You have all seen the headlines,”Costa Concordia sinking leaves other cruise ship passengers alarmed-and out of luck.” Washington Post. From Fox News. “Italian cruise captain committed mortal sin by disembarking early, American Maritime Officers Union official says.” These headlines discuss a disaster in Italy where captain Francesco Schettino of Costa (owned by Carnival Cruise Line) cruise ships maneuvered his ship too close to a fishing village near the island of Giglio and hit some rocks causing a huge gash in the side of the massive cruise ship. A number of people are still missing and some found dead.
An investigation is continuing into this tragic accident but many individuals might think that this is simply a negligence case. This may be true, but unlike normal state court or federal court cases in the United States or in California, there are certain laws that govern ship accidents or boating accidents on the sea–it is called maritime law. It would take pages and pages of analysis to discuss the maritime laws and boating laws and how they compare. So make sure that when you hire your personal injury lawyer if you or a friend or loved one have been involved in a boating or ship accident, that you ask if your case would be considered a maritime law case. There are maritime laws that discuss safety, personal injuries or deaths on the high seas and injuries of crew members. For example the Jones Act of 1920 was enacted to help seamen claim damages when injured while at sea. The Jones Act required ship owners to keep their vessels in safe and clean condition for those working and those vacationing on a ship or ocean-liner. Under this law the ship, boat or cruise line owner must provide proper care and medical aid to an injured seaman until they arrive back at port. I can go on and on, but I am just pointing out that when an injury or death occurs due to a boat or ship accident, the most important thing is to determine where the accident occurred to see which laws apply.
Back to the sinking of the Costa Concordia. The Italian captain, Capt. Francesco Schettino, made some odd remarks when the disaster occurred in Italy. According to Fox News and the tapes the media obtained, the captain was told by the Italian Coast Guard to get back on the ship when they found out he abandoned his ship with passengers still aboard. He was advised by the Coast Guard to assure them that he was going to get back on board. He did not get back on board and many now call him “chicken of the sea”. As of Tuesday the 17th of January 11 were found dead, many of them still wearing their life jackets.
I am one that enjoys going on a cruise ship like millions of other people across the world. But the sinking of the Costa Concordia and the preventable deaths of people from that accident show us that men or woman will make mistakes (many times stupid mistakes) no matter how much training and education a boat or ship Captain receives.
Fred Penney and Penney and Associates are personal injury attorney’s that have offices located throughout California. Penney and Associates have handled a number of serious boating accident cases including injuries to skiers or wake-boarders while on the lake. Generally speaking as of 2011, maritime law does not apply to someone that is killed or injured while on a lake within the United States. For further information about Penney and Associates go to www.penneyandassociates.com or call 1-800-616-4529.