On Tuesday, at least 12 people died and 18 were injured when a tour bus carrying Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers crashed on an excursion to the Mayan ruins in Mexico. It was one of the deadliest cruise ship shore excursion accidents to have taken place. Ironically, I was interviewed by NBC news last Thursday about the dangers present when going on cruise ships and the obstacles to legal recovery when harm befalls a passenger traveling on a cruise.
One of the cases we discussed is the case I am currently handling against Celebrity Cruises involving a horrible tour bus crash that occurred during a cruise-sponsored shore excursion in New Zealand. Celebrity promoted, marketed and sold tickets for this shore excursion, and even represented to the passengers that the cruise ship company only used the highest quality transportation services during the excursion. Our lawsuit claims that the bus driver was speeding and changing lanes frequently, and that the bus was poorly maintained and in bad condition, resulting in a horrible accident where the bus plummeted 100 ft. down a steep bank, severely injuring its passengers. Fortunately, no one was killed. After the accident, it was discovered that the transportation company employed by Celebrity had a poor safety record- a very similar prior accident resulting in a criminal prosecution due to an incompetent mechanic and faulty brakes.
In my interview, I discussed how shore excursions pose a potential danger to the millions of passengers who sail on cruise ships operating out of Miami, as the shore excursions take place in foreign countries where the passengers have no knowledge as to the safety record of the particular shore excursion company the cruise ship company is promoting and selling tickets for. I also discussed how the cruise ship company attempts to avoid liability for any of the incidents that happened during a shore excursion, typically arguing that the shore excursion companies are independent contractors. The lawsuit I filed on behalf of the injured passengers alleges various claims under several legal theories to defeat this argument and legally hold Celebrity Cruises responsible for such an incident. It is one of the intricate aspects of maritime law that an experienced maritime attorney needs to navigate carefully in order to obtain recovery for the passengers.
In the case that occurred today, the tragic accident resulted in the death of 12 passengers from the Celebrity Equinox and Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas ships. 8 of those passengers were American. Again, the cruise lines will attempt to argue that the shore excursion company is an independent contractor and will try to disclaim any liability for this tragedy involving 12 deaths. Under Maritime Law, there are legal theories to hold the cruise ship company accountable, which is what we are doing in our shore excursion case recently filed against Celebrity. We are waiting more details as to the cause of this tragedy. According to a preliminary investigation, the accident was caused by excessive speed and the driver’s negligence, the same causes alleged in our suit against Celebrity.
Our hearts are filled with sadness and sorrow for the family members of the passengers injured and killed in this tragic accident. Incidents such as these again emphasize the importance of holding the cruise lines accountable for accidents occurring during cruise-sponsored shore excursions. There needs to be legislation addressing this known danger. There have been way too many accidents involving transportation companies in foreign countries where the roads are treacherous and dangerous, the operators of these buses have proven to be incompetent, and the buses are not as well-equipped or as well-maintained as they are in the United States.
I have spoken in Congressional Hearings addressing maritime safety issues, and and I have advocated for legislative changes to hold the cruise ship companies more accountable and to make cruising safer for the millions of United States passengers who travel each year to foreign countries on these mega ships.There are several significant maritime issues involving compensation for injuries and deaths suffered during a shoreside excursion sold by a cruise ship company. Our cruise ship lawyers at Rivkind and Margulies, P.A., not only seek compensation on behalf of cruise ship victims, but also fight to make sure that cruise ships are safer for everyone.