following disasters at sea. He regularly lectures on maritime issues in the legal field and higher education and has made numerous media appearances, including three times on Larry King Live. He was also Chairman of the Admiralty Committee of the Florida Bar.