A vessel sinking is the most catastrophic accident that can occur in the maritime industry. As with any other catastrophic vehicle accident, there are a wide variety of things that can contribute to a sinking. While a vessel going under may seem like a mere act of God, the fact is that most vessel sinkings are entirely avoidable. That’s because a sinking is typically caused by negligence, whether it’s the owner of the vessel failing to conduct regular inspections to assess the vessel’s integrity, or sheer recklessness on behalf of the person who’s operating the vessel at the time that it sinks. Whatever the case may be, those who are injured as the result of a vessel sinking are entitled to seek compensation and damages for their injuries under the law.
Human error is, unfortunately, the underlying cause of most vessel sinkings. All too often, individuals who are responsible for operating any given vessel make navigational mistakes that lead to disaster. In other cases, these operators may play fast and loose when dealing with the risks of severe weather. But the risk of human error as it pertains to a sinking doesn’t end there. In other cases, those who own vessels may neglect to conduct regular inspections of the vessels under their care, allowing them to fall into disrepair. When this happens, the structural integrity of the vessel can be easily compromised, facilitating leaks that ultimately lead to the boat going under.
Defective components in the boat’s construction can also lead to a catastrophic structural failure that leads to a vessel’s sinking. In addition, a vessel may be improperly designed, lacking the necessary elements to forestall the potential of taking on water. Defects can also be present in products that are operated onboard. For example, a defective product that uses fuel might explode, damaging the vessel in the process and causing it to sink. In these cases, someone other than the owner or operator of the boat can held accountable for a sinking.
Rather obviously, the injuries that are associated with sinkings are often severe. Workers and passengers who find themselves in cold water for extended periods of time can fall victim to hypothermia, which can lead to a number of other health complications. In addition, workers and passengers can become injured in the process of abandoning ship. Of course, injury is unfortunately not the worst that can happen in the even that a vessel sinks. All too often, workers and passengers pay the ultimate price when a vessel goes under the waves.
The laws that pertain to vessel sinkings vary based upon the person seeking recourse. A passenger can seek compensation and damages through the Death on the High Seas Act. Maritime Workers, as in other work-related injury cases, are allowed to seek damages and compensation through the Jones Act. However, it should be noted that defective products, shoddy construction and other factors may open up the possibility of seeking compensation from other parities that are not covered by either the Jones Act or the Death on the High Seas Act. As always, it is highly advisable to retain the services of a skilled maritime lawyer, who can assist you in pursuing compensation and damages from any and all responsible parties.
There is one final thing that should be kept in mind. The laws mentioned above only apply to United States-flagged ships. For ships that are flagged by different countries, the local maritime laws of that country will apply, even if you are a United States citizen.