Whether you are a tourist or a crewmember on a ship, a fire or explosion on board could put you and others at risk of serious injury. This can include everything from burns to smoke inhalation injuries and injuries from the force of the explosion. During this time, it is critical that you have an experienced boat fire and explosion accident lawyer on your side to help get you the compensation that you deserve.
At Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A., our Miami boat fire and explosion lawyers can conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding your accident and fight for the maximum settlement or judgment you are entitled to. Personal injury cases are complicated enough on land. When they happen at sea, there are additional hurdles and complications that may need to be taken into consideration. To learn more about your potential right to recovery, contact our team of experienced maritime injury lawyers today at (866) 386-1762.
Lawsuits for Fire and Explosion Accidents on Boats
A fire or explosion accident can happen on many different types of ships, including cruise ships, recreational boats, yachts, ferries, and commercial ships. In one remarkable case, a 40-foot charter vessel operating in the Bahamas exploded, engulfing the boat in flames. This charter was meant to spend a day touring around Exuma Island, which is a popular destination for vacationers. This is only one example of a serious, potentially deadly explosions and fires aboard vessels in prime tourist destinations like the Bahamas.
Fishing boats, ships, and tugs should never have to experience fires or explosions at sea. When these accidents do occur, anyone injured in the accident can usually bring a claim to recover compensation. Depending on where the accident took place, you might need to bring your claim under U.S. maritime law.
If the fire or accident that caused the fire occurred near shore or at port, it might be handled as a lawsuit under the laws of the state where the accident occurred. For example, many accidents happen while a ship is docking or while it is stationary at port. These accidents could be handled as normal injury cases in the state where the accident happened. It is not usually until a ship is outside of state waters or in international waters that these accidents are handled as maritime injury lawsuits.
In a maritime injury case, you will usually need to show that the operator failed to use reasonable care in the maintenance and operation of the vessel and that this was the direct cause of the injuries you sustained. There could be an endless range of reasons why a fire or explosion occurred, including crew negligence, spilled cargo, faulty electrical wiring, lightning strikes, or the negligent handling of propane or other flammable substances. The odds of this type of accident occurring are even higher on commercial boats, where many industrial chemicals are stored and transported.
Proving Fault in Shipboard Fire and Explosion Injury Cases
If you were injured because of a fire aboard a ship, courts will require you to prove that the ship operator was at fault for the fire. Some ship fires are pure accidents, with lighting strikes or catastrophic engine malfunctions causing the fire. Others are caused by more concrete negligence that you could sue for.
Ship fires can be caused by improper maintenance, unsafe conditions on board, or mistakes in how the ship was operated. Fires could also cause injuries because fire suppression systems or other emergency systems did not work properly. Testing and maintenance are common, reasonable ways to make sure these systems work when they need to, and failing to test them is likely negligent.
Negligence like this is at the core of most personal injury claims. Negligence claims are different from intentional injury claims, working under the theory that the at-fault party should be held responsible if they failed to use the proper care or skill in allowing the accident to occur.
Usually, the at-fault party in these kinds of injury cases is the company that operates the ship. Sometimes, fault can be pinned on an individual member of the crew or errors that the captain was responsible for. In any case, this still usually allows you to sue the ship company in their capacity as the crewmember’s employer. This means that if a fire breaks out on board because a member of the kitchen staff allowed a grease fire to get out of control, the ship’s company would still be responsible for their employee’s errors.
Ship companies can also be held liable in their own capacity if the ship was unseaworthy, if emergency systems were not tested, or if the company hired crewmembers they should have known were dangerous.
Damages for Fire and Explosion Injuries on a Ship
If you are successful in showing that the operator’s negligence was the cause of your injuries, you can recover damages for the harms the accident caused you. Typically, the damages you can claim involve compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
Burn and explosion injuries from a ship can leave victims seriously hurt and unable to work to support themselves and their families. Serious injuries can lead to lost wages while you recover, but permanent injuries could mean ongoing lost wages. If your injuries keep you from going back to work at the same job, you could be entitled to the difference between your new and old wages. If you cannot work at all because of your injuries, ongoing wages could be covered in a lawsuit. In many cases, future lost wages are referred to as “reduced earning capacity” damages.
Damages for medical bills and expenses can often cover the cost of emergency treatment as well as ongoing care. For many burn and explosion injuries, victims will need to be transported to a hospital on shore for treatment. The delay in care and the time it takes to transport a victim could mean additional harm that needs intensive care to treat. When you are sent home, you may need to return for ongoing care to get skin grafts or other treatment. The cost of this treatment could be quite high.
Pain and Suffering
Damages for pain and suffering will be one of the highest areas of damages in many fire and explosion accident cases. Burn injuries are often very painful. In some cases, third-degree burns might be so severe that the nerve endings are damaged, and the victim will not feel much pain. However, treating the injuries is often very painful, and burn victims could face substantial pain from an injury like this.
Burn injuries could also lead to visible, obvious injuries. Serious burns often result in additional damages for the mental suffering that a visible injury causes. Especially if you are young, unmarried, or a woman, the burns and scarring might be considered “worse” because they could interfere with traditional notions of beauty. Talk to a Florida boat accident lawyer about what your burn injuries might be worth for pain and suffering damages.
Ship Fire and Explosion Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In many ship fire and explosion cases, there are victims who do not survive. If you lost a loved one in a ship fire, you might be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit instead of a personal injury lawsuit. This will often help you recover some of the same damages your loved one would have been able to recover if they survived. This includes the cost of pain and suffering damages and the cost of end-of-life medical bills.
You might also be entitled to claim other damages for the harms you and your family faced because of the accident that killed your loved one. For instance, the cost of burial and funeral arrangements are usually one of the areas of damages that the surviving family sues for in a wrongful death case.
Additional damages you and your family can claim might also include the cost of grief counseling, lost wages for your family, lost investments, lost household services, lost spousal services, and lost companionship. Many of these harms are not based on economic data, but instead on the impact the loss had on your family. Talk to an attorney about how to prove these damages and testify about the harms in court.
Crewmember and Ship Employee Injuries from Fires and Explosions
Some of these accidents may involve crewmembers or employees who work on the vessel. According to federal maritime law, fire and explosion victims on boats are entitled to certain protections. Under General Maritime Law and the Jones Act, a seaman who is injured is entitled to compensation for any injuries stemming from either
- The unseaworthiness of a vessel or
- Negligence on the part of the company operating the vessel.
This can include compensation for disfigurement, pain and suffering, psychological injuries, lost earning capacity, retraining for vocational purposes, future medical costs, and more.
Typically, workers must be properly trained and equipped at work. An employer who fails to give workers the safety gear they need to handle dangerous or flammable materials can be held liable for accidents involving fires and explosions. Ship owners must also take care to make sure that fire suppression systems are installed and kept in working order. If the fire got out of hand and caused additional injuries because the fire alarms or sprinklers were not working or disabled, the ship operators could be liable for worker injuries.
Speak with an Experienced Boat Fire and Explosion Injury Lawyer Today
Few things are more terrifying than being involved in a serious accident involving fire or explosions. When the event takes place on a ship at sea, the situation can be even more harrowing. Having represented victims nationwide in a wide variety of boat accident and maritime law cases, we are effectively positioned to help you investigate your claim and assert your rights. To schedule an appointment with one of our boat fire and explosion accident lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A., call us at (866) 386-1762.