Top Causes for Boat Accident Injuries

A boat accident can occur for a variety of reasons.  On July 28, 2012, there was a boat accident in the middle of Petite Lake around 150 yards from the shore and a person was killed in the accident.  The victim was being pulled on a tube behind a boat.  He fell off the tube and was hit by another boat.  The Operator of the boat was charged with OUI (Operation under Influence) and Careless or Reckless Operation and Inattention. Operators Inexperience is one of the main reasons for boat accidents.  Other reasons include but not limited to:

Behavior of the Passengers
The Operator is responsible for the actions of the passengers while the boat is in operation.  He should keep them seated and ensure that the passengers are wearing personal safety equipment.

Weather and Water Conditions
High winds can cause the waters very treacherous.  The Operator should listen to the weather forecast before operating the boat.

Failure of the Equipment
If a car or bus breaks down, we could get it easily repaired immediately from a nearby garage or workshop.   Repairing of a boat in the middle of the water is difficult.  Therefore, it is important to make sure that all the equipment in the boat are in good condition before starting the cruise.  The Operator and the Owner of the boat are responsible for doing regular maintenance of the boat.

Reckless or Careless Operation
The Operator should operate the boat carefully.  Allowing a passenger to ride on the bow may be termed as carelessness.  Reckless or Careless Operation can be defined as the operation of a boat carelessly or negligently causing danger to life, limb or property of persons onboard and in other boats.

Failure to Yield
The Operators must understand and obey the rules of navigation.  Failure to yield is the main reason for collision of vessels.

Operating Under Influence
The Operator of a boat should obey the same laws regarding alcohol consumption that are applicable to the driver of a car or bus.

The boat must not carry in excess of the permitted weight or number of passengers.  The Operator and Owner are responsible for crossing the limit for the maximum weight or number of individuals in the boat.

Congested and Hazardous Waters
The waters with strong current and turbid areas are dangerous for rafts or canoes.  The vertical movement and horizontal flow of the water can make the water hazardous.  Further, if the water is congested with many boats, it is prone to accidents.

Excessive Speed
Excessive speed can also cause accidents.  If the speed of the boat is low, the Operator could see the people and other objects in the water so that he could avoid accidents.  The Operator is responsible for keeping the speed limit under the conditions existed.


Modern Maritime Piracy

Pirates have changes a lot since the romanticized swashbucklers of previous centuries. Modern maritime piracy is a violent and widespread criminal culture that employs heavy weaponry and war-like tactics. International maritime law continues to struggle to keep up with the ever changing and expanding modern pirate trade.

Modern Piracy Laws

The general legal definition of piracy describes it as a criminal act of destruction, violence, or confinement of people or property on board a boat or ship committed by one or more private citizens. This broad definition also indicates that the criminal act of piracy must happen outside the jurisdiction of any country, state, or nation. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, has a lengthier and more detailed legal definition of piracy, which extends beyond maritime law to include piracy which takes place aboard aircraft. Continue reading

NYC’s Atlantic Highlands to Wall St. Ferry Crashes

115282-the-seastreak-wall-street-ferry-f48bcPolice and fire officials say 59 people injured and two passengers are in serious condition when a ferry from New Jersey struck a dock during rush hour, at approximately 8.45 a.m. at South Street Seaport  in lower Manhattan. News reports say the Seastreak Wall Street catamaran ferry from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., banged into the mooring as it arrived.  City officials said the ferry hit two slips and was traveling at about 10-12 knots, equal to 11-15 mph.

There were 326 passengers and five crew members on board the privately operated Seastreak vessel at the time of the accident, according to New York City’s transportation commissioner and the U.S Coast Guard

Some patients were carried out strapped to flat-board stretchers, their heads and necks immobilized. About a dozen passengers on stretchers were spread out on the dock, surrounded by emergency workers and firefighters.

In 2003, 11 people were killed and 160 injured when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a pier on Staten Island after its pilot passed out at the wheel. This incident resulted in over $60 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the crash. In addition, NYC has already paid $5.96 million to repair the ferry and another $1.5 million to fix the damaged pier.  The City expected to spend an additional $23 million more  to implement safety measures on boats and on repair costs related to the disaster.

Three people were badly hurt and about 40 injured when the same ferry hit the same pier in 2010, due to a lost of break power. Lawsuits against the city have been filed, however,  settlements on these suits are not expected to reach as high as they have for the earlier incident due to a number factors. First, there were not as many injured as the 2003 crash and there were no deaths. Secondly, the 2003 crash resulted due to a number of improprieties that the city was held responsible for, namely, the captain being on painkillers and overworked.

