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The Ultimate Guide to Boating and Cruise Ship Accidents

Boating accidents range from minor to fatal in severity. People risk injury or death when things go wrong on a boat or large ship. These are heavy vehicles that can prove deadly in the wrong hands. 

Boats are popular across the country. People purchase them for recreational purposes like fishing, boating, water skiing, and other water sports. Here in Florida, for example, boats are widespread in local waterways. In fact, many people live in Florida because boating is so popular and accessible, with hundreds of miles of coastline and a variety of lakes and rivers throughout the state. With almost a million registered vessels in Florida, the state leads the nation in the number of boaters.

Boating is a fantastic time when everyone is safe and follows basic boat safety rules. It’s a great way to spend the weekend when you’re on the water with friends and family. 

Click here to speak with an attorney. We’re here to offer you the support you and your family need.

Unfortunately, boating accidents and cruise ship injuries happen frequently. They can result in enormous medical bills, lost income, and other expenses. In addition, a boating incident can lead to lifelong disability or even death in cases of severe injury. 

This ultimate guide to boating and cruise ship accident claims will help you better assess whether you have a claim and how to pursue it. Working with the right legal team can make the difference in winning the compensation that you and your family deserve.

Here is your ultimate guide to boating and cruise ship accident claims. 

Common Boating Accident Causes

Many boating accidents happen when the driver or owner of a boat is negligent. Of course boaters don’t usually try to injure someone. Typically they fail to meet basic safety standards and operating procedures designed to keep themselves and the people on the water around them safe. 

When negligent boaters hurt others, they must be held accountable for their actions. A good lawyer will help you narrow down the reasons an accident occurred and what was the cause of any related injuries. 

Common boating accident causes include:

Alcohol-Related Accidents

Drinking and boating frequently go hand-in-hand. While drinking is perfectly fine, people should never operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Unfortunately, many boaters are overly confident in their abilities and keep captaining their boat while drunk. This can lead to water collisions, accidental capsizing, and other boat-related accidents. 

Failure to Heed Weather Warnings

Sometimes boating accidents happen when people ignore weather warnings. In severe weather, boats become much harder to control, leading to damage and other safety risks. 

Speeding

Speeding is one of the most common causes of boating accidents. When people speed in proximity to other boats, it can capsize them or injure people water skiing, wakeboarding, or simply swimming next to the boat. Therefore, boating speed regulations are typically conservative to discourage any dangerous behavior in unpredictable conditions. 

Poor Safety & Maintenance

Boats are recreational vehicles that require regular maintenance. In addition, local governments establish rules designed to keep people safe. Some standard rules include the use of floatation devices, hours of operation, speed limits, etc. 

When an owner or company operator fails to meet safety or maintenance standards, it can lead to boating injuries and other issues. 

Factors that Lead to Cruise Ship Accidents

Cruise ship accidents are usually more similar to personal injury claims in a hotel, restaurant, or some other property on land.

When passengers go on cruises, they rely on the company and its employees to keep them safe. Therefore, cruises present all of the common premises liability cases like slip and fall cases, negligence, etc., only they’re more complicated because they happen at sea. 

You’re essentially on a floating hotel.

Problems arise when staff is poorly trained, the ship is understaffed, or unsafe conditions lead to injuries or death.

  • According to CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association, 16 people died on cruise ships between 2005-2011.
  • From 1979 to 2013, 55 cruise ships sank.
  • Over 300 people have fallen overboard on cruises since 2000.

 Safety concerns include:

  • Poor sanitation
  • Food poisoning
  • Fires
  • Falls
  • Wet surfaces
  • Lack of security personnel
  • Lack of emergency services & appropriate medical care
  • Loss of power
  • Collisions with objects or other ships
  • Running aground in shallow water

Cruise Ships & Duty of Care

What is a duty of care? It generally relates to a cruise ship’s responsibility to ensure its passengers’ safety. When you board a cruise ship, the law states that it’s reasonable for customers to presume the vessel has taken steps to guarantee their safety to a reasonable standard. 

That typically means that general maintenance is provided, and there are medical resources for people who get sick. Customers should feel safe from assault, sexual assault, slip and fall injuries, etc. 

What Happens When a Cruise Ship Company Breaches Its Duty of Care?

If you or someone you know is injured or otherwise harmed on a cruise ship, there are usually four things you’ll need to show in a personal injury claim. They are:

  1. The cruise ship, an employee, its parent company, or some other part had a duty of care over the injured.
  2. The liable party breached the duty of care.
  3. The breach of their duty of care directly caused your injuries.
  4. The injuries caused inflicted financial, emotional, or physical distress.

If what happened to you or someone you know meets these four criteria, then you have a case and should pursue a claim against the responsible parties. An experienced boating and cruise ship accident attorney can help you gather evidence and pursue damages to cover your costs. 

Who Has a Duty of Care in a Boating Accident?

It’s easy to pinpoint liable parties when someone slips and falls on a cruise ship. However, assigning liability in a boating accident isn’t always as easy. 

