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Elements of a Marine Accident and What the Victims Should Do Next

The Right Way To Handle A Marine Accident

In Florida, an accident that occurs in the water is different from an accident that happens on land. Maritime law is involved with accidents on the water. Certain things, such as damages, liability, and more must be proven to win a case. The collection of evidence when two vessels collide on the water or with something that is stationary is performed and handled differently compared to accidents on land.


The process involves proving who is responsible for the casualty. It takes into consideration the proximate and the actual causes of the tragedy.

The things that need to be proven in a maritime case are as follows:

  • Compliance. It must show that the vessel operator failed to comply with local usage laws and navigational protocols.
  • Negligence. There must be substantial evidence that the vessel operator lacked the appropriate skills and failed to exercise safety measures.
  • Violations. It must establish that the vessel operator neglected to follow applicable navigational rules provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Safety Equipment. It must demonstrate that the vessel failed to provide sufficient life jackets, navigational equipment, and other provisions needed to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.
  • Under the Influence. It must determine whether or not the vessel operator was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or another illegal substance at the time of duty.
  • Impaired Vessel. It must determine whether or not the vessel was in good condition during operation.
  • Inattentiveness. It must determine whether or not the vessel operator ferried with the level of attention required to be safe.

Approximately 50 percent of all maritime accidents in Florida involve collisions. Over 33 percent of these collisions are a result of inattention or the operator not keeping a responsible look-out.

Inevitable Accident

When forces of nature (e.g. hurricane or floods) are involved, it is almost always impossible to avoid an accident on the water. A casualty may occur even when the vessel operator exercises sufficient nautical skills, due care, and takes the proper cautions.

Error In Extremis

This situation occurs when a vessel makes a number of wrong maneuvers and placed another vessel in a dangerous situation.

The ship placed in the dangerous situation will not be accountable if something goes wrong. An error may occur even if the vessel operated with sufficient skill and a clear mind.

An example would be a ship that is being towed by a larger ship into port. The towed vessel, should it be placed in a dangerous situation because of the towing ship, will not be held accountable if an accident arises.

Accident Damage

When a vessel is involved in a collision, it can mean a total loss. For one, the damaged vessel dramatically decreased its value. Pollution cleanup may be required which includes wreck removal and salvage that proves costly.

Should the damage not result in a total loss, repairs, loss in earnings (provided the vessel was used for commercial purposes), and related costs may be involved. Pilotage, wharfage, and more can be considered financial losses from an accident.
Maritime Accident

It’s unfortunate when maritime accidents happen. Nevertheless, they occur every year. There are certain things a person should do if their vessel is involved in a maritime accident.


Depending on the seriousness of the accident, ambulance, the US Coast Guard, and other first responders may be contacted after a maritime accident.


Even if a person does not think the injuries they received are significant, they should be examined by a physician. Some injuries are not immediately evident after an accident. It may take a day or two for them to be noticeable in the underlying bones, tissue or muscle. Should such injuries not be diagnosed or treated, they can result in a person experiencing long lasting physical problems.


After being checked and cleared by a physician, the vessel personnel may go back to the scene of the accident to get involved in the investigation process. The investigation could involve various tasks depending on what occurred. It may be good to take pictures of any damage to the boat or other equipment. If there were witnesses, it might be a good idea to speak with them and learn what they remember about the accident. Getting contact information for witnesses is also important.


The next step is to submit a report to an insurance company as soon as possible. All the details concerning the accident should be documented and saved. Make sure to duplicate copies of all information provided to an insurance company. An attorney who may eventually become involved with the case may ask for copies of the documents.


An insurance adjuster’s job is to check the scene of the accident, interview witnesses, and looking into the background of those involved in the accident. This person will be assessing damages and injuries. The goal of an insurance adjuster is to pay as little for a claim as legally possible. Individuals should never immediately sign anything given to them by an insurance adjuster. All documents need to be carefully read and understood before being signed.


When a person is a victim of a maritime accident, s/he should choose a lawyer who specializes in maritime law. The attorneys at Law Offices of Vastola & Associates. are experts in maritime laws. They have years-long experience in handling a broad range of claims.


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