Cargo Ship Accident Kills at Least Seven People Off the Coast of Italy
A cargo ship ran into one of the busiest port in Italy last week, killing at least seven people, injuring others, and causing two people to go missing. Weather conditions were considered to be "perfect" for navigating the cargo ship out of the dock with the assistance of tug boats. Investigators are determining whether technical malfunctions or human error caused a 40 ton cargo ship to slam into the dock and knock over a control tower ship.
The Port of Seattle in Washington handles several different types of vessels, much like the port in Genoa, Italy. Both ports handle cargo vessels and passenger cruise ships. When terrible accidents like the one in Italy occur here in the United States, injured persons or personal representatives of the deceased may seek damages to help pay for costs and hold those responsible accountable. In maritime law civil liabilities change depending on the nature of the injury, who was injured, and occasionally where the ship was located when the injury occurred.
Those who are considered merchant seamen under the Jones Act may sue for maintenance and cure if they were injured during the course of their employment as a result of someone's negligence. In a successful claim, an injured seaman may be awarded daily living expenses (maintenance) and medical costs (cure). These claims may be filed against the vessel owner, regardless of whether the injury occurred ashore or onboard.
There must be significant contact to the United States for someone to sue under the Jones Act. The United States Supreme Court set the precedent of who may sue in Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. 571 (1953). In that case, a Danish seaman was injured aboard a Danish ship off the coast of Cuba. The Danish seaman joined the crew while the ship was docked in New York City, and recovered damages he was entitled to under Danish law. The injured seaman argued that he was also entitled to damages under the Jones Act, because the ship regularly docked and did business in New York. The court disagreed and determined that there were not enough contact with the United States to justify an award of damages under the Jones Act.
If a cruise ship passenger or seaman dies due to a wrongful act or neglect on the high seas while the ship is more than 3 nautical miles out, then the personal representative of the decedent may file a claim against the vessel, person, or corporation responsible. The representative may seek pecuniary damages like lost wages, doctors bills, or funeral bills, but he or she cannot seek damages for pain and suffering or loss of companionship. If jurisdiction is established under the Death on the High Seas Act, then the representative may preserve their right of action granted by other foreign states. This is in place so defendant ship owners or corporations do not attempt to limit their liability through "forum shopping" for a more favorable jurisdiction.
The experienced maritime law attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb have litigated several Jones Act and Death on the High Seas cases for those who have been injured while aboard or killed while employed by a vessel. Even though they are based in Washington, they handle cases originating from places all over the globe. Gordon and Webb know how to pursue a claim in the best jurisdiction that will maximize compensation. If you have been injured or have a loved one that has been killed while sailing on a cruise ship or employed on a merchant ship, contact the maritime law attorneys for a free confidential consultation today at 877.800.1007.