Pensacola Boating & Maritime Accident Lawyers - Levin Papantonio - Since 1955
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We have been handling boating accident claims throughout the country since 1955, and have earned a reputation as one of the most successful personal injury law firms in the nation, winning more than $4 billion dollars in jury verdicts and settlements.

Our law office is located in downtown Pensacola, and our thirty-five attorneys live in the Pensacola community.

 

Common Types of Boating Accident Claims

How Long to Bring a Case

State and federal laws regarding maritime and pleasure boating injuries are complex and depend upon various circumstances, such as the type of vessel; how the vessel was being used; where it was being operated; whether injury or death occurred; and whether the injured person was employed on the boat.

Some of the most common types of claims involving personal injury on the water, include:

  1. Private Pleasure Boating Accidents
  2. Cruise Ship Injuries
  3. Death on the High Seas
  4. Unseaworthiness Claims
  5. Jones Act Seaman

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Boating Accidents

Does federal admiralty and maritime law apply to the operation of a pleasure boat

Generally, admiralty and maritime law will cover pleasure boat incidents occurring on navigable waters, oceans, seas, rivers, Great Lakes, etc. However, state law will apply to any incidents occurring on a land-locked lake wholly within one state, or a waterway which includes obstructions which prevent navigation.

 

Does federal admiralty and maritime law apply to the operation of a personal water craft

Yes, general admiralty and maritime law will apply to sea-doos, jet skis, houseboats and other personal watercraft operating on navigable waterways.

 

What should I do if I am involved in a boating accident

Most boating accidents require a report to either the state agency regulating boats or to the United States Coast Guard, or both. If an operator is involved in a collision with another boat or an 'allision' (which means striking a fixed object or a non-moving vessel), he or she should immediately contact the state agency regulating boats to ascertain what type of report is required, if any.

A reporting requirement is generally triggered if the boating accident involves personal injury requiring medical treatment beyond immediate first aid or damage to any vessel or other property above a certain specified amount, frequently $500.

Failure to remain on the scene, render aid, and timely report the boating accident to an appropriate law enforcement agency is a crime. Report the incident to your insurance company to be safe and if a state or federal report was made. To the extent possible, you should photograph or document the scene and the vessels involved.

 

What is the Limitation of Liability Act

The Limitation of Liability Act supports the idea that a vessel owner is entitled to limit its liability after a maritime accident to the post-casualty value of the vessel and the pending freight. Limitations on liability can leave the injured person with next to nothing for recovery. There are circumstances in which a defendant can lose the right to limit liability, and the injured person can pursue the full extent of his/her damages.

 

What is a third-party claim

Often boating accidents involve liability on behalf of persons other than the operator or owner of the boat. For instance, there may be product liability claims for poor design of the vessel or inadequately manufactured motors, seats, etc. It is important that all potential claims be well documented and investigated before releasing the vessel.

 

What does it mean for a vessel to be "unseaworthy"

The doctrine of unseaworthiness is a feature of the general maritime law. A vessel owner owes seamen a strict and absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. A seaworthy vessel is one that is reasonably fit for its intended use.

The unseaworthiness defendant is the vessel owner or the operator if the operator has "full possession and control" over the vessel. Unlike the Jones Act claim which is against the seaman's employer, an unseaworthiness claim is made against the vessel's owner. In many cases, those two will be the same.

An unseaworthiness claim against the vessel owner is often combined with a Jones Act claim against the seaman's employer. Both claims must be filed within 3 years of the injury. If an unseaworthiness claim is joined with a Jones Act claim, the plaintiff may ask for a jury trial on the unseaworthiness claim as well as the Jones Act claim.

The duty to provide a vessel that is reasonably safe extends to all parts of the vessel and to almost all facets of its operation. The fact that the unseaworthy condition occurred after the vessel left port is immaterial. It is no excuse that the vessel owner had no notice of or opportunity to correct the condition that caused the injury; liability still will exist. The warranty of seaworthiness is absolute, continuing, and non-delegable. It extends to all parts of the vessel, including the hull, appliances, appurtenances, gear and equipment, even the vessel's manpower. For example, unfit crew members or an insufficient number of crew members on the vessel may constitute an unseaworthy condition. In addition, temporary conditions such as oil, water, or ice on the deck, known as transitory unseaworthiness, provides a basis for a recovery.

An unseaworthy condition can be created by employees of the owner or even independent contractors. The warranty of seaworthiness imposed by the operation of law on a vessel owner or operator is a powerful tool to protect the rights of seamen.

