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New York Maritime Law Blog

Cruise ship injuries due to negligence

Balmy breezes, fruity drinks and all you can eat buffets are what many New York residents think of when they plan their cruise vacation. While most passengers enjoy the trip with nothing more severe than a case of sea sickness, serious incidents can occur with devastating results. At Tabak Mellusi & Shisha LLP, we often represent clients injured while on vacation at sea.

According to FindLaw, you check the Terms and Conditions requirements on your ticket before filing a lawsuit. In some cases, you must provide notice of the injury and impending claim in writing within a specific timeframe. They may also have requirements about where you file the suit, such as a particular jurisdiction. The cruise line may have a mandate requiring arbitration instead of a court trial.

What should beginners know about boating safety?

Summer is right around the corner and many people in New York will be taking to their boats for the first time this year. If you are a first-time boat owner, it’s important you understand the proper safety procedures, both for the protection of your passengers as well as your own safety. DiscoverBoating.com offers the following tips, in this case, so you can rest assured of a fun and relaxing trip for all involved.

Enlist a skipper

What is the Defense Base Act?

If you are a civilian from New York who received injuries while working as a private employee on a military base in the desert nations of Iraq or Afghanistan, you may wonder what the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act has to do with you. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the LHWCA is a statute related to the Defense Base Act, which affords you workers' compensation benefits for job-related injuries you received while working overseas for a government contractor or subcontractor. The same division of the government that supervises the Longshore Act also administers the Defense Base Act.

Your employment does not have to have taken place directly on a military base for you to receive compensation under the Defense Base Act, nor does your injury have to have happened in a foreign country. Coverage under the DBA extends to overseas U.S. territories and possessions, as well as foreign countries, on land the government uses specifically for military purposes. Other situations in which the DBA applies include the following:

  • Employment with the USO or similar organizations providing services for the benefit of the Armed Forces
  • Working on contracts outside the United States funded by the Foreign Assistance Act
  • Public work contracts outside the United States in connection with any U.S. government agency

Woman seeks damages after son drowns in tugboat accident

New York is surrounded by water and the sight of commercial boats is a common one for residents in the area. There is a daily reminder of the variety of vessels that are involved in important activities including barges, ferries, tugboats and more. Regardless of the size of a vessel or the job it has to do, companies that own and operate commercial boats have a responsibility to ensure their safety in order to keep workers and others onboard safe.

It would be nice for people to believe and know that when they step aboard any commercial vessel, whether as an employee or as a passenger, that the boat is in good order and has been appropriately maintained. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There can be situations when a company fails to properly take care of a boat. This decision puts innocent people in harm's way.

How insurance companies may try to deprive you of benefits

Working on a sea vessel in New York is different than working at a job on dry land. In the former case, if you become injured on the job, you do not receive workers' compensation. Instead, if the Jones Act applies, you receive maintenance and cure benefits. At Tabak Mellushi & Shisha, we know these terms can be confusing. "Cure" refers compensation for your medical expenses, while "maintenance" refers to a daily stipend intended to cover your day-to-day expenses. 

However, maintenance and cure benefits are similar to workers' compensation in that, rather than paying you out of pocket, your employer holds an insurance policy to cover maintenance and cure benefits owed to seamen. Unfortunately, your employer's insurer may go to great lengths to minimize the amount you receive in maintenance and cure benefits. 

Who is responsible for cruise ship safety?

Several laws have been enacted to help protect the rights of those who work in the maritime industry, yet what about those whose time out on the open water is only temporary? When you embark as a passenger on a ship from Manhattan, you may face many of the same sea-related dangers as those who work on the vessel. Yet are you protected by the same statutes that maritime workers rely on when they are injured at sea, or are you protected by general liability laws? 

Federal legislation like the Jones Act is specifically meant to cover maritime workers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, cruise ship passengers are instead protected by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. This law was enacted in 2010 to provide for stricter policies for dealing with incidents that occur on cruise ships. The law required cruise ship to increase their surveillance capabilities through onboard video cameras and time-sensitive locks and latches. In addition, it mandated that cruise line operators create policies that restrict interactions between passengers and crew. If a criminal incident were to occur onboard a cruise ship, the Federal Bureau of Investigation would have jurisdiction over the case. 

Fall from cruise ship balcony kills teen

Whenever accidents involving Manhattan residents occur over which there is a question of liability, culpability often comes down to the matter of who is ultimately at fault. Even in scenarios where complex legal issues such as maritime law are involved, simple questions as to who whether or not negligence or carelessness was at play may ultimately be the factors which determine the outcomes of cases. While ship owners are required to provide safe traveling conditions and accommodations to both passengers and crew, individuals may be responsible for their own reckless actions. 

The question of who is responsible may indeed come into play in a recent accident that occurred in a cruise ship. A passenger fell from one of the ship's balcony's onto a pier while stopped at one of the ship's ports. The teen sustained serious head trauma and ultimately died as a result. Local authorities responding to the scene initially determined that no criminal actions led to the young man's death. He was reportedly attempting to cross from one balcony to another when he fell. 

Accident report highlights safety lessons

People in New York who work in the maritime industry know that commercial boating can be dangerous at times. The need for strong and clear safety procedures is essential in order to protect the lives of all crew and others who may be onboard a vessel. Workboat reported on some lessons gleaned from accident reports published in a Safer Seas Digest of 2017 by the National Transportation Safety Board. These lessons show the ongoing need to keep safety a priority.

The report reviewed 41 different accidents involving a variety of boats such as tug boats, tow boats, barges and more. Among the lessons published was the recomendation that scuppers in bulwarks on fishing vessels are always kept clear. This should prevent vessel instability by allowing rapid draining of water. Another recommendation from the report is that the need to report or communicate details of an accident should take second priority to the safe operation of the vessel if it is still moving.

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