Your Rights After Being Injured Afloat

by | Mar 6, 2024

The vast expanse of the sea can be both exhilarating and unforgiving. Unfortunately, accidents do happen afloat, leaving injured individuals wondering where to turn. If you’ve been injured on a cruise ship, fishing boat, pleasure boat, or any vessel while on a navigable waterway, understanding your rights under maritime law is crucial.

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, governs legal issues arising on the water. It’s a complex blend of federal and international statutes, treaties, and common law, distinct from traditional state law. This unique legal landscape requires specialized attorneys with deep knowledge of its intricacies.

Some Common Scenarios


Cruise Ship Mishaps:

Slips and falls, food poisoning, medical negligence, shore excursion accidents – these are just a few examples of potential cruise ship injuries. Passengers have rights under the Cruise Vessel Passenger Status Act (CVPSA) and international conventions, but cruise lines often try to limit liability through waivers and forum selection clauses.


Boating Accidents:

Collisions, allisions, groundings, capsizing, equipment failure, operator negligence – any of these can lead to serious injuries on recreational or commercial vessels. Understanding fault, insurance coverage, and potential claims against manufacturers or other boaters is crucial.


Jones Act and General Maritime Law:

Seafarers working on commercial vessels have special rights under the Jones Act, allowing them to sue their employers for negligence leading to injuries. Other maritime workers fall under general maritime law, with varying compensation rules depending on their specific roles.

Protecting Your Rights

  • Seek Immediate Medical Attention: Regardless of the accident’s severity, prioritize your health. Document everything – name of the vessel, date, time, location, nature of the injury, witnesses, and photos if possible.
  • Report the Incident: Inform the appropriate authorities, such as ship officers, coast guard, or local law enforcement. Get official reports confirming the incident.
  • Do Not Sign Waivers: Cruise lines and other operators may pressure you to sign waivers limiting your claim rights. Seek legal advice before signing anything.
  • Contact a Maritime Attorney: Navigating maritime law is complex. An experienced attorney familiar with the applicable laws and procedures can assess your case, identify potential claims, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Important Considerations

  • Time Limits: Act fast! Maritime claims often have strict time limitations for filing lawsuits. Consult an attorney as soon as possible after your injury.
  • Evidence Preservation: Secure any evidence related to the accident, including medical records, accident reports, photos, witness statements, and communication with operators.
  • Shared Fault: Maritime law may consider shared fault for the accident, impacting your potential compensation. An attorney can evaluate the specific circumstances and advocate for your best interests.

Remember, you have rights after being injured afloat. Don’t be intimidated by the complex legal landscape. By understanding your rights, taking prompt action, and seeking legal guidance from a qualified maritime law attorney at Sayer, Regan & Thayer, you can navigate the currents of maritime law and pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Always consult with a qualified maritime law attorney for specific guidance regarding your individual case.