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New York Maritime Law Blog

Family of missing crewman sues ship owners under the Jones Act

If you're on a factory floor and a forklift drives over your foot, you know where to go. One should seek medical attention, document the incident and possibly file a claim for workers' compensation. But if a similar thing happens on the deck of a ship in the Long Island Sound, what do you do?

In much the same way that workers' compensation laws protect employees in that state, the Jones Act covers maritime workers based in the United States but in territorial or international waters. This includes crew members on ships at sea as well in riverine waters within the United States. It also includes dockworkers, shipbreakers and a variety of other professions connected to sea trade.

Injured boaters sue a New York town for negligence

The survivors of a fatal Mattituck boating accident in November have put the Town on Southold on notice that they plan to sue them. They are collectively seeking $30 million for their losses against the New York town.

A Southhold Police report shows that four individuals were riding in a 39-foot powerboat just before 9:17 p.m. on Nov. 10 when they suddenly collided with a bulkhead. That obstruction can be found approximately 200 feet from the James Creek entrance along the Great Peconic Bay.

Undercurrents a danger to commercial divers

Commercial divers have very dangerous work environments. Each dive could result in a fatal encounter with marine life or an equipment failure that puts them in jeopardy.

Another risk for commercial divers is undercurrents. These currents form naturally to maintain the delicate balance of nutrients and heat beneath the water. They sometimes are referred to as "undertow." Strong undercurrents can sometimes pull experienced divers off course and cause them to panic.

What are the dangers associated with navigating rough seas?

It doesn't matter whether you are skippering a small boat or serving as a captain to a large ship. The one thing that the individual charged with navigating a water vessel most dreads is operating it in rough seas. Doing this puts crew and passengers at a significant risk of getting hurt.

If someone is going to find themselves on a boat in a body of water during rough seas, then most anyone would agree that the skipper or captain at the helm of the water vessel should be an experienced navigator.

Should ocean cruises be vacations from your legal rights?

In late January, on a cruise ship carrying 7,000 passengers and crew, a Chinese national became ill. Fears of coronavirus lead to the ship’s quarantine in a port near Rome, Italy, until a medical team found the woman had a case of the common flu.

It was another cruise ship disease outbreak and another group of passengers quarantined in a port somewhere in the world, unable to set foot on dry land.

Night boating safety tips

While recreational boaters can often just head to shore when the sun falls, if they're not comfortable driving at night, the same is not always true for those running commercial vessels. Schedules and jobs may require them to continue boating after dark.

Like driving a car at night, boating in the dark carries more potential risks than boating during the day, and so it's very important to know how to do so safely. With that in mind, here are some tips that can help:

  • When it doubt, reduce speed. This is often a difficult thing to do for workers who have schedules to keep, but it is better to arrive late than to risk an accident.
  • Make sure the crew has the proper emergency gear. For instance, they need lifejackets, flashlights and possibly even night-vision goggles. An accident at night puts people in far more danger if they're not equipped to deal with it.
  • Use a look-out. Do not count on the captain to guide the boat and see all hazards. A lookout with a radio who does nothing but watch for problems can save the craft.
  • Try to cut back on the light on the boat. For instance, a chartplotter can be useful, but looking at it too much can reduce someone's night vision so that they can't see as well when they need to most.
  • Understand that your eyes play tricks on you in the dark. You may see things that do not exist or overlook those that do.

The 4 most common types of injuries among longshore workers

Some of the most costly injuries that maritime workers have to contend with are workplace strain ones. A 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index study revealed that maritime employers paid out over $13.8 billion for overexertion injuries that year. Four types of injuries leave longshore workers incapacitated more often than others.

Low repetitive force injuries most commonly result in injuries to longshore workers. Anyone who is subjected to repetitive, cumulative trauma -- whether it comes from a sustained force across an extended period or a constant low-force application source -- may develop this type of injury.

What are the dangers associated with intoxicated boating?

Boating while intoxicated is prohibited in the state of New York. Anyone who is suspected of operating a water vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may have their operator privileges suspended, be fined or imprisoned.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation argues that an individual's mere consumption of a small amount of alcohol can adversely impact their motor skills. Substances like this most affect an individual's judgment, coordination and balance. Environmental stressors can only exacerbate these concerns.

What types of water vessels are protected by the Jones Act?

There are many facets to the Jones Act. It aims to protect the United States' political sovereignty and national security and to secure the country's economic welfare. It also protects seamen who become injured while on the job. Certain types of water vessels are protected under the Jones Act.

Water vessels must meet four primary requirements to be covered under the Jones Act, which forms part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

New state law requires increased boater training

One of the biggest dangers to recreational boaters is boat operators who don't have the proper training. A state law that took effect on Jan. 1 is designed to improve that training. Known as "Brianna's Law," it requires people to pass a safety course before they can operates a motorized boat or other watercraft in the state.

The required boater safety training course is eight hours. It can be taken online or in a classroom.

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