Articles Tagged with Admiralty & Maritime Law

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The cruise industry has suffered a great deal in recent years. Sometimes due to reckless behavior, sometimes due to negligent behavior and sometimes due to no identifiable fault on the part of the liners, passengers have been suffering cruise ship injuries, cruise-related illnesses and have been stranded at sea on a number of recent occasions.

Most recently, over 300 passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship owned by the Royal Caribbean line fell very ill during what should have been a relaxing trip. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the illness afflicting these patients was norovirus. Norovirus is highly contagious and generally spreads when one comes in contact with a contaminated surface, an infected person and/or contaminated food.

While norovirus is not a potentially fatal disease, it is deeply unpleasant. Passengers and crew aboard the Royal Caribbean ship experienced severe gastrointestinal symptoms as a result of the virus, including diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting. Many passengers are likely outraged that they experienced this illness aboard the ship. Yet it is not completely clear whether or not they will be able to sue the line successfully in regards to the harm they suffered onboard.

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Nearly one year ago, the president issued an executive order entitled Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. This executive order clearly states that the policy of the U.S. government is to increase the sharing of information related to cyber threats with the private sector. In sharing this information, the government hopes to empower the private sector to better protect itself against cyber threats.

It is critical that marine employers take advantage of the efforts that the federal government has made in response to this particular executive order. Not only do cybersecurity threats pose hazards to general data intrusion, certain threats can prove to be truly hazardous to maintaining maritime safety.

For example, if a certain cybersecurity threat was launched against a vessel and that vessel’s systems were not prepared to contain and repel the threat, the intrusion could dramatically impact the functioning of any affected system. Given that an increasingly substantial number of operations are contained within on-board electronics, compromise could be hazardous not only to general vessel operations but also to occupants of the vessel.

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Over the past several years, the cruise industry has begun to develop a negative reputation. In addition to ships getting stuck at sea, ships have crashed and have hosted a number of passenger injuries and deaths. If you or any of your loved ones have suffered cruise ship injuries over the past few years, you may still be reeling from the experience. After all, no one books a cruise ship vacation with the expectation of arriving home injured and emotionally taxed.

Some cruise ship passengers are pressured into settling their claims or dropping them altogether. The cruise industry employs powerful advocates who aim to keep their liability costs low. As a result, it is important that injured cruise ship passengers immediately retain the counsel of attorneys experienced in cruise ship claims. These attorneys will be able to help you navigate your claim and obtain the financial compensation you deserve.

“But wait!” you may say. “The Contract of Carriage I agreed to when I purchased my ticket prohibits me from filing a claim against the cruise ship company.” Please understand that while you are correct in that purchasing your ticket did automatically bind you to certain legal provisions drawn up by the cruise company, this agreement does not necessarily bar you from bringing a successful claim. An experienced attorney will be able to help you navigate your legal options, even if you signed a waiver indicating that you would not sue the cruise line in the event of accident or injury.

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Longshoremen are skilled professionals trained to work safely and effectively on potentially hazardous docks and piers. Tragically, even the most conscientious dock workers can suffer devastating injuries when accidents occur. When longshoremen suffer injuries, they generally have the right to collect workers’ compensation. Under certain circumstances, they may also be able to file additional claims under the theories of product liability, premises liability and/or personal injury.

It is critical that accident victims file claims that best fit the unique circumstances of their cases. Many dock and pier accident victims suffer severe injuries that can impair their ability to work and to function generally for a long period of time. Among the most common serious injuries that longshoremen suffer are spinal cord injuries, joint injuries, burns and traumatic brain injuries. When successful claims are filed, workers can obtain the compensation they need in order to treat these injuries and to move forward in life in the healthiest ways possible. Workers are often entitled to pain and suffering awards as well as compensation for medical bills and for wages lost as a result of their injuries.

Injured longshoremen often receive a great deal of moral support from fellow members of the International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU) and from co-workers in the maritime industry. However, it is critical to seek professional support as well when you have been injured on the docks. An experienced attorney who has worked extensively with longshoremen in the past will best understand what claims to file and how to ensure the success of those claims.

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The bridge is a common maritime term for the room from which a large vessel is generally commanded. Though decisions about its operation are made all over the vessel, the bridge is generally considered to be central command and from this place the consequences of important navigational, logistical and safety choices are weighed.

Too often, accidents resulting in maritime injuries start with decisions that are made by individuals stationed at the bridge. Both the technical equipment they engage with as well as the more complex personal choices they grapple with may affect the well-being of everyone aboard. Accordingly, a new research and development project focused on bridge safety is currently being launched.

The new project is being funded by numerous organizations with assistance from the European Union broadly. It aims to consider both the technical and human aspects of bridge operations that lead to safety crises. By contemplating ways to forge both technical and human safety gaps in bridge operations, the experts conducting this three year project hope to influence safety positively throughout the operations of any given vessel.

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When a ship operator or other maritime employer makes any change to improve the safety of workers, positive progress has been made. However, reducing a given vessel’s rate of maritime injuries is likely only going to occur in any significant way if the entire vessel’s culture is grounded in the execution of safe practices. Much like a hospital can only significantly improve patient safety through cultural changes, maritime operations can only truly improve worker safety by making reform a core value of the venture.

One company recently adopted this kind of site-wide reform and managed to subsequently cut its employees’ serious injury rate by roughly two-thirds. In addition, lesser injuries requiring some time off have been cut in half. Finally, the employer has benefited not only from healthier and more consistent employees, costs tied to insurance claims have been reduced by more than three-quarters annually.

When safety becomes a core value of any given maritime operation, both workers and employers benefit in substantial ways. The key for any successful operational reform is that the value of safety must practically affect every element of a vessel’s functioning. From communications to engagement, training to everyday operational tasks, safety must be a core focus of how any maritime operation does business.