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Who is liable for ferry accidents?

Maritime law may seem like such an irrelevant topic to you if you do not work on a vessel and spend little time boating or traveling by cruise ship. Yet as a resident of Manhattan, you may very well encounter situations where maritime law comes into play without you even knowing it. There is a good chance that you have taken a ferry ride out of one of the city’s many ports (indeed, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, roughly 70 million people travelled by ferry in 2015 in just the states of New York and Washington combined). Who is liable, then, if you are injured on a ferry? 

The answer to that question depends on who owns and operates the ferry where your injury occurred. If it was a private company, then you would likely bring a liability claim against them in much the same way you would against a private party. In your claim, you will typically need to show that your injury was due to negligence or recklessness on the part of either the ferry’s crew or owners (in most cases, third parties cannot be held liable if you are to blame for your own accident). 

Many of the ferries traveling on New York’s waterways are operated by the city’s Department of Transportation. Whenever you are brining action against a city agency, your claim must be submitted within a very tight statute of limitations. In the case of a ferry accident, that period is 90 days. You also would need to pursue your case through the New York Court of Claims. Aside from these unique requirements, your ferry accident claim should be presented in much the same way as it would be were you filing it against a private organization. 

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