Yacht Accidents: Know Your Rights
Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have handled a significant number of injury cases that occurred on yachts. We have successfully represented both crew and passengers injured on yachts. These cases are unique because they often pose jurisdictional challenges. Fortunately, we are well versed in dealing with these challenges to obtain the maximum recovery for you or your loved one, under the applicable laws.
Yachts are recreational boats or ships used primarily for leisure. There are a wide variety of yachts, ranging in length from 33 feet up to several hundred feet. Those smaller than 39 feet are commonly referred to as cabin cruisers or cruisers, while super yachts are typically over 79 feet and mega yachts are over 164 feet long.
Traditionally, ownership and use of yachts were only for the “rich and famous.” However, more and more individuals are able to afford to partake of some of the luxuries associated with yachting. As the number of yachters increases, so does the number of accidents. A yachting lawyer knows the injuries incurred in such accidents can be quite serious, and some accidents may even lead to death. Accordingly, anyone who has sustained injuries or lost a loved one after a yachting accident or any other type of recreational boat incident is encouraged to contact a well-versed attorney who can advise you of your legal options and rights.
Note that both passengers and crew members can be victims of yacht accidents. We discuss aspects of yacht accidents, yacht accident lawsuits, and how a yacht accident lawyer can help you below.
What Can a Yacht Accident Lawyer Do for You?
The laws governing yachts and other recreational boats can be very complex. However, working with a skilled lawyer can help accident victims gain a better understanding of their rights under the law. If you are looking to hire a yacht accident lawyer, there are several attributes you should look out for.
Maritime accidents are different from other types of accidents. A car accident lawyer may be willing to take your case, but they likely do not have the experience necessary to effectively handle a boating case.
Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., has been handling maritime cases for nearly 50 years, and our 12 attorneys have over 165 years of combined experience.
We are well versed in the intricacies of maritime law and the unique challenges that a crewmember or passenger faces when suing a yacht owner.
We have successfully handled over 3,000 cases and recovered over $300 million for our clients. Examples of our successful boat accident cases include:
- Confidential multi-million dollar recovery for deckhand working on a sailboat after limb amputation.
- $1.5 million settlement for a seaman who died after being struck in the head by malfunctioning equipment;
- $776,000 jury verdict for a seaman who died due to inadequate medical treatment while working on a vessel;
- $150,000 settlement for a yacht employee who was injured while carrying out an employer’s negligent orders; and
- $120,000 settlement for a yacht captain who suffered a back injury while working.
Our past results won’t tell you what outcome to expect in your case, but they do attest to our experience, abilities, and effectiveness.
We have worked hard for nearly 50 years to cultivate a reputation as a knowledgeable and experienced maritime law firm. We are frequently consulted by national news outlets about maritime issues. Our firm and lawyers have been featured on television and other news media including The New York Times, CNN, FOX News, TIME, and NBC News, just to name a few.
Our lawyers have also received numerous awards. Most recently, attorney Charles R. Lipcon was named Lawyer of the Year for 2020 in Admiralty & Maritime Law by US News & World Report. And all four of our named partners have been named as “Best Lawyers.”
Common Injuries and Risk Factors
Even on luxury vessels like yachts, passengers and those working onboard can experience various injuries, some of which are more common than others. Some of the common injuries that can occur include:
- Heavy lifting injuries
- Broken bones
- Head and back injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
But what causes these injuries? Some of the common incidents leading to injuries include:
- Collisions with other vessels
- Slip and falls
- Falling overboard
- Repetitive heavy lifting
- Propeller strikes
Your rights and remedies in case of injury will vary depending on whether you are a passenger or a worker and depending on the location of the injury. However, in most cases, you can seek compensation if the accident was caused by someone else’s careless behavior.
If you were injured or lost a loved one as the result of a yachting accident caused by another, you have the right to seek compensation. We have successfully handled many cases where passengers aboard a Yacht were injured due to the clear fault or negligence of the vessel owner.
Personal Injury from a Yacht Accident
To obtain compensation based on someone else’s negligence, you must prove four elements:
- The person had a duty to act in a certain way,
- The person breached their duty,
- The breached caused an accident, and
- You suffered damages as a result of the accident.
There are many careless actions that may constitute negligence. For example, passengers and/or workers may misuse personal floatation devices or fail to use them altogether. Alcohol consumption also often plays a part in many yacht accidents, as does the inability of passengers and/or workers to abide by basic boat safety rules. Other common negligent actions include:
- Improperly maintaining equipment
- Operator inattention
- Failure to have a lookout
- Having inadequate safety equipment
- Operator inexperience
- Traveling into a storm
- Defective construction or design of the boat or components
There are some inherent dangers in any boating activity. Accidents can occur even when people take precautions. However, more often than not, an accident is the result of carelessness or recklessness. If someone else caused or contributed to your accident, you have the right to be compensated for your injuries. An experienced yacht accident attorney can help you understand your options.
