Cruise Ship Deaths are Not Uncommon, Lawyers Say

The recent well-publicized case of the Costa Concordia shocked the world, but a Portland cruise ship injury lawyer actually says deaths on cruise ships are not that uncommon. In fact, cruise companies are coming under increasing scrutiny over their failure to protect the people who shell out hard-earned money to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that all too often turns out to be the “last in a lifetime” trip.

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Angel Holcomb died last year on a Carnival Cruise ship, and her family have filed a suit against Carnival Corp., holding them liable for Angel’s death. They maintain that:

  • On May 2, 2011, Holcomb and other family members were in the ship’s casino, when an unknown passenger started buying rounds of drinks.
  • Holcomb, according to her family, was not used to drinking, and at one stage had four drinks in front of her as the passenger continued to buy rounds.
  • The pit boss told Holcomb that she could not have that many drinks on the poker table and ordered three to be taken away, telling Holcomb that she could have more once she had finished what was in front of her.
  • Holcomb’s mother expressed concern at this, and the pit boss and dealer told the mother to “let Holcomb have some fun.”
  • Holcomb began to feel sick and went to her cabin to have some water. She dropped a glass and somehow shards of broken glass cut a huge gash in her arm. Her fiancé said he saw blood “spraying everywhere.”
  • Carnival sent two workers to assist Holcomb, but the lawsuit says those staff members were not properly trained to lend assistance and that it took more than 30 minutes for a nurse to arrive, more than an hour after the initial emergency call.
  • A stretcher was called for but didn’t arrive, so the crew made a decision to try to carry Holcomb in a light canoe, but it wouldn’t fit into the elevator, delaying her arrival in the ships infirmary.
  • When no stretcher arrived and the canoe wouldn’t fit in the elevator, a decision was made to carry Holcomb down seven flights of stairs.
  • Holcomb died less than an hour later from cardiac arrest caused by extreme blood loss.

Holcomb’s family say Carnival was negligent in failing to supervise its crew in procedures for serving alcohol, and for failing to have proper procedures, equipment and trained personnel in place to respond to emergencies. The family’s lawyer says cruise ships are “floating bars,” and that if they serve people too much alcohol, they should be held liable.

According to the toxicology report, Holcomb had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit for intoxication at the time of her accident.

There are Many Dangers on a Ship

With all the sun, alcohol and activities on board, it’s no wonder that deaths on cruise ships are not that uncommon. Drinking, however, is just one of the perils passengers on cruise ships face on the high seas. Other accidents—some of the fatal—have been caused by things as innocent as:

  • Water slides
  • Wave pools
  • Slips and falls on wet surfaces
  • Trauma caused when falling as a cruise ship makes a maneuver

Other, more sinister causes of injury or death on cruise ships have included things like passengers being served contaminated food, or physical and/or sexual assaults by other passengers, or even by crew members. In other cases, sick or injured passengers have been put off cruise ships in ports that do not have the appropriate treatment available. There have been cases where doctors who have been called to treat patients do not have the appropriate medical equipment and in some cases are not even qualified.

Laws apply, even on the high seas

In spite of the fact that deaths on cruise ships are not that uncommon, many people believe they have little or no right to hold the cruise companies responsible, but cruise lines and their vessels are actually subject to a stringent set of maritime rules and regulations. While the cruise lines might like to give the impression that they are not governed by American laws while at sea, they are, in fact, obliged to guarantee the well-being of both passengers and crew.

Minimum security and poorly-trained first aid staff are inexcusable, as a severe injury at sea carries the added risk of time delays in getting a victim to an appropriate medical center. Yet the accidents, injuries and deaths continue at an alarming rate.

What you should do if you’re injured on a cruise ship: 

As if to admit their all-too-common mistakes, cruise liners often put (in small print) a one-year statute of limitations for filing claims on the back of their tickets. Therefore, if you’re injured on a cruise, or even if you’re off the boat on an excursion, it’s important to contact a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible once you get off the ship.

Even before you get off the ship, there are things you can do, including:

  • Tell the crew and the ships physician immediately if you’ve been hurt.
  • Take pictures. Use your cell phone if need be, but get shots of the scene, anything that may have contributed to the accident, and if possible, your injuries.
  • Write down the names, addresses and contact details of any passenger and crew to whom you’ve spoken, as well as any potential witnesses. Pass these to your personal injury attorney without delay.
  • Ask for a full copy of your medical report and any other documentation the crew may have before you leave the ship.
  • Do not allow yourself to be left in a foreign country if you’ve been seriously injured. Insist that the cruise company returns you to the U.S. for treatment.
  • Keep any and all paperwork you have from the time you booked the cruise until the time you leave the ship, and insist on a copy of the incident report.

Going on a cruise should be a blissful, relaxing and carefree experience, yet we’re faced on a regular basis with the fact that deaths on cruise ships are not that uncommon. In addition, literally thousands of people are injured, some quite seriously, on cruises every year.

Even though the cruise companies would like you to believe they’re not liable, the fact is, they have a responsibility for your safety when you’re on the ship, and if you’re on one of their off-ship excursions. If you’ve been injured, don’t be fooled or confused. Portland personal injury lawyers can help you hold the cruise company responsible for your medical expenses, your lost earnings and your pain and suffering.

Even if you decide not to file a claim, contact a personal injury attorney before making a final decision. A consultation is free, and they will advise you of your rights and let you know the best way to proceed, whatever you decide.

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