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Sadly, even in the modern era, vessels are lost at sea. Maritime workers must suppress the fear of the worst case scenario, their ship going down. Coast Guard, ABS, and other industry safety standards are in place to prevent the unfathomable from occurring. But, sometimes it does.
You may have lost a loved one at sea in a vessel sinking, or you may have survived a vessel sinking, but suffered physical and psychological injuries in the process. Those injuries can lead to lost wages, lost ability to work and steep hospital bills. While sinkings can be the result of unforeseen circumstances, human error plays a hand in many. If you were injured in or lost a loved one to a vessel sinking, you deserve justice.
Our Seattle vessel sinking attorneys at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski have handled claims arising from numerous vessel sinkings. The firm will fight for you to obtain just compensation if you have lost a loved one to a shipwreck or if you have suffered injuries in a shipwreck. We have recovered millions coast-to-coast on behalf of the victims of vessel sinkings, both for accident survivors and for the families of victims. We'll fight to do the same for you. Call us today at 1 (800) 262-8529 to set up a free consultation to discuss the details of your case with our shipwreck attorneys.
We represent victims of vessel sinkings and their families in state and federal courts throughout the Pacific Northwest, including in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. We maintain offices in Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California.
There are many reasons that a ship may sink, including:
Shipwrecks can often result from a combination of these and other factors. For instance, navigational errors can cause the staunchest of ships to sink. After a sinking, the Coast Guard and the vessel owner’s insurers will conduct an investigation to determine the causes of the casualty. Their findings often will be confidential, so you need an admiralty lawyer to conduct an investigation on your behalf – sooner rather than later. If the ship owner or employer was at fault, he or she should be held liable for your damages.
Because of the inherent risks of plying the oceans’ waters, ship owners are required to outfit their ships with appropriate safety gear, like life boats, life jackets, fire extinguishers, EPIRBS, survival suits and other life-saving equipment. For compliance with Coast Guard regulations, crew members are required to perform monthly drills to prepare for a fire or flooding that can cause a vessel to sink.
If a ship is not sufficiently prepared for an emergency at sea, the results can be tragic. If you suffered damages or you lost a loved one because a ship did not comply with industry standards or Coast Guard safety regulations, you deserve justice.
If your loved one went down with a ship, you may have a right of recovery, whether your loved one was a crew member, officer or passenger on the vessel, and whether they perished at sea on the other side of the world or right off the Washington coast in state territorial waters. Federal statutes like the Jones Act and Death on the High Seas Act (or “DOHSA”) and maritime common law provide paths to recovery.
In vessel sinking cases where most of the evidence lies on the bottom of the sea, the plaintiff’s burden is succinctly described by Judge Beeks, formerly of the Western District of Washington bench, in the case of In re DEEP SEA as follows:
"The law, however, provides claimants faced with such an onerous burden some relief. Where claimants establish negligence or unseaworthiness on the one hand and there is an unexplained loss of a vessel in expectable weather on the other, the court is permitted, although not required, to infer that the negligence or unseaworthiness was the proximate cause of the loss. Claimants’ burden is, therefore, reduced to establishing negligence or unseaworthiness, which reasonably, though not necessarily, may have been the cause of the loss."
Once your attorneys establish fault on the part of the vessel owner or employer, the surviving members of the decedent’s family may recover money damages. If your loved one died in a shipwreck, you may be able to recover for loss of consortium, which is a legal term for the intangible damages you suffer from the death of a family member or spouse.
You may also recover pecuniary damages for lost financial support from the loved one's wages, loss of domestic services, funeral expenses and more. Finally, the family may recover for the pre-death pain, suffering, and fear of impending death experienced during their loved one’s final minutes.
If your loved one died, the ship owner or employer's insurance company may offer you a settlement. They may tell you it is the best offer you will receive. But the insurance company is only looking out for its bottom line. Your Seattle maritime injury lawyer can negotiate a higher settlement, or take them to court to get the best result possible.
If you survived a vessel sinking, or you have lost a loved one in a vessel sinking in the North Pacific, the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea or other waters, the experienced maritime lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski can help you fight for the justice you deserve. Call us today at 1 (800) 262-8529 for a free consultation.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, July 10, 2018.