Common Causes of Maritime Accidents

Working on ships, ferries, and other sea vessels can be a dangerous job. Accidents casn cause injuries, property damage, and even deaths. In 2008, the US Coast Guard responded to more than 27,000 offshore incidents that caused around 800 deaths and more than $121 million in property damage. In order to reduce the risk of maritime accidents, it is important to ensure that a shipping vessel is “seaworthy” through proper maintenance and equipment.

According to the website of Williams Kherker, most maritime accidents are caused by negligence on the part of management or ship owner. Seafarers are protected by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 otherwise known as the Jones Act, which allows them to collect damages if they can prove negligence on the part of their employers. In addition, the Jones Act entitles families of deceased maritime employees to collect death benefits for the death of their loved ones who were killed in a maritime accident.

Most maritime accidents were caused by human error which could have been prevented. Some of the errors that they make were due to being overworked, lack of sleep, or lack of proper training. A slight mistake by the crew can lead to serious injuries for the other workers. Human errors account for roughly 7 out of 10 maritime accidents. With a simple mistake, the boat could capsize, collide with another vessel, explode from a fire, or sink due to overboarding.

Maritime accidents can be preventable with proper care and maintenance. Likewise, keeping equipment up-to-date can also prevent accidents due to equipment failure. Aside from that, cargo must be properly loaded as it could result to head injuries, crush accidents, to name just a few. These are negligent acts which could make the person-in-charge liable under the Jones Act.

When reporting an injury or death, it should be accompanied by an accident report which contains the following:

  • the date and the location of the accident
  • The extent of damage
  • An expert evaluation of the most likely causes of the accident

Wrongful Death in Kentucky

When someone dies because of another person’s action, it can be murder (with intent to kill) or wrongful death (accidental). It may seem like splitting hairs; it still means that someone is dead. However, there is a big difference in terms of the punishment. When there was intent to kill that person, it is a criminal act, and that person will go to jail. On the other hand, if there was no intent to kill and the death came about by accident or a s a result of an assault, it is not a crime. However, the person or entity responsible for the death will still be civilly liable if there was negligence involved. Louisville KY personal injury lawyers call this wrongful death.

All states have laws regarding wrongful death. In Kentucky, wrongful death is “the death of a person (that) results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another.” (Kentucky Statutes § 411.130) The act may have been intentional, such as beating up a person with a bat, but it does not necessarily mean that the desired end was the death of the victim. A good example is road rage. It is easy for two people to act recklessly in the heat of the moment, and if one of them dies as a result, that would be wrongful death, not murder.

A clearer example would be product liability. If a drug company sells a product they know could have serious side effects on some patients, but intentionally withholds this information from the public, they become civilly liable for anyone who dies from taking the drug. While the drug company did not assault or even know the victim, the fact that they violated their duty of care towards their customers by withholding vital information means they are directly responsible for that death.

As the victim is dead, other people may file a wrongful death suit. Kentucky law only allows the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to file. The probate court names the personal representative. Any awards from the lawsuit will accrue to the estate and be distributed to the legal beneficiaries of the estate, if any, once all administrative expenses, including funeral and burial expenses, are deducted.

The spouse and children are the primary beneficiaries, but in the absence of both, the parents of the deceased will receive the award. If there are no surviving parents, the estate is distributed as dictated by the deceased’s will, or in the absence of a will, any other legal heirs. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed even as a criminal case is ongoing; Kentucky law only allows one year from the victim’s death for a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed.