Going on vacation on a cruise ship should be one of the most exciting and unforgettable experiences you can have. However, what should have been the perfect getaway can turn into a living nightmare after a loved one is reported missing. It shouldn’t be surprising to see cruise ships and their cruise line try and dodge liability for these kinds of traumatic incidents aboard their ships.
Reports of passengers going overboard on cruise ships, deaths and disappearances, have become much more prevalent in the past 10 to 15 years. I’ve been handling maritime cases for more than 30 years, and the last 10 to 15 years have brought to light many more deaths and disappearances than I had seen previously. The most recent case discussed involves a murder.
Although exact statistics have not been revealed regarding the number of passengers who have disappeared or who have gone overboard on a cruise ship, because the cruise ship companies have not been required by any legal obligation to maintain or report such information, the disappearance of honeymooner, George Smith IV, during his honeymoon cruise, brought to light the issue of cruise passenger disappearances and passengers going overboard during a cruise.
Our Miami maritime attorneys fight aggressively and strategically on behalf of those who were injured or lost at sea. We can help you file a claim against the cruise ship responsible for the loss of your loved one. Call our law offices today for a free, confidential consultation on your case. Contact Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. today at (866) 386-1762.
What to Do if Your Family Member Disappears on a Cruise Ship?
Our firm represented the parents of George Smith IV in their case against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, seeking answers from the cruise ship company how their son could have gone overboard during his honeymoon cruise. There were reports of a fight in the cabin, including blood found in the cabin during an investigation, which suggested foul play. The authorities were pursuing the case as one of foul play. There were allegations that the investigation was not properly done at the beginning which resulted in the inability to provide the answers the Smith family desperately sought.
We have handled several cases involving a passenger who has gone overboard during their cruise. As to the liability of the cruise ship company, the typical duty of the cruise ship company is to exercise reasonable care for the safety of the passengers. This includes providing adequate security aboard the ship to prevent “foul play” from causing injury or death to any of their passengers. The duty of reasonable care may also include monitoring the sale and consumption of alcohol, which often leads to incidents aboard vessels, which have included cruise ship passenger disappearances as well as sexual assaults and rapes.
The cruise ship company also has the duty to conduct an appropriate search and rescue effort after learning that a passenger is missing.
Liability for a Missing Family Member in a Cruise Ship
Traveling on a cruise sounds like the perfect getaway. Every year, thousands of people book their stay on these massive ships to visit different destinations and have a great time in a stress-free environment. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation can be different. While fun and entertaining, cruise ships are also inherently dangerous. Over the years, thousands of accidents, injuries, and deaths have happened on board cruise ships around the world. As a passenger, you would expect the cruise ship staff to take excellent care of you and your loved ones. However, many cruise ships will try to maximize profit even if it means compromising – or even sacrificing – their passengers’ safety.
Over the years, there have been numerous reports of people going missing from cruise ships. What is even more disturbing is that many cruise lines have gone the extra mile to delay – and sometimes cover up – reporting a missing person. Unfortunately, many passengers are led to believe that they will be protected by staff and crew at all times. Sadly, this is not the case.
Fortunately, if your loved one was lost in a cruise ship or was otherwise hurt while on a cruise, you may hold the cruise line accountable. It is in your best interest to retain the services of a skilled Overboard Accident attorney who can guide you through the claim process against a cruise line.
Coverups by Cruise Ship Companies Related to Passenger Disappearances
My office, Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A., represented the family of George Smith, who was on his honeymoon aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship when he went missing. His case is discussed in the article. It was believed he was the victim of foul play, but it was never proven. The FBI kept an active file for several years before finally closing it without ever solving what really happened to George Smith. There was evidence that there was some type of fighting in his cabin the night he went missing, and blood was found on the canopy below his balcony, showing that he had fallen off the balcony, struck the canopy and fell into the waters. His body was never recovered so there was no forensic evidence to develop. Without a body, it is very difficult to solve a mystery of a passenger disappearing. In addition, the onboard evidence got contaminated due to the cruise line’s failure to have a prompt and adequate investigation, and the FBI’s involvement came too late to solve what happened.
