West Palm Beach Maritime Attorneys
1700 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 500
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
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- America’s Largest Injury Law Firm
- Protecting Families Since 1988
West Palm Beach is a dream destination for anyone who enjoys aquatic sports and leisure, with over 125 miles of beautiful waterways. From the Atlantic Ocean to Intracoastal, along with numerous rivers and lakes, this region has it all. Residents and tourists regularly enjoy activities such as boating, sailing, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Along with recreational activities, West Palm Beach is also a hub for cargo shipping, and the Port of Palm Beach serves as the home port of the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.
Of course, along with all the opportunities for work and recreation comes the unfortunate possibility of getting injured. When an accident happens and you get hurt, our maritime lawyers are ready to be of service, whether the accident occurred through the negligence of your employer or a private individual.
Morgan & Morgan
What does a maritime attorney do?
A maritime attorney is a lawyer that specializes in injuries associated with commercial or recreational accidents that are connected with the activities on the sea or waterways. Our maritime attorneys protect the rights of seamen injured on the job as well as anyone who gets hurt in a boating accident.
Our maritime lawyers can help with trying your case in court, negotiating with insurance companies, filing legal papers, and developing legal strategies to bolster your claim. We deal with everything from injuries to illnesses that are connected with maritime activities.
What is maritime law?
Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is one of the oldest branches of law in the U.S. and dates back to the first colonies. Maritime law presides over maritime disputes, offenses, and other nautical matters. It's separate from national laws because it also includes international laws. So when you have an accident on or near the waterways, a typical personal injury lawyer would not have the capacity to deal with the dispute.
A maritime lawyer will need to have overarching expertise in state, federal, and international laws. Additionally, a maritime attorney will need to understand marine insurance, marine pollution, and the Jones Act.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is in Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which regulates maritime commerce in the United States. The Jones Act is considered protective legislation that was enacted for the purpose of providing sailors the right to seek compensation from the crew, captain, or shipowner in the case of injury. Furthermore, it governs maritime commerce and the transport of people and wares between ports in the U.S.
The Jones Act is the most applicable for workers who are injured on the job. It allows the victim to get compensated for pain and suffering and lost wages due to the accident. Maritime injury claims are comparable to workers' compensation claims, except the settlement amounts are typically much higher than a workers' compensation claim value. This is because these types of jobs are usually much riskier than other kinds of work. Seamen are not entitled to workers' comp benefits under state and federal law.
To be eligible to file a Jones Act claim, the victim must be employed as a vessel's crewmember and to have spent 30 percent of their career on a vessel. As with any claim, the victim must also be able to prove they were injured as the result of negligence on behalf of the employer or other crewmember. The third element to a Jones Act claim is the unseaworthiness of the vessel where the injury took place.
Negligence has to be established to win compensation for pain and suffering and to recover lost wages. For example, a seaman who receives an electrical shock from defective or faulty equipment may qualify to file a Jones Act claim against their employer. Likewise, a seaman or crew member who suffers a work-related illness is eligible for compensation under Maintenance and Cure, a provision that covers medical expenses, lost wages, and room and board until they recover.
Suppose a seaman or crew member is unable to return to work due to a severe injury like the loss of a limb or paralysis. In that case, the victim could be eligible to have all their medical care covered, future lost wages, and pain and suffering.
What are some common causes of maritime injuries?
Working on a vessel subjects crew members to a variety of dangers. However, unsurprisingly, slip and falls are among the most common injuries because of all the wet surfaces. Other types of injuries can include the following:
- Falling overboard
- Strikes from falling objects
- Entanglement in mooring lines, ropes, chains, or ship mechanisms
- Burns from steam or exhaust
- Crushes from cargo or ship structures
- Explosions and implosions
- Exposure to chemicals
- Chronic poisoning from contaminated food and water
- Ship fires
- Crane and forklift accidents
- Wrongful death
If you've been injured while working on a vessel, near the sea, or at a port in the West Palm Beach area, our maritime lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve. While a Jones Act claim pays out more than a workers' compensation claim, it's also more challenging to prove because of the necessary evidence. These types of claims can be very frustrating and time-consuming, so having an expert in your corner fighting for you can increase your chances of success.
