Charter Boat Accidents and Maritime Workers’ Coverage
Many people in Florida like to take advantage of the beautiful beaches and oceans surrounding the state. 2014 was a record year for Florida tourism. In 2013, a reported 93 million tourists visited Florida and 97 million in 2014; a 3.6% increase. Some of the most common things that Floridians and tourists enjoy are boating and fishing. Boats can be very costly and for those who don’t live close to the ocean, renting or chartering boats is a way to enjoy the ocean without owning a boat. There are multiple ways in which people can charter boats. One way is hiring a skipper, or captain of the vessel, along with other crew members to ensure the safety and proper operation of the boat while customers fish and enjoy the water. People who rent boats could potentially be at risk of injury or liability, depending on the situation and who is considered to be responsible for the wellbeing of those on board.
Bareboat Charter Liability
The most popular way to charter a boat is a Bareboat charter. In this case, there are no skippers or crew members on board; the vessel is rented to a group or an individual for a specified period of time and it is returned at the end of the period. Oftentimes, a group of people will share the cost of chartering a boat and designate an experienced group member to be the acting skipper or captain of the boat. While having an experienced person overseeing the operation and safety of the boat and its passengers is a good idea, it comes with some legal risks. The acting captain can be held responsible for damages done to the chartered boat or even to passengers onboard in the event of an accident. For example, a group of friends decides to go on vacation and charter a boat in the Florida keys for a weekend fishing trip. One of the members of the group has had years of experience with boating and fishing, so the group agrees that he or she is to be designated the responsibilities of the skipper to ensure the group’s safety. While on the water, the acting skipper is driving very fast and hits large wake causing a group member to fall off his or her seat onto the deck resulting in a serious injury. In this case, the acting skipper acted negligently and was the cause of serious bodily harm onto the other group member, and the acting skipper is therefore responsible for any injuries incurred.
The company or owner of the chartered boat can also be held liable for any incidents onboard their vessel even if they were not on board at the time of injury. The owner is legally obligated to keep the boat in working and safe condition at all times. This means that they are responsible for monitoring and mitigating any potential hazards and actively taking measures to ensure passenger safety. For instance, if a group charters a boat, elects a skipper from the group, and a passenger cuts themselves on a rusty nail protruding from the boat, then the owner of the chartered boat, not the acting skipper, would be held liable for any damages related to the injury, so long as that injury is beyond the scope of immediate first-aid.
Jones Act Coverage
Customers of charter boat companies are not the only people we aim to help. Thanks to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, maritime employees such as sailors, seamen, and offshore oil rig employees are legally protected and entitled to monetary compensation for any resulting injury or medical issues associated with working on a ship. Maritime workers were previously excluded from worker’s compensation under Florida State laws and other states’ laws for personal injuries due to their involvement in interstate commerce. The Jones Act remedies this by ensuring that American maritimes workers are covered and able to collect workers’ compensation without having to jump through legal hoops. Longshore and harbor workers are not covered by the Jones Act because separate legal protection applies to them that provides them with similar coverage.
Despite slight differences in each of the situations above, they essentially aim to provide legal protection for everybody involved in a charter boat related injury, ranging from the captain and crew to the customers aboard, and everybody in between. Our attorneys here at The Ansara Law Firm will make sure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries sustained while on board a charter boat. Our long legacy of success with personal injury cases speaks for itself, but what puts our firm above the rest is our tenacity and dedication to our clients’ satisfaction. Our South Florida injury lawyers provide all of our clients with the best possible outcome to their cases and make sure that they are taken care of when incidents occur.
If you or your loved one was recently injured in a charter boat accident of any kind, call The Ansara Law Firm for a free consultationas soon as possible to improve your chances of being compensated.