Commercial Ship Accident Law

Commercial Ship Accident Laws relate to accidents that occur on commercial or cargo ships. Cargo ship accidents can result in serious injuries or even death to crew members, dock workers, and others, as well as significant losses of property. Commercial ship accidents can occur for many reasons, and can relate to shipping vessels, cruise ships, oil rigs, and many other types of large watercraft or structures. These accidents are governed by different and sometimes overlapping laws depending on where they occur and the nation whose flag each vessel is flying.

Cruise Ship Accidents

One area of recent interest has been commercial ship accidents on cruise lines. In the last decade, headlines have been filled with stories of cruise ships running aground, engine fires and other malfunctions leaving the vessel stranded at sea, and passengers falling overboard or becoming sick with dangerous communicable diseases while at sea. In every instance, laws and international agreements exist to govern how such incidents may be addressed, both in terms of remedying the immediate situation and in compensating the victims for their injuries. Other laws are in place to attempt to prevent such incidents from ever occurring in the first place, like minimum qualifications for those running the ships, designated safe routes the ships are permitted to take, and international safety equipment regulations.

Because of the scale of these vessels and their capacity for international transport, a number of other areas of law are triggered by accidents. These can include immigration laws if passengers are required to disembark in a country other than their intended destination, environmental laws if the vessel causes damage to the ecosystem (such as when it runs aground), personal injury laws for any persons injured in the accident, and many more.

Cargo Ship Accidents

Much like cruise ships, cargo ship accidents can also be quite damaging. Aside from injuring crew members and potentially putting millions or even billions of dollars worth of cargo at risk, the potential for ecological disaster and international disagreements are often enormous. Cargo ship accidents may trigger a number of personal injury claims on behalf of crew members, dock workers, or any other person who may be injured in the accident. There may also be claims under the Jones Act related to these injuries. Should the accident cause the sinking of a cargo ship, international laws regarding salvage and recovery may be triggered. Environmental laws may come into play should the accident result in ecological disaster, such as the rupturing of the hull of an oil tanker. And, a wide array of international laws may be triggered by a cargo ship accident, particularly if the accident occurs as the result of two or more vessels flying different flags impacting one another.

Oil Rig Accidents

Another area of much recent media attention has been the oil rig accident. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a perfect example of the types of laws and regulations that such accidents may trigger. There were personal injury and worker claims made by personnel on the rig, as well as those who were secondary sufferers of the oil spill. The accident affected the economic livelihood of millions of people who relied on fishing and other industries that were damaged by the spill to make a living. It also brought on congressional hearings, Environmental Protection Agency actions, and a bevy of other administrative actions.

Commercial ship accidents can cover an incredibly diverse range of legal issues from contract disputes to injury laws and even international treaties. For more information about commercial ship accidents, please review the materials found below or contact an attorney in your area. You can find an attorney by visiting our Law Firms page (simply click the "Law Firms" tab on the menu bar, above).


Admiralty and Maritime Law Articles

  • Exposure to Dangerous Toxins Can Put Maritime Workers at Undue Risk
    Working on the crew – or in any other capacity – in the maritime industry is dangerous, to begin with, but being exposed to toxic chemicals, fumes, and/or paints in the course of your work is one danger many may not have taken into consideration. The Federal Maritime Law is in place to help ensure that crew members and other maritime workers are afforded a reasonably safe work environment and a vessel that is seaworthy. If toxic fumes on the job leave you injured, it’s time to consult with an experienced Mississippi maritime lawyer.
  • Poor Lighting and Maritime Injuries
    One common cause of maritime injuries is poor lighting. Natural lighting only helps during daylight hours, and artificial lighting on boats is not always adequate. This problem is especially common in stairwells and other enclosed areas.
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
    Enacted in 1927, the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal workers' compensation program.
  • When Should You Hire a Maritime Attorney?
    Not every personal injury case near or on the water requires hiring a maritime lawyer. Learn more specifics as to when it is necessary to hire a maritime attorney.
  • Injured Maritime Workers
    When a maritime worker aboard a vessel (ships, tugs, towboats, cruise ships, ferries, launches, fish boats) is injured or loses their life, the maritime law is usually involved. Licensed merchant mariner and admiralty lawyer, John K. Fulweiler, Esq., explains some of the admiralty rights and remedies available.
  • Damages Caused by Small Vessels and Potential Legal Claims
    Small vessels such as sailboats, fishing boats, private cruising vessels can cause accidents that lead to legal claims where the driver or owner is ordered to pay damages to someone who was injured in the accident. However, if a vessel is far enough away from the shore, maritime law may come into play.
  • Small Vessel Accidents - Who Is Liable?
    Accidents in the water may lead to litigation if the person survives after sustaining an injury on a small vessel, and then it is vital to understand who the liable party is for the damages incurred during the incident. These situations may require a thorough investigation to determine the at-fault party and which person or company owes compensation to the victim.
  • Accidents on International Waters - What Rules Govern?
    International waters have rules governed by maritime laws which will determine how to proceed, what type of case proceeds and what amount in compensation is possible for civil cases. These rules will take the place of standard courts when the person is in international waters and over twenty miles from the shore of a state or country.
  • Cruise Ship Liability for Abandoning Passengers
    Ordinarily, the passenger that is left behind by the cruise ship will have the responsibility to get back on the ship even if he or she was abandoned during the travels in a different country or in the water. However, there are times when this situation can lead to a valid lawsuit depending on the circumstances.
  • Alter Ego Liability in Supplemental Rule B Admiralty Actions: The Winds Are Favorable
    Charles Moure of Moure Law pllc argues that the recent expansion of Rule B actions by various courts serves an important purpose in regulating the international shipping industry by responding appropriately to the fleeting nature of offshore shipping charter companies.

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