By David Slepkow: I am always seeking great material online to help consumers, and ultimately, the end users of the world wide web. So it came as no surprise when I Googled “cruise ship accident attorneys” and “cruise ship lawyers” that the there were so few lawyers with valid cruise ship experience.
Rhode Island Cruise ship lawyers
Honestly, I was researching some stuff online, as there has been so much in the news as of late about paying passengers dying, missing or getting sexually assaulted aboard cruise ships. So I decided to write a post about who I think the best cruise ship attorney is, and why. So here is what I did. Inter alia, I looked at:
- Web Saturation
- Peer Recognition
- Client Recognition
- Verdicts and Settlements
- Attorney Background and Like-ability.
First thing’s first. What is a cruise ship attorney? Well as simple as it sounds, and there not being a dictionary definition available, a cruise ship lawyer is a tort attorney who is versed in international conventions, maritime and admiralty law, but who also is versed in obscure treaties, as well as local and state laws dealing with the “law of the sea“. So obviously, a consumer should not hire just any ambulance chaser if they suffer a negligent or intentional injury on the high seas, or even in the territorial waters of the U.S. or several states.
I. Activism | cruise ship injury attorney
Activism is defined as: “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue” (See Webster’s Dictionary)
Of the many lawyers I have met and read about online, I can say without reservation, that Ehline is a serious activist when it comes to protecting injury victims both in and out of court. For example, attorney Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine infantryman, so we know right away he is a tough, no nonsense kind of fellow. So we know he takes this stuff seriously by his demeanor. But there is more, Ehline also roams the halls of congress asking for help.
Why does he do this? Simple. Not many passengers are aware that cruise ships are basically floating cities that are a law unto themselves. In fact, international treaties and agreements allow these ships to sail under foreign flags, and foreign, or non U.S. accountability laws. These vessels and their boss corporations are even able to escape paying certain federal and states taxes. For many years, cruise lines actively engaged in covering up rapes and other crimes aboard their ships, and still lobby congress hard to keep themselves from being accountable. In fact, Ehline is also mentioned as cruise ship attorney of the year in Hollywood Weekly Magazine.
a. The Passage Contract
Even the passenger contract forces injured victims to abide by certain rules, like lodging an administrative complaint prior to filing a suit, and even where a victim can even sue. For example, Princess Cruises forces passengers to sue in California (See passage contract here.) So with all this obfuscation, and the legal minefields put up by the cruise industry, many victims give up, and even the best negligence attorneys are scared away from dabbling in cruise ship law. Ehline law has actually brought legal malpractice claims against law firms who failed to protect cruise victims’ rights to sue in court. Ehline has been like a voice in the desert, warning passengers online and in press releases how they should approach these claims and how to remain safe whilst aboard and on shore excursions.
b. The Cruise Ship Passenger “Bill Of Rights” and Activism
Ehline Fighting to Push Cruise Legislation Introduced by Sen. Rockefeller to Protect Passengers
After a review of the cruise industry’s “bill of rights” for passengers, Ehline and and the ICV felt these new rules had been watered own by cruise ship lobbyists, inadequate. In reaction, Kendall Carver brought weight to bear on this, all the way to U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation initiated new legislation.
The Proposed Strengthening of the Law | cruise ship injury attorney
The proposed legislation by Rockefeller, would provide the government with new regulatory powers over the cruise industry and establish new regulations for travel agents selling cruises. Travel agents are responsible for approximately 70 percent of cruise ship ticket sales annually, and represented by the ASTA, who along with the cruise industry have a vested interest in the debate over the new legislation that has been introduced. This legislation could potentially change the manner that the cruise industry and travel agents, as well as their relationship with consumers.
The new safety standards would be included in the Cruise Passenger Act of 2013 referred to as S. 1340 and would include:
- Cruise lines having one year to provide the Department of Transportation (DOT) with a summary of terms for prospective passengers. Operators of the ships would be permitted six months to have these new standards posted on their websites. They will also be required to be included on promotional literature and advertising by the cruise line companies.
- The DOT will have the authority to fine companies that violate the passenger notification standards. These fines that may be imposed can be $25,000 per day and if there are continuing violations of the passenger notification standards it can be raised to the daily cap of $50,000 per day. If the violation is by an individual that is found to be willfully violating the regulations, the DOT can impose a fine as high as $250,000 and they may also imprisoned for up to one year.
- Under this piece of legislation S.1340 there is nothing that mentions specific standards for travel agents or any intermediaries who distribute cruise travel, whose largest percentage of their business is booking cruise travel.
- The DOT will create an Advisory Committee overseeing Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection. This committee will make recommendations that will improve consumer protection within the cruise industry, in a similar fashion to the Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protection.
- The DOT will be required to have a hotline and website for consumer complaints. They will have the power to investigate complaints and complaints that warrant further legal action, refer them to the Attorney General or applicable federal agency.
- The DOT will establish a director for victim support services and a cruise victim advocate. These positions will be to assist victims onboard cruise ships and to ensure that victims are aware of their rights while in international waters. These positions will ensure the victim has access to the appropriate law enforcement officers.
In the event that Rockefeller’s legislation becomes law under S.1340, the requirements for cruise lines in the United States, is that they must include in plain English on passengers contracts, advertising or promotions, will be affected. They will also be required to treat electronic confirmations involving the purchase of a cruise passage or any other form of communication in the same manner.
When there are violations of these laws by an individual or company the DOT has the ability to find them up to $50,000 per day, or by the case in the amount of up to $250,000. Although the bill is not clear, it is generally assumed that the provision of this information will be up to the travel agent or when sold through the agency channel, this will also be responsible for notifying consumers.
Concerned Industry and Committee Members
The DOT is known for fining travel agencies in the aviation consumer protective provisions for violations, for things like full-price advertising and code-share notification. Under the new legislation the DOT would have power over cruise sales and this is causing concern for the cruise line industry, travel agencies and some committee members.
Senator Mark Begich a democrat from Alaska is co-chairman of the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus and is a strong supporter of the industry. When S.1340 would go into effect, it is limited to cruise lines, as international industry related associations, public interest groups, federal agencies, state and local governments. The one group that is not mentioned in this legislation is travel agents. The bill could be improved by the committee by adding the travel agency industry into the bill.
Senator Rockefeller has added to more pieces of legislation that would reduce tax preferences for the cruise industry and would increase the tax burdens of cruise lines. One piece of legislation is S. 1449, which is to close a tax loophole that is currently to the benefit of the cruise industry so that they are able to avoid being required to pay U.S. income taxes. The other S. 1450 will is a bill that will require cruise lines to pay an excise tax of 5 percent on the income that is generated by using U.S. ports for their cruise departures and arrivals.
Travel Weekly weighed in on these two bills with an estimate of nearly $1 billion annually that the cruise line industry would pay in taxes. The estimate was based on the annual cruise industry reports from 2012.
It is assumed that while the travel agency is not directly mentioned in the legislation, the enhanced taxation would have an effect on the travel agency industry and the travel agency industry’s trade association has said they will work to protect their interests and will stay involved in this debate.
Even though Sen. Rockefeller has the ability to push the acceptance of S. 1340, there will be no movement on it, until mid-September and is likely to meet some resistance by the opposition and by Republicans who may feel the legislative power that will be provided to the DOT maybe too broad. Cruise ship injury attorney, Ehline will be in DC November 17, 2013 to assist the ICV in lobbying, as a volunteer. Clearly, Ehline Law is an activist in the area of victim’s rights.
II. Web Saturation
A cursory search of Google revealed that cruise ship injury attorney, Ehline is everywhere when it comes to cruise ship law issues. In fact, he has a cruise ship law blog, a main site, and Ehline is mentioned in CNN, and numerous journals and publications directly as a source on maritime and passenger safety. In fact, here is a cool quote from the lead attorney to CNN:
“The cruise workers are paid by the cruise lines. Do you honestly think the cruise ship doctor will be favorable toward the victim?” says Michael Ehline, a maritime attorney in Los Angeles, California.
We also located hundreds of videos dealing with personal injury law, as well as this excellent youtube video:
Clearly, Ehline is everywhere when it comes to blogging, verdicts and settlements on the web. They hit a home run in this category.
III. Peer Recognition
So for this category, we looked at reviews from fellow attorneys. Ehline has an incredible record in this regard. He is mentioned positively for at least 44 fellow lawyer endorsements on AVVO alone.
IV. Client Recognition
We also found numerous reviews from past clients directly relating to cruise passenger negligence representation and representative cases by perusing the most recent verdicts and settlements. Ehline is also solid in this grouping.
V. Verdicts and Settlements
We were able to identify at least two cruise ship rape cases, as several slip and fall type cases that all resulted in a favorable payout to the victims. Some of the settlements were confidential, which is very common in cruise ship lawsuits. One this issue, Ehline points out is that there is a tax consequence to confidential settlements, and that the settlement must bear out that the benefit and taxable event is solely for the benefit of the cruise lines, not the victims. Again, it appears these cases are very tough. Ehline has a solid record with millions recovered here as well. So far so good.
VII. Like Ability
An often overlooked rating factor for lawyers, is how well clients and people in general like them. Society would tell us that everyone hates lawyers until they need one. But there is truth to the concept that attorneys are not well liked. Many people consider lawyers to be arrogant, elitists, etc. So we are very please to announce that Ehline does not fall into the traditional category. First, Ehline went straight into the military out of high school, then when honorable discharged, went into sales, marketing and business ownership. He went from success to failure, to success again. The roller-coaster of life led him to sell off his companies and study law in a law office, eventually going broke. Ehline made the most of it, and studied law under the Los Angeles City Attorney, and worked at a Home Depot at night. This is one tenacious guy, you just can’t help but like. So I thing Ehline has proven himself to be a true master of disaster and champion for the people and even of the people. This is a great attorney, and a great guy. We think anyone injured in a cruise ship accident, should give Ehline a call at 213.596.9642. For the best cruise ship lawyer in America, we think we got this one nailed for you.