 

What is the Death on the High Seas Act

The Death on the High Seas Act was enacted by Congress in 1920, and provided recovery for the death of any person "caused by wrongful act, neglect or default occurring on the high seas beyond a marine league from the shore of any state." A marine league consists of three miles from the shore of any state. Deaths occurring further from shore than three miles are covered under the Death on the High Seas Act.

DOHSA does not apply to offshore drilling rigs. These are governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Act and supplemented by the law of the adjacent state.

A claim under DOHSA can be founded on unseaworthiness and is brought against the vessel or the vessel owner. In contrast, the Jones Act covers any seaman who suffers personal injury or dies as a result of injuries sustained in the course of employment. The cause of action is against the seaman's employer.

The doctrine of unseaworthiness is a feature of the general maritime law. A vessel owner owes seamen a strict and absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. A seaworthy vessel is one that is reasonably fit for its intended use.

The unseaworthiness defendant is the vessel owner or the operator if the operator has "full possession and control" over the vessel. Unlike the Jones Act claim which is against the seaman's employer, an unseaworthiness claim is made against the vessel's owner. In many cases, those two will be the same.

An unseaworthiness claim against the vessel owner may be combined with a Jones Act claim against the seaman's employer. Both claims must be filed within 3 years of the injury. If an unseaworthiness claim is joined with a Jones Act claim, the plaintiff may ask for a jury trial on the unseaworthiness claim as well as the Jones Act claim.

The duty to provide a vessel that is reasonably safe extends to all parts of the vessel and to almost all facets of its operation. The fact that the unseaworthy condition occurred after the vessel left port is immaterial. It is no excuse that the vessel owner had no notice of or opportunity to correct the condition that caused the injury; liability still will exist. The warranty of seaworthiness is absolute, continuing, and non-delegable. It extends to all parts of the vessel, including the hull, appliances, appurtenances, gear and equipment, even the vessel's manpower. Unfit crew members constitute an unseaworthy condition. In addition, temporary conditions such as oil, water, or ice on the deck, known as transitory unseaworthiness, provides a basis for a recovery.

An unseaworthy condition can be created by employees of the owner or even independent contractors. The warranty of seaworthiness imposed by the operation of law on a vessel owner or operator is a powerful tool to protect the rights of seamen. Experienced maritime counsel should be retained in these cases.

 
Why Choose Our Pensacola Law Firm

Our law firm was founded in Pensacola more than 60 years ago, and is considered a national leader in this type of litigation. We have received well over 150 jury verdicts throughout the country in the amount of $1 million or more, and achieved verdicts and settlements in excess of $4 billion. For more information, please visit our About Us.

started in Pensacola in 1955 - $4 billion in verdicts and settlements - listed in Best Lawyers in America, SuperLawyers and Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame

What Does It Cost

We provide absolutely free confidential consultations, and if we are fortunate enough for you to hire us, we never will charge you any fees or costs unless you first recover.

The contingency fee we charge ranges from 20% to 40% depending upon how much we recover for you, and this is true whether your case is in Pensacola or in another city or state.

Our fee should be identical or less to what other lawyers are charging, especially in Florida, as the amount is controlled by The Florida Bar. This is true whether your lawyer has never handled a maritime case or whether it has been a focus of their practice for more than 60 years, as with our law firm. For a detailed discussion on fees and costs, click Fees & Costs.

Contact Information

To contact us for a free confidential consult, you can call us at (850) 435-7000 (Pensacola) or (800) 277-1193 (toll free). You also can request a confidential consultation by clicking Free & Confidential Consult, which form will be immediately reviewed by one of our attorneys handling maritime litigation.

 

Will Levin Papantonio Accept My Claim

Accepting My Case

Our law firm reviews and accepts boating cases of every size, whether in the Pensacola area or nationwide. No case is too big or too small.

The one thing we can assure you is that we will take your call, provide you an absolutely free consult, discuss with you the facts and issues of your case, and tell you whether we can help you. If not, we will try to get you to someone who can.

We accept boating cases of every size and type - no case is too big or too small.
 

Comparing Law Firms

When hiring a law firm, it's important to take your time and perform research. Review each law firm's website for its credentials, experience, resources, success and fees. Meet with the firms. Ask a lot of questions, and determine who you feel most comfortable trusting. Remember, any law firm can advertise it can successfully handle a personal injury case. Make sure that really is the case.