Boating Accidents Can Lead to Catastrophic Injury. How is Jurisdiction Determined in an “At-Sea” Accident?
With summer weather comes vacation weeks and weekends spent on lakes, rivers and at the ocean. Spending time on a boat, whether a mega-sized cruise ship or a small pleasure boat, can be remarkably relaxing, but it can also lead to catastrophic injury. If a person is a passenger onboard a boat and they’re injured, then they may be entitled to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for their medical expenses and other damages, but the legal process can be made more complex as a result of questions of jurisdiction when an accident occurs at sea. There are some cases where state law is applicable, but that is not always the case.
There are many different types of dangers that passengers face. Some are specific to those onboard a cruise ship, while others can occur on small pleasure boats. Some of the most common catastrophic injuries are a result of the following issues:
- Falling overboard, drowning
- Food poisoning
- Legionnaires’ Disease
- Negligence by ship staff
- Physical and/or sexual assault
- Recreational accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Swimming pool accidents, drowning
- Toxic chemicals
- Unseaworthy vessel
No matter what type of boat you are traveling on, it is the owner or operator’s responsibility to make sure that you are safe and that they are exercising a reasonable effort to protect you from physical harm, both by making sure that the vessel is safe and seaworthy and that the person operating it knows what they are doing. When there is a failure in that responsibility, the owner or operator may be held responsible for your catastrophic injuries, including the cost of your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
When a catastrophic injury occurs at sea, a claim may be filed in either federal court or state court, though that is not true of those injured onboard a cruise ship. Much of the decision about jurisdiction depends upon the specifics of the incident. In most cases involving boating injuries on the interstate navigable waters of the United States (meaning any ocean, lake or river that borders on two or more states as long as a boat can navigate or operate in the water), it is the federal courts that have jurisdiction, and admiralty law may apply. In waters that are not considered interstate, state law likely applies. In order to determine the best jurisdiction for your case, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Bochetto & Lentz for a convenient time to meet and discuss your situation.