Last week a South Korean ferry boat on an overnight 14-hour journey tipped and partially sank only three hours away from its destination. Of the 476 people on board, 121 people have been confirmed dead, and 181 still remain unaccounted for.
Much like the captain of the Costa Concordia (the cruise liner that tipped in Italy two years ago), Captain Lee Joon-Seok is being scrutinized for the way he handled the evacuation, or lack thereof, on his ferry. According to maritime experts, it is the captain’s job to oversee and guide the evacuation of his vessel in a time of distress. Although there is no international law that states a captain should stay with his/her ship, both Italy and South Korea abide by strict maritime regulations that state a captain should stay with a sinking vessel until the last passenger has been rescued. However, in both of these accidents, the captains were among the first off the ship. The captain of the South Korean ferry is now under investigation, and being charged with criminal negligence and abandoning the ship.
But what happens to those who survive the maritime accident and obtain an injury?
Boating accidents, including those on ferry boats, have different sets of rules for personal injury claims than accidents on land. Any passenger aboard a cruise or ferry carries a ticket with contractual limitations on liability listed on the back. They may be squeezed to fit in a small print, but they are there. Although most passengers don’t bother to read this tiny print, it could be very important if you need to file a personal injury claim. Typically this contract states that you must:
- Present the claim in writing within a certain time frame from when the injury occurred (generally within six months).
- Sue within a certain time, often one year from when you sustained the injury.
- Bring your suit in the jurisdiction stated in the contract.
What if I’m part of a crew and get hurt while working on a boat, cruise or ferry?
If you work on the ferry and are injured, your rights are covered under the Jones Act. This means a ferry worker may be entitled to recover for lost wages, including but not limited to, future lost earnings, pain and suffering, and full medical benefits.
If you have been injured in the United States on a ferry, during a cruise, or in a recreational boat accident, whether you’re a passenger or worker, you should contact a maritime lawyer experienced maritime attorney to help navigate your claim and protect your rights.