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New Practice Area! BloomLegal Helps Cruise Line Victims and Their Families

Posted on Feb 18, 2008 in Local Issues, Personal Injury

 Thinking of taking a cruise, leaving New Orleans for a sweet spin through the Caribbean? Have you seen those inciting ads -- 75% off vacation packages for a long weekend, or even a couple of weeks? Heck, Affordable Tours is offering a 4-day cruise on Carnival's Fantasy cruise ship through the Caribbean and with a Mexico stop or two, all for $250! (It leaves February 28th and gets back March 3d, if you're interested ....) Lots of people are taking advantage of these deals --- and packing in the added bonus of a New Orleans holiday before jumping on board a Carnival or Royal Caribbean or Norwegian cruise ship and heading out to sea…. We're almost back at pre-Katrina vacation volume. In fact, Western Caribbean cruises are the most popular packages being sold today, and New Orleans is one of the most popular ports for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Caribbean vacations. And yet, no one is paying much attention to the sobering realities. Did you know … --  you may not be protected by American law, or U.S. authorities, once you are aboard ship and underway?
Almost every cruise ship is registered in a foreign country, and flies a flag of that nation - not the United States.  The laws of that country, as well as international treaties, may decide your claim, not the federal or state law you may assume applies.  At least the cruise line will argue this to be the case.
--  serious crimes occur onboard everyday -- including sexual assaults, thefts, even unexplained disappearances?
Your risk of being raped is reportedly higher on a cruise ship than in any major American city, according to the International Cruise Victims organization.  Cruise lines are notorious for quickly entering into settlements with victims of violent crime aboard ship - with the condition that the victim, and his/her family, keep silent about what happened by signing a confidentiality agreement.  It’s not in the cruise lines best interests for the public to know about the serious crime that occurs during cruises.
Another concern is the crime scene itself: the cruise line’s security forces are also  the cruise line’s employees.  There is no independent policing authority onboard these ships to insure that crimes are properly investigated and evidence properly preserved.
There is also no legal mandate requiring cruise lines to make accurate reports of crimes during cruises - either on board, or during ports of call excursions.   While disappearances and violent deaths are known to occur during cruise vacations, and media attention is increasing, there is no way to truly know the seriousness of this risk.
-- serious illnesses and even fatalities occur during cruises, with cruise lines denying their legal responsibility for the ship’s doctors - whose medical credentials are usually not those of American standards?
Cruise ships can be disease-ridden.  Aside from the common complaints of seasickness and Montezuma’s Revenge, cruise ships have experienced outbreaks of very serious diseases, rapidly spreading through its contained, confined environment.  Legionnaire’s Disease, pneumonia, various debilitating viruses and flu, have all been shared by passengers and crews alike on ships from a wide variety of cruise lines.
Cruise lines not only tend to hire employees from other countries, in order to keep labor costs down, but it’s also understood that many a ship’s doctor is not American, did not receive his/her medical education at an institution recognized by American standards.  There have also been incidents where doctors have left the ship in times of conflict, returning to their homeland and out of practical reach of any potential future claims against them.  Meanwhile, cruise lines do not take legal responsibility for any medical care received on their ships.  Vacationers have been known to die before they could receive proper medical treatment.
-- your passenger ticket is legally a binding contract with the cruise lines, where you give away significant legal rights (such as trial by jury in lieu of arbitration, liquidated damages, and the choice of what law applies)?
It may seem sneaky, but it’s the law.  That passenger ticket is your binding contract with the cruise line.  All that fine print may have a big, big impact on your life.
What can you do? Well, Congress has begun to take notice.  In September 2007, a House Resolution was introduced to call attention to the growing problem of crime on cruise vacations.  Until concrete changes are made, however, cruise vacationers are vulnerable and need to take precautions. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a crime or serious injury while aboard a cruise ship -- as either a passenger or a crew member -- you need to get legal counsel as fast as possible.
Why?  Because no matter how tired, upset, and overwhelmed you and your family may be -- as soon as possible and debarking the ship:
You need to nail down the evidence:  get witness statements before the passengers return to their everyday lives, in communities all across the country.
You need to take photos, gather whatever physical evidence is still at hand, and make reports to the proper authorities before the ship is cleaned and cleared of the circumstance.
Medical information needs to be gathered, too, as well as seeking proper and prompt treatment.
What can BloomLegal do?
What’s BloomLegal’s involvement here?
After watching the skyrocketing popularity of cruise vacations, and how New Orleans is becoming more and more popular as a Caribbean cruise destination port, Bloom Legal has had a growing concern about the lack of public awareness on the risks of cruise travel.  In January 2008, BloomLegal determined that its practice areas should expand to include helping victims of cruises gone wrong.
How can Bloom Legal help cruise victims and their families?
Americans harmed during a cruise -- either as a passenger or as a crew member -- will have significant legal fights ahead in order to obtain proper legal redress from the cruise line.  Jurisdictional hurdles (e.g., the application of foreign laws and international treaties) have to be met, as well as cruise line contracts appearing on the back of passenger tickets, with language insisting that any lawsuit has to be pursued in either Florida or California (depending on the particular cruise line’s choice of forum).
Someone stepping off a cruise ship and entering the City of New Orleans should know their legal rights and protect themselves as soon as possible.  The logistics of gathering evidence quickly is one thing.  Learning the federal and state laws that do apply is another.  And, right now the law is strict: cruise victims must get their case prepared, and filed of record, within one year or they will be barred from pursuing the claim.
For example, federal and state laws do exist that impose strict liability upon cruise lines, as a common carrier, for any assault upon a passenger by a cruise line employee.
Remember -- if you want to sue, then you need to act fast.  You have a one (1) year time limit to file your actual lawsuit, or your case will be barred.
BloomLegal wants to help cruise victims -- if you or a loved one has been the victim of a cruise vacation gone wrong, or you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at your earliest convenience.
For more information, check out these informative sites where actual cruise victims tell their stories, provide updates, and other assistance: International Cruise Victims Forum CruiseBruise.Com  Photo - Wikimedia

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