There’s no doubt about it – maritime law is particularly complex, and plenty of people don’t even realize that there are specific laws governing accidents that occur on the water. It’s unfortunate that this area of law is so poorly understood, because it affects plenty of Floridians. With 1,197 miles of coastline, 914,535 registered boats, and an estimated $10.56 billion economic contribution from the boating industry in 2013, the ocean is essential to many Floridians’ lives.
Whether we’re vacationing on a cruise ship, working on an oil rig, riding a ferry, or taking our boat out for a weekend fishing trip, maritime law affects us. You might be surprised to learn that maritime law (also referred to as admirality law) doesn’t just apply to the ocean – it extends to accidents and injuries that occur on or around any body of water.
Our modern maritime legal system can be traced back to 1920, when Congress passed the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a measure designed to protect anyone who works at sea if they are injured during the course of their employment. It allows plaintiffs to bring a personal injury action in federal court and collect compensation if their injury was caused by the negligence of their employer.
Today, the Jones Act still protects those who work at sea, but it also extends to many other people who may be injured while on the water. Your case might fall under maritime law if you are a:
People usually don’t embark on a cruise worrying that they are going to suffer an injury. Cruises are supposed to be fun and stress-free – you lounge on deck, enjoy the onboard entertainment, and visit new places. What’s there to worry about?
Unfortunately, cruise ship injuries are a lot more common than you might think .That’s because there’s a lot that can go wrong at sea – a fire could break out in the engine room, an elderly guest could slip and fall on a wet deck, or a bad meal could cause mass food poisoning, just to name a few. And the worst part is that there’s not always access to good medical care.
In early 2013, a Carnival Cruise ship proved that everything that can go wrong will go wrong when an engine room fire shut down its power, propulsion, sewer, and air-conditioning systems and left passengers stranded at sea for four days. Lately, that story has gotten even more outrageous as evidence has emerged that Carnival knew of the fire risk before this ship set sail.
The high-profile Carnival incident has led many people to ask just how common cruise accidents are and what kinds of injuries people can suffer, even if their ship doesn’t encounter any major issues. Some of the most common accidents that occur on cruise ships are:
Slip and falls. It’s not unusual for decks on cruise ships to become slick, especially near swimming pools, and if passengers fall and seriously injure themselves, they may not be able to get medical attention until the next port.
Injuries due to fires. Between 1990 and 2011, there have been 79 reported fires on board cruise ships. Fires can seriously damage the ship and put passengers at risk, and they can be particularly dangerous for the crew members who have to put the fire out.
Food poisoning. If food isn’t stored properly on board the cruise ship, or if a refrigeration unit stops working, guests may spend an unfortunate amount of their trip confined to their rooms.
Infections. When conditions on a cruise ship become unsanitary, as they did on the beleaguered Carnival cruise ship mentioned above, the risks of passengers getting an infection increases significantly.
Medical malpractice. You don’t have access to a full hospital when you’re on a cruise ship – medical staff and resources are limited, so if you do have to seek medical attention, you might not get the quality of care that you need.
Wrongful death. Deaths onboard cruise ships are relatively rare, thankfully, but they still happen. For example, in 2010, two passengers aboard a Louis Cruise Lines ship were killed after 26-foot waves that the crew had not anticipated slammed into the vessel.
If you’re injured on a cruise ship, a ruined vacation might be the least of your worries. Injuries can have long-lasting effects, especially if you don’t receive proper treatment in a timely manner. Some injuries even prevent people from returning to work or being able to enjoy their lives to the extent they did before the accident.
If you suffer a cruise ship injury or other type of maritime accident, you may feel both angry that those in charge of your vessel let this happen and helpless to do anything about it. You need to know that you’re not powerless in this situation. If your injury was caused by a mechanical error or the negligence of another person, you should be able to receive monetary compensation.
Because maritime law is such a complex topic, you shouldn’t try to file a lawsuit and build your case all on your own. You also shouldn’t just walk into the nearest law office to find an attorney to represent you. Few attorneys have experience in this area of law, and the state of Florida actually requires that lawyers become certified to practice in this field. If you work with an attorney who doesn’t understand this unique branch of the law, you’ll have a difficult time winning your case.
Lawlor, White & Murphey has over 40 years of experience with maritime litigation – and that can make all the difference for your case. To learn more about what we can do for you, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, fill out our contact form, or call us in South Florida at 954-525-2345 or Toll-Free at 855-347-5475. Initial consultations are free, and if you decide to work with us, you won’t have to pay us anything until we recover the compensation you deserve.