Last month, court-appointed experts delivered a 270-page report of what went wrong that night based on an analysis of data recorders, ship communications equipment, testimony and other evidence.
The experts, who included two admirals and two engineers, laid most of the blame for the collision with the reef and the botched evacuation on Schettino. But they also noted that not all crew members understood Italian, not all had current safety and evacuation certifications, and not all passengers had had the chance to participate in evacuation drills.
Schettino's lawyers had sought to have the captain's Indonesian helmsman attend the hearing, but Judge Valeria Montesarchio turned down the request.
Lawyers for some survivors and some families of the victims are seeking to point blame at the corporate level, alleging negligence. Among them is Peter Ronai, a lawyer for the family of a Hungarian violinist on the ship who, survivors recounted, helped children don life vests before perishing himself.
"The reason people died was not the captain" alone, Ronai told reporters before going into the hearing. "There was no reason for anyone to die."
Passengers have recounted scenes of chaos during the disaster, with the lights going out after the initial collision, plates and glasses smashing to the ground and crew members giving conflicting, confusing directions.
Many of the lifeboats became stuck and couldn't be lowered because the boat was listing too far to one side. Some of the 4,200 people aboard jumped into the Mediterranean and swam to Giglio, while others had to be plucked from the ship by rescue helicopters hours after the collision.
"The ship was as big as a shopping mall, there was dark, there was absolute chaos, men were pushing women away, children in the back," Ronai said. He said the reason people died was because the corporation was "negligent in practices and safety procedures."
Schettino has insisted that by guiding the stricken ship into shallower waters near Giglio's port instead of immediately ordering an evacuation he potentially saved lives. He has claimed that another official, not he, was at the helm when the ship struck.
The timeline in the experts' report, however, makes clear that Schettino had assumed command six minutes before the ship struck the reef.
An American lawyer representing more than 150 people in U.S.-based lawsuits against Carnival Corp. said he came from Mississippi to closely follow evidence that could be useful in his cases. Aside from seeking compensation for his clients, John Arthur Eaves Jr. said he was pushing for improved standards in the cruise industry.
"There is a consistent pattern of lack of discipline . . . and communication problems," he told reporters. "This accident will happen again."
"The sooner we can resolve it, the sooner these victims can get back to rebuilding their lives," Eaves added.