Many experts criticized the cruise line in the George Smith case as having botched the investigation, and even suggested there had been an intentional cover-up of the incident which prevented proving what happened. I personally boarded the cruise ship with famous Dr. Henry Lee, who performed the forensic evaluation, albeit way too late to obtain meaningful evidence. He attempted to re-create the incident where George Smith fell from the balcony, and inspected the canopy below for any residue blood that might have still been present. However, the cruise ship company blocked our attempt to use a dummy model to simulate the incident, preventing the full and complete investigation Dr. Henry Lee really wanted to do. There were a few suspects who were focused on by the FBI, but there were never any arrests made in the disappearance of George Smith.
Common Accidents that Lead to Missing Persons Aboard Cruise Ships
A few different types of accidents aboard a ship are often responsible for falls overboard that lead to missing persons incidents on cruise ships.
Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are some of the most common accidents in cruise ships. At a glance, an accidental slip and fall may not sound “as bad” compared to many other types of accidents. However, they still carry the potential of causing devastating injuries. Depending on the angle of the fall, a person may hit their head, back, or arms against the ship’s deck. Depending on the extent of the hit, a person may suffer from things such as concussions, contusions, and broken bone injuries, among other debilitating conditions. If they fall into the water with these injuries, they could become lost.
Trips and Falls
People may also trip and fall on a cruise ship. Cruise ship workers are supposed to keep all areas of the ship free from any dangers, including any loose objects that may cause a person to trip. The reason why these accidents are serious is because they can lead to devastating consequences. Like slip and fall accidents, tripping and falling may lead to severe injuries that can persist for a long time. If you or a loved one was injured in a trip and fall accident while on a cruise ship, we can help, especially if the injuries led them to fall overboard.
Involvement of Alcohol in Going Overboard on a Cruise Ship
We have handled cases involving the sale of alcohol which was reportedly l linked to the disappearance or blamed as the cause of the passenger going overboard, as well as inadequate search and rescue efforts which contributed to the failure to promptly locate and save the missing passenger.
Other Accidents Involving Falling Overboard
Overboard accidents happen more frequently than cruise lines care to admit. While statistics on the number of overboard incidents may seem low compared to the overall number of people participating in cruises, there is no justifiable reason for even one of these incidents to happen in the first place. It is the cruise ship’s responsibility – and the cruise line’s – to ensure everyone’s safety on board. Unfortunately, many people fall overboard because of dangerous conditions on the deck, broken railings, intoxication from being overserved, drugging incidents, and other dangers. Potentially, assault by a crewmember could even be the reason someone falls or is pushed overboard.
Suing for a Missing or Injured Person in a Cruise Ship
Cruise ships often deny responsibility for accidents, especially those that involve death or missing persons. Most of the time, cruise lines engage in this behavior because reporting these types of incidents may hurt their image. However, there are ways to hold these companies liable for your losses. Filing a lawsuit is one of the best ways to hold these companies responsible for the injuries and death they cause.
In our experience, this is the most effective way to bring negligent cruise lines to justice and make them responsible for your losses. The disappearance of a loved one on a cruise ship can be devastating. Cruise ships are supposed to do everything in their power to search and find your loved one. This includes performing an emergency search and rescue to rule out the possibility of an overboard accident. Our Florida boating accident attorneys can help you handle your case and help you bring those responsible to justice.
If Your Family Member Disappeared While on a Cruise, Our Attorneys Can Help
If you lost a loved one during a trip on a cruise, you deserve answers. Unfortunately, cruise lines may try to evade liability and say they had nothing to do with it. However, you can still fight to get the answers you seek. Our skilled, dedicated cruise ship accident and injury lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. can help you file claims against those responsible for your losses. We do not fear facing these mega-corporations, and we are ready to fight aggressively and strategically to get the results you deserve. Call our Miami Boat accident lawyers today for your free, confidential consultation. Our phone number is (866) 386-1762.
My firm has represented many family members whose loved ones have mysteriously disappeared or gone overboard and were never rescued on cruise ships. I have also appeared during Congressional Hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security, including discussions about the George Smith case and other instances of passengers going overboard. As a result of congressional hearings, legislation was passed, which included requirements that the cruise ship companies implement available technology for detecting when a passenger goes overboard so that prompt search and rescue efforts can be implemented. Despite this legislation, the majority of cruise ships have resisted implementation of this available technology.