Which parties have a duty of care toward passengers on a boat? Possible liable parties include:

  • Other boat operators have a duty of care to keep other boats and their passengers safe
  • Local authorities have a duty of care to properly mark dangerous areas, speed limits, and other necessary signage.
  • Boating companies that rent equipment and boats must ensure their vehicles and other gear are in good shape and safe. 
  • Charter companies must take steps to ensure their customers and other people in the area are safe. 
  • Boat manufacturers have a duty of care to ensure their vehicles are fit for use. 

These are just some examples of potentially liable parties in a boating accident. So, again, talk to a boating accident lawyer in your area to discuss what happened and whether you have a case. 

What Should You Do After a Boating Accident or Cruise Ship Injury?

The actions you take after a boating incident or cruise ship injury can impact the outcome of your case. Following these steps will help you win the compensation you need to cover any medical costs, lost income, and other related expenses. 

  1. Seek Medical Attention – Go to a doctor, visit the onboard clinic, or get other emergency support after an injury. Sometimes it’s hard to notice when a person is injured, especially after a high-speed boating accident. For example, if you hit your head, you may feel fine in the immediate aftermath, but you could also have a concussion or internal bleeding. Call 911 as a precaution and get immediate medical care to document any injuries as quickly as possible. 
  2. Take Pictures & Videos of the Scene – Whether you have a water-skiing accident or someone assaults you on a cruise ship, take pictures of any injuries, the scene, and any other damage related to the incident. This will serve as recorded evidence when your lawyer is working on your case. 
  3. Report Your Injury – Tell your lawyer about what happened. If someone from the cruise line or a boat owner saw what happened, avoid making any definitive comments about the incident. Do not make any written or recorded statements about what caused the accident, how you feel, etc. Instead, just tell them you were hurt and how. Then, talk to your lawyer about how to proceed. 
  4. Start Pursuing Your Injury Claim – Once you hire an experienced lawyer, you should be in good hands. Your attorney will handle all correspondence with insurance companies, other lawyers, the police, and anyone else involved in the case. 

Laws Governing Cruise Ship Injuries

We said above that cruise ship accidents are similar to accidents that happen in a hotel or office. This is true but there is one major difference. 

Cruise ship injury cases are complicated because incidents often happen when the ship is in international waters. A person injured while the boat is traveling or docked in a foreign country or on the high seas could have complex legal issues due to maritime law, local laws, and regulations. 

For example, there is a U.S. law known as the Death on The High Seas Act, which governs deaths that occur aboard vessels outside the 3 mile territorial limit.  There are specific limitations and requirements that apply to these cases, as well as other maritime actions brought against a vessel operator and owner, including cruise lines.

A law firm with experience representing victims in cruise ship cases will know which laws apply and how. They’ll know how to hold responsible parties accountable for injuries to win you compensation after you or someone you love is hurt on a cruise. 

Seeking Damages After a Boating or Cruise Ship Injury

People pursue injury claims against cruise ships, boat owners, rental companies, and other parties to pay for costs related to their injuries or wrongful death. A significant injury can lead to a lifetime of medical bills, inability to work, and other expenses. 

An expert boating accident lawyer knows the typical range of costs based on the injuries and other circumstances. Here are some damages they’ll help you seek after an incident. 

Medical Bills

A serious boating accident can break bones, cause severe lacerations, inflict head trauma, and more. Some of these injuries require surgery and other expensive medical treatments. You shouldn’t have to bear the costs of medical treatment when the injury wasn’t your fault. 

Lost Income

Sometimes, the injured can’t return to work for weeks, months, or longer. Permanent disability means the injury victim may never earn comparable compensation again. A personal injury claim should cover any lost income due to injuries. 

Damage

Your case should cover any damage to your boat or other personal property in an accident. In some instances, your insurance provider will cover initial repairs, and your lawyer will pursue damages from other insurance companies to reimburse your provider. 

Pain & Suffering

An experienced lawyer will know how to quantify things like pain, emotional trauma, and other effects of a boating accident. This is hard to put an objective monetary cost on, so make sure you’re working with a seasoned attorney who knows how to present your injuries in the correct light.

Hiring the Best Boating & Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

Hiring the best possible legal support is vital when the stakes are high. In many instances, your and your family’s financial stability and long-term health are at stake. Therefore, you deserve the best lawyers on your team to see your case through to the end. 

In most cases, lawyers will offer free consultations where you or anyone else can meet to discuss the circumstances of your case. This usually lasts about an hour, and the lawyer and their team will ask questions about the accident to help them grasp whether a duty of care was violated. 

This is also a chance for victims to gauge what it will be like to work with each lawyer they talk to. Ideally, you’ll choose someone with whom you can foresee working well and who also has a breadth of experience handling cases like yours. 

Experience matters greatly, and it will usually influence the outcome of your case. A good boating accident attorney will cover every base to maximize any damages and win you appropriate compensation for your injuries. 

Look for an established track record of success in winning comparable cases for past clients. While not a sure thing, it’s one of the best indicators that you’ll win your case and hold responsible parties liable for what happened. 

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