Until this crash is investigated and a reason is found for the cause of the crash, lawsuits may remain on hold. In the earlier ferry crashes, claims were made against the city of New York as they owned and operated the Staten Island Ferry. This ferry was privately operated, owned by a company operating as “SeaStreak”.

While the Seastreak Ferry website states that it is a privately held company owned by the Barker and Tregurtha Families, News Reports and Wikipedia report that Seastreak;

… began operation in 1986 as Express Navigation. In 1999 Sea Containers Ltd. acquired Express Navigation for $5 million, The company was renamed SeaStreak. SeaStreak has been a subsidiary of New England Fast Ferry since 2008. The acquisition was a result of its former parent owner Sea Containers Ltd. filing for bankruptcy in 2006.

Prior to it’s 2006 bankruptcy, SeaStreak had been considering a sale of the company to a number of interested parties. Financial troubles are not new to the companies operating ferry service to and from New Jersey. In 2003, NY Fast Ferry, which ran out of Highlands, declared bankruptcy and ceased operations; some media reports noted that it could not compete with NY Waterway, was subsidized after 9/11. This only leads us to wonder if possible shortcuts could have been taken with safety on the Seastreak’s fleet as an effort to cut costs.

The State does not regulate ferry operations as it does with trains and buses, and as such, there is no direct oversight.   As the accident is further investigated, the details of the cause will be reported here.

Update, January 21, 2013: The New York Post reports the first lawsuit against SeaStreak has been filed. The attorney for the injured man claims he had to take action immediately as SeaStreak has filed a claim in federal court seeking to limit its liability under the 1851 “Limitation of Liability Act”.

That claim would require a single proceeding for any claims that are filed, and would limit the amount of claims against the company resulting from the lawsuit to the total value of the ferry at the time of the accident. SeaStreak received a ‘valuation certificate’, or appraisal, shortly after the accident occurred.

Monmouth County attorney Randolph Wolf explains;

“Under this law, SeaStreak will only be permitted limited liability if they can prove they lacked ­knowledge of the problem that caused the accident before the accident occurred”.

Hiring A Maritime Attorney? Heres What You Need to Know

Article Courtesy of Jack O’Donnell, New Haven, CT

Anyone involved in a maritime accident should hire an experienced attorney who can help them decide the best course of action to take. Maritime accidents are very complicated to handle, and any personal injury lawyer will not be able to handle a maritime injury case. Maritime law addresses situations that arise in the waters, but different kind of maritime accidents have different claims. Before you contact a maritime personal injury lawyer, here are some of the things to consider. Continue reading

Do I Tow or Salvage After Marine Peril?

Article By Mario Madrid of Houston, TX

Many boat owners discover the difference between salvaging and towing the hard way when they experience it first-hand in a time of need. After being rescued from marine peril, sailors are sometimes surprised at the size of the salvage bill.

To understand the difference between towing and salvaging, boat owners must first understand the concept of “marine peril.” Marine peril is a situation that could pose a danger to the boat, the marine environment or other vessels if the boat in question is left behind. Continue reading

Sailors Diagnosed with Mesothelioma, Asbestos in Navy Ships Suspected

Written By Lauren Nikulicz, Expert Legal Writer for King Law Offices in Greenville, SC

Brave sailors who worked on Navy ships throughout World War II and the Korean War are still holding onto bits of the past, through no fault of their own.  They had no idea that one of the biggest risks during the war would be their constant exposure to asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma.  Today, maritime law issues are popping up across the country, and courts are trying to decide who and what should be held accountable.

Asbestos is a mineral whose fibers can be used to weave cloth.  It has been around for centuries and is most commonly used in insulation — it’s great against heat, electricity and sound, on top of being fireproof and chemically inert.  Starting in World War II and continuing into the 1970′s, asbestos was used in more than 3,000 products.  In the shipyards, asbestos insulation was used to cover almost all of the wiring as well as being used in boiler rooms and over pipe fittings. Continue reading

When Sun Loungers Attack

Just when you thought going on holiday on a luxury cruise ship was safe, the furniture comes after you.  Shantelle Taylor, a trainee lawyer in the UK, was viciously attacked while on board the P&O cruise liner Aurora in 2004.  The sun lounger, possibly fueled by rejection or a sense of occupancy entitlement, used the wind to hurl itself at poor Miss Taylor, who was only 14 years old at the time.  For the duration of the £20,000 three week cruise through the Caribbean, Taylor was able to withstand the soft tissue injury.  But upon returning to the cold and unforgiving United Kingdom, her injury quickly morphed into crippling chronic pain syndrome.
Continue reading

When Maritime Accidents Cause Tragedy

When maritime accidents cause tragedy

Accidents can happen on seas just as well as they do on the inland. The U.S. Coast Guard’s annual report reveals that they respond each year to around 28,000 offshore accidents. These incidents can have very serious consequences, including traumatic injuries or even death for the involved individuals, consistent financial losses and property damage or even a negative impact on the environment due to fuel leakage. The most common types of offshore accidents include capsizing, collisions, crushing, fires or explosions and overboard or sinking incidents.

