Articles Tagged with Fires

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As a maritime attorney who’s been handling catastrophic injuries and death cases since 1983, I have always been an advocate to overturn the archaic law referred to as the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), which places severe limitations on the amount of money family members can receive when a loved one is killed on the high seas aboard a vessel, including cruise ships. There is simply no basis to restrict recovery in cases involving DOHSA aboard a ship.

A similar restriction applied in cases of airplane crashes resulting in deaths was amended by Congress to remove the pointless limitations on recovery involving airplane crash cases. However, Congress has always refused to do the same for Death on the High Seas cases involving ships, including cruise ships. It has been believed that the main reason is the strong lobbying efforts of the cruise ship industry, which is known to spend millions of dollars in lobbying and contributions each year. The Death on the High Seas Act is another example of favorable laws that the cruise ship companies enjoy that results in denying victims of personal injuries and deaths on cruise ships.

fireA fire at sea poses unique safety risks, risks passengers often do not consider before embarking on a cruise. When a fire breaks out on land, we have personnel who are highly trained in firefighting, responding with sophisticated equipment. When a fire breaks out aboard a cruise ship, we must rely on the crew members, in whatever training the cruise ship company has provided, responding with limited equipment.

Another obvious safety hazard present from a cruise ship fire is the inability to run somewhere for safety. Often times on land a quick escape is easy as there is a place to run to safety. On a cruise ship, there are limited areas where passengers can escape to, short of being evacuated off the ship. A shipboard evacuation of thousands of passengers is an enormous undertaking, which presents many safety hazards in and of itself. Most of us heard about the disaster with the Costa Concordia evacuation efforts.