In terms of maritime catastrophes, ferry boats can be a recipe for disaster. Unlike other commercial vessels that carry cargo and professional seafarers, ferries can carry hundreds of paying passengers. Most of those passengers are commuting or traveling from one place to another. They are not merchant mariners. They are not familiar with vessel navigation or the Rules of the Road. Their safety is at the mercy of the vessel owner and operators.
For perspective, there can be over 110 million passengers carried by ferry in the U.S. per year. During that same time, the country’s ferry fleet of over 700 vessels can also carry over 24 million vehicles.
Ferries are also the workplace for many merchant seamen. These include masters (captains), engineers, deckhands, mates, servers, cooks, and other galley workers. Crewmembers are tasked with the essential function of safely transporting passengers and their possessions to destination. Many of these fine mariners are members of the Inlandboatmens Union of the Pacific (IBU) and other seaman unions.
Mariner Law, PLLC serves waterways that are home to the busiest passenger ferry systems in the United States. These include (1) New York, with 28 million ferry passengers annually, and (2) Washington State, with over 27 million ferry passengers annually. The Puget Sound area is home to five times more vehicle traffic aboard ferries than New York Harbor.
There are all kinds of ferries serving U.S. river, harbor, bay, and sound routes.
Catamarans — typically high-speed ferries with two hulls in the water driven by jet drives.
Car Ferries — as the name implies, these ferries carry both passengers and their automobiles.
Double-ended Ferries — another classic ferry style, these vessels can alternate forward navigation and loading/unloading operations from both the bow and the stern. Sometimes the vessels even have steering stations at both ends.
Foot Ferries — smaller craft that are used to carry walk-on passengers among local destinations, often in cities. Pedestrians and cyclists only.
Traveling by ferry is usually a safe means of conveyance. But negligence can turn a good situation bad. Weather conditions can deteriorate, winds can shift, decks can become wet, and vehicles can unexpectedly shift. Common ferry accident include:
Striking the dock
Passengers falling is stairways
Slippery deck conditions
Ferry crewmembers are exposed to these and additional hazards, such as defective equipment, loud noises, explosions, fires, long hours, and toxic exposure.
When things go wrong on a ferry, passengers and professional can suffer injuries:
Traumatic brain injuries
Cuts and lacerations
Slip, trip and fall injuries
Ferry incidents are usually subject to maritime law (a.k.a. admiralty law). That means injury victims will need the assistance of an experienced maritime lawyer.
Injured passengers and injured crew on ferries have different causes of action. Passengers can make a claim for negligence under federal maritime law if a vessel owner, operator, or crewmember acts without adequate care.
Ferry commercial seafarers usually qualify as seamen under the Jones Act. That entitles injured mariners to a claim for Jones Act negligence, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure. The Jones Act was created by Congress to require maritime employers to give mariners a safe place to work. If the maritime employer is negligent, the seaman can make a claim for lost income, anguish, and pain and suffering. Unseaworthiness is another seaman claim for damages based on a condition aboard the vessel that is not fit for its purpose. Maintenance and cure are a pair of no-fault benefits for injured seamen. Maintenance is periodic payment to help pay for the seaman’s overhead during recuperation. Cure is payment of the mariner’s medical bills for treatment of shipboard injuries.
Mariner Law, PLLC knows maritime law and understands the ferry transportation industry. The firm represents injured mariners and injured ferry passengers alike. Contact (253) 600-2531 to consult with a seasoned maritime injury attorney. A Jones Act lawyer can help you investigate your case and obtain just compensation. There is no attorney fee unless you recover money damages. The firm proudly serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.