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Ferry Boat Accidents and Liability

Maybe you were on your way to work, crossing the bay as you do every day. You don’t have to worry about sitting in gridlock traffic, the water is pristine, and the fresh air always makes you feel more alive. Sit back, listen to your favorite podcast, and contemplate what incredibly healthy dish you’ll be preparing for dinner tonight. And you certainly aren’t alone. In 2014 alone, ferries transported 103 million passengers, according to the Bureau of Transportation and Statistics. But what happens if your fairy tale ferry ride to work becomes the scene of an accident resulting in injury or even worse, wrongful death? Much of it is going to depend on how the injury occurred. Was it the result of a crew member or due to a dangerous condition that the ship operator knew or should have known about?

Below you will find key information about common causes of ferry boat accidents, who can sue, how to establish liability, and where to go if you are looking for legal representation.

Common Causes of Ferry Boat Accidents

There are many reasons why ferry boat accidents happen. Some of it is out of the control of the ship operator, but often times it is simply human error. Common causes include:

  • Operator negligence, carelessness, or recklessness
  • Improper safety equipment or measures (not enough life preservers onboard)
  • Overcrowding
  • Misjudgment of adverse weather conditions such as typhoons or dangerously high waves
  • Improper storage of cargo
  • Boating under the influence (BUI)
  • Improper maintenance
  • Mechanical failure
  • Ship operator falling asleep at the controls
  • Inexperienced operator/operating at too high of speeds

Who Can Sue?

One of the most important aspects of any lawsuit, ferry boat accident or otherwise, is standing. Standing means that the person bringing the lawsuit (known as the “plaintiff”) has either been affected by the events in the case or will be imminently affected or harmed if the court does not address the problem. Passengers on a ferry boat who were harmed typically have standing to bring a lawsuit related to their injuries.

But there is another class of individuals who can also bring a lawsuit: the crew members. If an employee crew member is injured at sea in a ferry accident, they may be able to sue under federal legislation known as "The Jones Act." The Act protects any "seaman" who is injured or develops an illness while working aboard or in connection to a vessel (such as a ferry).

Liability in Ferry Boat Accidents: Who Can You Sue?

It can often be challenging to figure out who you can sue in a boating accident and which laws might apply. Simply put, maritime and admiralty laws apply to all accidents that occur on navigable waterways such as at sea, on a river, or on a lake. Typically speaking, any owner or operator of a ferry on a navigable waterway can be sued if they are negligent; i.e. they fail to safely operate their vessel and/or appropriately warn their passengers of any dangerous or hazardous conditions. The plaintiff will then need to prove whether a "reasonably careful ship operator" likely would not have known about the hazard that caused the injury. Many times this will require testimony from an expert witness.

Ferry Boat Accidents and Liability: Related Resources

Been in a Ferry Boat Accident? Get a Free Case Review

Maritime accidents can happen at any time. Whether you were on a pleasure boat or a ferry boat, if you have medical expenses, lost wages, or other damages related to an accident you’ll want expert legal advice on how to go about receiving compensation for your losses. The best way to find an attorney who specializes in personal injury or wrongful death is by letting getting matched with an experienced attorney now. You can start the process by getting a free claim review.

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