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Maritime Experts Says Laws Protect Cruise Companies

5:50 PM, Jan 16, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For those who survive the cruise accident in Italy, $500 may be all the compensation Carnival cruise line, the parent company of the stricken ship, has to pay back.

That fee covers the survivors' clothing and luggage. As for those hurt or killed, "The recovery in a case of injury or death may be very limited," said maritime lawyer Rod Sullivan.

Sullivan, a maritime expert, said it's all due to the small print on the back of the passenger ticket and what is called the Athens Convention.

"The Athens Convention is an international convention which limits the liability of cruise lines to the $71,400 figure," said Sullivan.

That figure, Sullivan said, is per person and is all Carnival would have to pay by law.  Filing the lawsuit, he said, will be another issue.  "They have do it in Genoa, Italy.  So, they need an Italian attorney."

Sullivan said the U.S. is not part of the Athens Convention, but is instead under a different law. Sullivan said if a case like this happened here, the law leaves the cruise lines protected.

"The law with regard to passengers is old. It was written in 1920. It's some what better than the Athens Convention. If the ship goes down, there's a pool provided of $50 million in the case of a ship this size, and that would be split up among all the injured parties," said Sullivan.

Sullivan said cruise line companies have lobbied Congress for years to not change the law, and they have been successful.

He said there is a lesson to be learned from this tragedy: pay attention to the fine print on your ticket because you may not be as protected as you think.

"I get calls from Australia probably once, twice a year saying, 'I or family member was injured on a cruise in Australia with Royal Caribbean.  And I understand from the back of the ticket I have to come to Miami to file a lawsuit, can they really do that?'  I have to tell them, 'Unfortunately yes, you do,'" said Sullivan.

Sullivan also said there are insurance options one can buy from the cruise company or through private insurance which will cover more for the loss of luggage.



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