Maritime law (also commonly referred to as Admiralty law) refers to the legal parameters surrounding incidents occurring on the water (oceans, inlets and intracoastal waterways) and usually involve recreational boats, cruise ships, and jet skis, etc.). There is usually a sense of calm and relaxation associated with spending an afternoon out on a boat or a week on a cruise ship, but when it comes to the risks associated with the unsafe operation of boats, the calm can seem to evaporate (so to speak). Maritime law is an especially important type of law to familiarize yourself if you are a resident of the southeastern most state – Florida has more boating accidents than any other state in the country.
There’s no surprise about that, of course. Boating is part of the Sunshine State’s innate culture. That said, it may come as a surprise that Florida has some of the most relaxed requirements when it comes to certifications for boating operators. Now, in order to obtain a Florida boating license, you can register for and take the exam online! Imagine if airline pilots simply had to take an online test in order to receive their FAA license? Without rigorous testing of boating operators, unsafe boaters are all around. Furthermore, important safety precautions are not always required. While safety jackets are required on board, they’re not always used. Even more infrequently used are “kill switches.” Kill switches are pieces of lanyard attached from the boat operator to the engine of the boat, allowing the boat operator to “kill” the engine in the need of an impromptu emergency.
The safety of the boat’s passengers always lies with the captain and operator of the ship. Whether you’re the captain of a cruise liner or of a two-person sailboat, you, as the operator of the boat, are responsible for any and all passengers on-board. This is because many of the incidents that happen on the sea are caused by maritime events about which the other passengers are even more uneducated than the captain. How should you maneuver the boat if you see a wave approaching on the right? What should you do if three speedboats pass in front of you, causing enormous waves that would inflict damage on your small boat? What happens if a storm moves in over you? These are questions that the captain should have the answer to.
Florida gives special attention to the role of the ship’s operator—the captain—in chapter 327 of the Florida Statutes. Law requires the ship’s operator to operate the boat in a “reasonable and prudent manner.” Furthermore, the captain is required to provide all possible aid to his passengers, in the event of an accident, before he is allowed to exit the vessel. Following an accident, the ship’s captain is required to contact several local governmental agencies, including the local police department. Failure to do so could result in a finding of guilty of the boat operator of a noncriminal infraction.
Boating is very much a part of Florida’s lifestyle. We hear about boating accidents all of the time, from the cruise ship crash off the coast of Italy, to boat accidents off of the coast of Florida. While the two are vastly different in terms of number of casualties and damage, they do have one similarity: in each instance, the ship’s captain failed to perform his job adequately and responsibly. And, because of the boat captains’ negligence, people got hurt.
When your cruise ship vacation results in you getting injured, you will want to consult an injury attorney about your legal rights. Accidents aboard a cruise ship are usually much worse that those on land. When you are out at sea and injured, you may not know your legal rights, or if you have any at all. Experienced cruise ship accident lawyers are necessary to protect your rights and will help you understand how and whether you can recover damages for your injury. For example, many cruise ship cases have a 1 year State of Limitation meaning that you need to file a lawsuit within a year of your accident or you may not be able to pursue a case.
It is well known that the cruise ship industry has had problems with bad sanitation and they often have had poor security and little, if any, proper safety precautions. It is also known that cruise ship companies have hired unqualified people. They often hire people who have totally different cultures or zero understanding of our concept of right and wrong, who have little education or training at all. These poor hiring practices are often coupled with poor maintenance and questionable management practices.
Some of the most common cruise ship injuries include: slips or trips on steps and decks, injuries while ashore on a ship sponsored excursion, rape or attacks by crew, violent passengers, deadly food poisoning, fires, explosions, lack of security, or mechanical defects.
If you were hurt on a cruise ship, the first thing you need to do is read your ticket and the passage contract. It contains your rights, duties and obligations. The passenger ticket will advise you where and when any potential lawsuits against and cruise ship can be brought. Sometimes, cruise ship accidents are only allowed to be brought in the state where the cruise chip is based.
An attorney will be able to assist you with the fine print on the passage contract. You should retain a lawyer who can investigate your claim and who can afford to hire professional experts and investigators.