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Miami Cruise Injury Lawyers Review Tragic Deaths Serving as a Cautionary Tale Regarding Deficient Ship Safety Standards & Limitations of Death on the High Seas Act

Although cruises are inherently exciting because of the almost unlimited choices of entertainment, excursions, and recreational activities, an international cruise on the Amazon offers a unique experience.  While this type of adventure also could pose potential dangers, most cruise passengers presume their cruise line complies with or exceeds industry safety standards.  This assumption is inaccurate in some cases.  Although a fatally injured passenger might have a right to pursue a lawsuit seeking damages, this can be a difficult task to the extent the Death on the High Seas Act represents the controlling law.  In this blog, our cruise ship injury lawyers review a cruise ship tragedy that reveals the vulnerability of passengers.

Larry and Christie Hammer, an elderly married couple embarked on an Amazon River cruise offered by a Peruvian company.  While the couple was sleeping in their cabin, a power strip supplied by the cruise company and used by the plaintiff to power his CPAP machine caused a fire.  Even after the couple’s cabin was engulfed in flame, no fire alarms sounded.  Mr. Hammer died on the scene, and his wife died from carbon dioxide poisoning on the way to a hospital.  Because fire alarms did not alert the Hammers and crew members of the fire, the fire raged on for 21 minutes before any cruise personnel came to the couple’s aid. 

While the lack of properly functioning fire alarms was troubling, a number of other safety violations also contributed to the terrible tragedy.  The cabins were not comprised of fire resistant materials despite existing requirements.  The situation was even more hazardous because the night staff were not certified in basic safety nor were they trained in responding to emergencies.

The surviving daughters of the couple told a media source that the fairly new cruise ship (4-year-old) had been dubbed by the cruise company as “the best on the Amazon.”  Given the way the ship was promoted along with the recent vintage of the vessel, the passengers could reasonably have had a false sense of security regarding the ship’s safety procedures and equipment.  The report observed that working smoke detectors or properly trained staff might have saved the lives of the couple.

A Peruvian Navy report in the wake of the tragedy found that the incident was preventable in several ways.  The report concluded the deaths could have been prevented if the luxury ship had been equipped with the safety features advertised by the company.  An English translation of the report indicated in pertinent part: “Prompt action was not taken to aid and rescue the passengers.  An opportune reaction and participation by the whole of the crew … would have enabled at least Mrs. Christy Hammer to be saved.”

Although the surviving daughters were investigating a lawsuit for the death of their parents, limitations on damages available under the nearly one-hundred-year-old law governing fatalities on the “high seas” pose a problem.  Under the Death on the High Seas Act, damages are determined based on whether the decedents have parents and their future lost earnings.  Because the couple was elderly, this law might have a limited recovery in a lawsuit to only funeral/burial expenses.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families during Cruises

The attorneys at our law firm recognize these types of hardships associated with pursuing a claim for serious injury or death and work tenaciously to find alternative strategies and remedies for our clients.  Our Miami cruise injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to pursue the results you desire.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.



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