Court Radio: Cruise Ship Accident in Mediterranean Highlights What You Need to Know About Travel Law

The grounding and capsizing of the huge Costa Concordia cruise ship off the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, on Jan. 13 is a reminder to all of us that when you travel, it’s good to know your legal rights when disaster strikes.

At least 12 people died in the disaster, and another 20 are still missing, according to news accounts, after the ship struck a rocky ledge just off the island, causing it to quickly take on water and rush precariously to its side.

The tragic incident will be the focus of tomorrow’s live Court Radio broadcast at 7 a.m. Sunday when the topic of travel accidents, including cruise ship maritime law, will be discussed by host and attorney, Dean Weitzman, and his co-host and fellow attorney, David Rapoport.

Court Radio is broadcast live every Sunday morning on Philadelphia’s WRNB 100.3 FM, with a simulcast on Magic 95.9 FM in Baltimore. You can also listen live on the Internet at WRNB 100.3 or on Magic 95.9 via streaming audio.

Maritime attorney James Perry II, who will be the special guest on Court Radio on Jan. 22, 2012, to discuss the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster. Photo courtesy Perry & Neblett P.A.

The special guest for the show will be James H. Perry II, a maritime attorney with Perry & Neblett P.A. in Miami, Fla. Mr. Perry, a native of Vineland, N.J., has been practicing maritime law since 1993. He is a 1988 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a 1993 graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. He is a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, the Florida Yacht Brokers Association and the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute. He has published articles relating to admiralty and maritime law and is a frequent lecturer for continuing legal education courses and commercial trade organizations. He also serves on the Admiralty Law Committee for the Florida Bar.

On the radio program, Mr. Perry will discuss the legal rights of travelers on cruise ships and what the passengers on the ill-fated Costa Concordia might now face if they wish to file lawsuits in connection with the disaster that unfolded last weekend.

All of a passenger’s rights are generally laid out in legalese on the ticket that one receives from their cruise line, or from an airline, train operator or bus company, depending on your mode of travel, Mr. Perry said in an interview. “It has all the fine print and people put it away and usually nobody looks at it,” he said. “In that fine print it describes all the terms and conditions of the acceptance of your ticket. It describes your legal rights and the business relationship with your travel carrier related to luggage, personal injury, your rights to sue and limitations you have against providers of excursion trips in your travels.”

In an earlier blog post here on the MyPhillyLawyer blog, we described your legal rights and options when it comes to tour bus travel. Last year a rash of tour bus crashes occurred across the U.S., which led to the deaths of almost two dozen passengers. Whenever you travel on a common carrier, it’s smart to know your rights before you board the bus, cruise ship, aircraft or train.

The investigation into the Costa Concordia incident continues in Italy, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

“The Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew, hit rocks and capsized hundreds of feet last Friday when Capt. Francesco Schettino made an unauthorized detour from the ship’s programmed route,” the paper reported. “A recording of his conversation with the Italian coast guard shows he left the ship before all passengers were off, and resisted repeated orders to go back, saying the ship was tipping and it was dark.”

Costa Cruises is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise line operator, the paper reported.

The U.S. government is even getting involved as the story of the doomed ship continues to unfold. A story on Fox News online reported that “U.S. lawmakers are moving to review safety standards for cruise ships” after the incident, “calling the tragedy a ‘wake-up call.'”

Language barriers between the crew and some passengers, who were from all over the world, was a critical challenge that occurred in the midst of the disaster, according to news reports. More than 4,200 passengers and crew members were on board the ship when it hit the rocky ledge.

A story on NBC San Diego’s Web site reported that prospective passengers should take the time to find out about their cruise ship companies by searching the Internet to learn if there have been safety incidents with ships anywhere around the world. Passengers “who want the most safety can choose a cruise itinerary that doesn’t have stops at several ports of call,” the story reported. “Passengers can also seek out cruise lines where their native language is the primary language spoken on board. That can help in the midst of chaos.”

In the meantime, Carnival Corp., the operators of the ship, said it will “review all its cruise ships’ safety and emergency-response procedures” in light of the incident, according to a story from the UPI news service.

Be sure to listen in to Court Radio at 7 a.m. Sunday to hear the whole discussion with co-hosts Dean Weitzman and David Rapoport and their special guest, James Perry II.

You should know your rights when you travel so you can be sure to better protect you and your family if disaster strikes.

About Court Radio

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