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Ferry Boat Accidents and Liability

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, ferries moved 112 million passengers in 2019. A ferry ride to work can become the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury or, even worse, wrongful death. Much of it is going to depend on how the injury occurred. Did a crew member or ferry operator's negligence cause a collision? Was it due to a dangerous condition that the boat operator knew or should have known about?

Below you will find key information about:

  • Common causes of ferry boat accidents
  • Who can sue
  • How to establish liability
  • Where to go if you are looking for legal representation

Common Causes of Ferry Boat Accidents

There are many reasons ferry boat accidents happen. Some of it is out of the control of the ship operator, but often it is simply human error. Common causes include:

  • Operator negligence, carelessness, or recklessness
  • Improper safety equipment or measures (not enough life preservers onboard)
  • Overcrowding
  • Misjudgment of adverse weather conditions such as typhoons or dangerously high waves
  • Improper storage of cargo
  • Boating under the influence (BUI)
  • Improper maintenance
  • Mechanical failure
  • Ship operator falling asleep at the controls
  • Inexperienced operator, such as one operating at a too high rate of speed

Who Can Sue?

One of the most important aspects of any lawsuit is standing. Standing means that the person bringing the lawsuit (known as the “plaintiff") has either:

  • been affected by the events in the case or
  • will be affected or harmed if the court does not address the problem.

Ferry passengers or commuters on a ferry boat who were harmed typically have standing to bring a lawsuit about their accident injuries. Their accident cases may involve injury claims relating to:

  • Brain injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Slip-and-fall accidents resulting from a ferry crash

But another class of people can also bring a lawsuit: Crew members. If an employee crew member is injured at sea in a ferry accident, they may be able to sue under federal legislation known as the Jones Act. Also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act is a maritime law that regulates shipping in American waters and ports. The Jones Act protects any "seaman" who is: injured or develops an illness while working aboard or in connection to a vessel (such as a ferry).

Separately, crew members can file workers' compensation claims if their personal injury cases relate to injuries on the job.

Liability in Ferry Boat Accidents: Who Can You Sue?

It is challenging to figure out who you can sue in a boating accident and which laws might apply. Maritime and admiralty laws apply to all accidents that occur on navigable waterways, such as:

  • At sea
  • On a river
  • On a lake

Typically, any owner or operator of a ferry on a navigable waterway can be sued for negligence. Negligence means they fail to safely operate their vessel reasonably. It can also mean they fail to act reasonably in warning their passengers of any dangerous or hazardous conditions.

A plaintiff might offer testimony from an expert witness to prove that a boat owner was negligent. The expert's testimony might help prove that the owner did not operate the watercraft in a reasonable manner.

Ferry Boat Accidents and Liability: Related Resources

Like car accidents, boating accidents share one disclaimer: they can happen anytime and anywhere. You don't have to live in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, or other parts of New York City (NYC) to see boat injury attorney advertisements. Ferry accident lawyers work all over the country because ferry crashes can happen in any waterway — big or small — anywhere in the country.

Been in a Ferry Boat Accident? Contact an Experienced Attorney

Maritime accidents can happen at any time. Whether on a pleasure boat or a water taxi, you or your loved ones can benefit from personal injury laws that rule the seas.

If you have medical expenses, lost wages, or other injury-related damages, boat accident lawyers can help you recover money. A personal injury attorney can provide expert legal advice on how to get compensation for your losses.

Consider a client relationship with a ferry accident attorney or a personal injury lawyer to understand your legal options.

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