What about recreational boating accidents?
Recreational boating accidents are far more common than one might think. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 5,265 accidents caused 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries in 2020 alone. Operator inattention, operator inexperience, excessive speed, boating under the influence, improper lookout, and boating in dangerous conditions are the most common causes of these accidents.
What is considered a recreational boat?
Recreational boats typically include any kind of watercraft used for recreation, such as:
- Cabin cruisers
- Personal watercraft (jet skis and wave runners)
- Inflatable boats
- Slipper boats
- Go-fast boats
Who can be held responsible for a boating accident in West Palm Beach?
Usually, an injured victim or their family can hold the boat operator or the owner of the boat responsible for negligence even if there wasn't a collision. For example, suppose the other party creates an unreasonable wake near your watercraft, causing you to slip and fall on your own boat. In that case, you could sue the boat operator for negligence.
It's the boat operator's responsibility to ensure the safety of their passengers and others on the waterways. Legally, operators have a duty of care to others when they take on the duty of captain. When they do something wrong like speeding, not being cautious around other boats, or failing to give right of way, they can be held liable if someone gets injured.
In other instances, you could hold a boating or boating safety device manufacturer liable if there were some sort of defect that caused your injuries, such as a defective flotation device or a defective electrical component. This type of claim is called a product liability lawsuit. In some cases, there could be multiple parties held responsible.
What are some common boating accident injuries?
Injuries from a boating accident can be serious and even fatal. The following are common boating accident injuries:
Drowning - 75% of boating accident fatalities are due to drowning. In 86% of these instances, the victim was not wearing a life jacket. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are required by law to be available to each passenger on a vessel in the right size and in good condition. Should your loved one have drowned and no life jacket was available for them to wear, the boat operator could be liable for wrongful death.
Amputation - Propeller strikes can result in severe injuries and amputation. When someone is thrown overboard, or the boat capsizes, and the boat engine is on, the sharp blades of the propeller can cause devastating injuries.
Broken bones - A high-speed crash can cause bones to break, even if an individual is tossed overboard. The surface tension of the water is sufficient to break bones.
Burns - Boaters can suffer burns from electrocution, fire, or explosions which can cause permanent scarring. Third-degree burns can destroy nerves causing lifelong numbness and bone and joint problems.
Carbon monoxide poisoning - Gasoline-powered engines on boats produce carbon monoxide (CO), which is a deadly colorless and odorless gas. If the boat's fuel-burning engines and appliances are not installed properly, it can easily lead to CO poisoning. Boats should have a working CO detector to prevent these tragedies.
Concussion/head injuries - Serious head injuries can occur when someone is tossed around on a boat. Traumatic brain injuries can have lifelong repercussions, which can impact a person's ability to have a normal life.
Electric shock - Boat's electrical systems should be in good working order and inspected annually to prevent needless electric shock injuries. When docked, standard household extension cords should never be used to power the boat. Marina operators and owners should only use ground fault circuit interrupters on the circuits that feed electricity to the dock.
Internal organ injury - An internal injury can occur anytime your body is thrown against hard surfaces of the boat and even out of the boat entirely. Internal injuries can go unnoticed until it's too late, so it's critical to get checked by a doctor when you're in a boating accident.
Lacerations - Many boats have propellers that spin at high speeds. Getting too close to a propeller can result in deep lacerations or even amputation.
Spinal cord injury - When you're in a boating accident, the sudden impact can cause a sudden compression of the spine. A spinal cord injury can even occur when a boat bounces up and down from large wakes.
Whether it was on a yacht or a kayak, if you or someone you love was hurt in a recreational boating accident, it's critical to understand your rights and know how to proceed with a lawsuit. Our maritime attorneys are ready to help with the investigation, gather evidence, and identify the correct person to sue for their wrongdoing. Our fee is free unless we win your case for you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We've helped tens of thousands of people win compensation for boating accidents all across the U.S. Give us a call when you're ready to have our expert lawyers fight for you in your West Palm Beach boating accident claim.