Ferries are one of the most efficient methods of modern transportation, carrying passengers and vehicles short distances across narrow bodies of water. There are hundreds of public and private ferries in the U.S., transporting 113 million passengers and 32 million vehicles every year. In cities, ports, and waterways across the world, ferries are commonly used to transport passengers and cars quickly. Their relatively slow speeds and mundane trips make them seem infallibly safe, but several incidents have proven negligence can lead to fatal disasters.
One recent accident took place in South Korea in April 2014, when a ferry capsized, killing about 300 of its 462 passengers and crew. The reason for capsize is still being debated, but signs point to an inexperienced third-mate steering the vessel recklessly. Among the many points of negligence surrounding the incident, passengers were ordered to remain in their cabins while most of the crew abandoned ship, including the Captain. The vessel had also been illegally modified to carry a heavy weight, and the ship was operating in spite of warnings.
At Arnold & Itkin, our team of offshore lawyers has extensive experience with maritime injury cases. If you have been injured in a ferry accident, we know how to secure important evidence, like eyewitness and medical reports, and compile it into a case that will get you the settlement you need. Call today to take the first step.
These types of tragic ferry accidents are not unheard of in America. Of the several fatal ferry accidents in the past few decades, one remains particularly memorable. On October 15, 2003, the ferry dubbed Andrew J. Barberi was transporting approximately 1,500 passengers to Staten Island when it crashed at full speed into a concrete pier. The captain had lost consciousness after taking 2 medications that caused drowsiness, and the ensuing incident cost 11 people their lives and injured 165 more. State regulations that required a second captain to be present during docking were neglected, contributing to the tragedy. These incidents demonstrate that even the most seemingly routine maneuvers at sea can easily turn into fatal tragedies if due diligence is not observed. Taking operations for granted and ignoring safety procedures greatly increases the risk to both passengers and crew.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, about 106 million passengers were transported by ferry in 2007 through 485 active terminals. Private companies operate some boats, but state governments operate many. They can carry anywhere between dozens to thousands of passengers in a single trip, making them viable for crossing popular waterways, such as the Puget Sound, or out to islands near the coast. With millions of passengers relying on ferries for safe transportation, it is imperative that companies, captains, and crewmembers remain diligent to prevent tragedies. Steps such as training crewmembers on emergency procedures, providing adequate life jackets and lifeboats, and performing regular maintenance can help reduce the risk of traveling at sea.
Crew members who are injured while working on a ferry are protected by federal maritime laws such as the Jones Act. Regardless of who is at fault, your employer will be required to pay maintenance and cure until you are fully recovered. An employer that has been negligent or failed to maintain a seaworthy vessel may be liable for additional compensation for damages that include lost wages, as well as pain and suffering.
Coast Guard regulations require every ferry to be equipped with appropriate firefighting gear, life rafts and slides to get crew and passengers off the boat quickly. The ferry must have the minimum number of seamen in designated ratings, certified under basic training regulations and the crew must conduct regular abandon ship and firefighting drills. The ferry is also required to maintain standards that will assure its stability. Many ferry accidents occur due to crew negligence, unsafe docking procedures or the boat not being fully staffed.
A recent study showed, for example, that 43% of ferries use non-deck crew members during mooring operations—leading to devastating mooring accidents. Safety provisions for running mooring lines are frequently neglected. Other accidents occur because the boat is not kept in a seaworthy condition. Some circumstances include ice left on the deck, machinery for pumping out bilge water that is not properly maintained, decks that are not kept clear, or excessive noise. Numerous ferry crewmembers have also sustained illnesses and injuries from toxic paint.
Our maritime attorneys know the dangers that ferry workers face. You deserve a seaworthy vessel and a safe environment in which to work, and employers that fail to provide that should be held responsible.
Arnold & Itkin represented nearly a third of the crewmembers injured in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Because maritime law is so complex and so complicated, it is crucial that you work with an attorney who has an in-depth understanding of how it works and who has proven themselves in similar cases before.