The causes which lead to such devastating events are various, but human error seems to be the first among them. Negligence or recklessness of the ship owner’s, operator’s or captain’s is almost always among the reasons why a maritime accident takes place. Other common causes are equipment malfunction and extreme weather conditions.

Maritime accidents can affect anyone on board a ship. However they are more likely to occur among seamen as they spend a considerably longer period of time on seas.  The legal term “seamen” covers all maritime employees who spend at least 1/3rd of their time on navigable waters. They can be officers, cruise ship crew members, employees of commercial vessels, fishermen or even technical specialist working aboard ships. As the risks they are exposed to were always obvious in 1920 the U.S. Congress passed into law the Merchant Marine Act. The document also known as the Jones Act is a set of federal laws which allow injured seamen to sue their employers for negligence or simply for requiring them to work on an unseaworthy vessel.

Of course like all other employees injured seamen can also apply for financial compensation based on Worker’s Compensation. However that is not their best choice. Worker’s Compensation only covers medical bills, while the Jones Act can bring more consistent benefits as it covers future medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering and future costs of living. If the injury suffered was severe enough to cause the death of a seaman, the Jones Act can again be useful. The surviving family can receive death benefits according to it. However both victims and their families have to be careful not to sign any agreements with the employer or with any insurance company as this action might result in the loss of their right to further benefits.

Passengers or any other individuals who are not seamen but still suffered some kind of injury aboard a vessel cannot file claims based on the Jones Act. They have however the right of financial compensation for their losses. Ship owners or operators have the legal responsibility to assure a relatively safe environment to those aboard their vessels. If they fail to do so, they can be held responsible legally. All accidents and injuries which occurred on navigable waters fell under the incidence of maritime laws. That means all injured individuals will need a maritime attorney for legal representation. Simple personal injury lawyers shouldn’t and usually do not accept handling maritime cases because of their complexity and the different legal procedures. Only a specialized lawyer will know how to build a strong case and how to file the claims to obtain the best possible compensation for his client.

Carnival Cruise Ship Crashes off Italy

At least three people were killed and about 40 were missing after a Carnival Corp. cruise ship with 4,229 passengers and crew ran aground near the island of Giglio off the west coast of Italy.

The Costa Concordia hit rocks near the island late yesterday a few hours after sailing north from Rome, said Gianni Onorato, the general manager of Carnival’s Costa Crociere line. Captain Francesco Schettino, after assessing the damage, decided to secure the ship and gave the evacuation order, he said. The ship has since sunk.

The ship’s captain, Schettino, was detained and accused of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship, Italy’s Ansa news service reported, citing Francesco Verusio, the prosecutor in the city of Grosseto. The accident was due to a “reckless maneuver” as the ship was too close to the island, Ansa reported, citing Verusio. Some passengers reported that the ship’s captain was at dinner when the accident occurred, while cruise line officials reported him to be on the ship’s bridge.

While Carnival stated that emergency procedures started immediately, many passengers who were later interviewed reported that the ship’s crew did not order evacuation immediately, and that when they did the instructions were unclear. Many passengers were unable to board the lifeboats and had to be rescued by helicopter, either directly from the ship or from the sea.  The first coast guard boats arrived as soon as 10 minutes after the accident.

Update Jan 16: Coast Guard officials reportedly tried to convince the ship’s captain to go back to his sinking ship after he left before all the passengers were off, contrary to Italian maritime law.  A captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.

The cause of the shipwreck is now being blamed on the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, who had steered too closely to shore in order to impress tourists. He has been arrested and is facing multiple counts of manslaughter, in addition to charges for causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

Rescue crews recovered two more bodies overnight, and rescued three people. Nearly 40 people are still missing.

Fire Aboard Norwegian Cruise Ship Kills Two

Police suspect an on-board explosion may have been the cause of fire that resulted in two deaths of crew members aboard a cruise ship off Norway’s coast yesterday. The cruise ship, carrying 307 passengers and 55 crew members, began evacuating at 9 a.m. Nine people had been admitted to a nearby hospital, two with serious burns and smoke injuries.

Chief of Aalesund’s fire brigade, Geir Thorsen said firefighters were in control of the fire nearly six hours after the fire began, but the ship was taking in water and listing 10 degrees. “Our main challenge now is the stability of the ship,” he said. Two units of firefighters specializing in offshore fires were involved in the operation.