Wrongful Death from a Yacht Accident
If you lost a loved one as a result of a yacht accident, you can seek justice by filing a wrongful death suit. In Florida, the personal representative of the person’s estate can bring a lawsuit on behalf of family members. You can obtain damages for things like:
- Mental anguish caused by the death;
- Loss of financial support;
- Loss of companionship and protection; and
- Past medical bills and funeral expenses.
Additionally, the estate may seek damages for lost earnings between the time of injury and the time of death. The estate may also get damages for financial losses to the estate caused by the person’s untimely death.
The laws applicable to wrongful death actions under maritime law are among the most complex and intricate laws in our country. This is why it is critical to obtain an experienced maritime and yacht accident attorney to properly follow the laws to obtain the maximum financial recovery.
Yachts are certainly big business throughout Florida, and it typically takes several crewmembers to maintain and operate the vessel. Crewmembers and their families should be aware that they are protected by the same laws that protect commercial ship crewmembers.
Maritime law requires the owner of a vessel to ensure that the vessel is seaworthy. Examples of unseaworthiness include:
- Instability of the vessel;
- Lack of safety equipment;
- Unsanitary conditions;
- Lack of proper procedures, rules, or regulations;
- Lack of warning signs;
- Trip hazards and inadequate railings;
- Incompetent, inadequate, or dangerous crew;
- Noncompliance with federal regulations; and
- Worn out or missing equipment.
A maritime worker who suffers injury due to the vessel’s unseaworthiness can recover damages from the owner for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The Jones Act permits maritime workers to sue their employers for negligence when they are injured on the job. Negligence can be based on things like:
- Failure to avoid bad weather;
- Failure to keep equipment safely maintained;
- Lack of care in hiring;
- Failure to provide adequate medical treatment; and
- Lack of care in supervising or instructing employees.
Damages under the Jones Act can include things like lost income, medical costs, and pain and suffering. If a maritime worker is killed on the job, their loved ones may bring a wrongful death action against the employer.
Maintenance and Cure
When a maritime worker suffers an injury on the job, they are typically not eligible to make a traditional workers’ compensation claim. Instead, maritime employers must pay “maintenance and cure” to injured employees.
Maintenance is the cost of daily living, such as rent, utilities, and food. Cure is the cost of the employee’s medical care and treatment. To receive maintenance and cure, an employee need only show that they were injured in the course of their employment. They do not need to prove fault.
What Should You Do After an Accident?
There are a number of steps you should take as soon as possible following a yacht or other boating accident.
The first thing you should do after a yacht accident is call 911. If there are any injuries, it is important to get medical help to the scene as soon as possible. The police will also come and make an accident report. This report will be an important piece of evidence in your personal injury case.
Check for Injuries and Offer Aid
If you are involved in a boating accident in Florida, the law requires you to give all possible aid to others who are injured or in danger. You also need to make reasonable efforts to locate the other vessel’s owner and anyone else who may be affected. Leaving the scene of a boating accident where someone is injured without doing these things can result in a criminal third-degree felony charge.
Document the Scene
If you are physically able, you should take steps to document the scene. Take pictures, get contact information, and talk to witnesses. Over time, evidence can be lost and memories can fade, so it’s important to document this information as early as possible.
File an Accident Report
Florida law requires the operator and/or owner of a vessel to file an accident report with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement or the area sheriff/police department within:
- 24 hours if a person disappears or requires medical treatment beyond first aid;
- 48 hours if a person dies; and
- 10 days if there are more than $2,000 in property damage or a complete loss of the vessel.
Failing to do this can result in criminal penalties.
Contact an Attorney
Once you have attended to the safety of those around you, you should contact an experienced yacht accident lawyer. Your lawyer can help you preserve evidence, investigate the accident, and document your claim.
How to Get Started on Your Claim
If you suffered injury in a yacht or other maritime accident, contact the attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., right away. We have the experience and knowledge you need to pursue a successful claim. Our nationally and internationally recognized lawyers are determined to seek justice for crew members, passengers, and others injured on sea vessels. We have the resources and tenacity to zealously pursue your claim even against the biggest companies with the deepest pockets. We will give you individualized attention and fight to get you every dollar you deserve.