At first glance it can be difficult to know how to proceed with any personal injury claim let alone one which occurs at sea. Over the last few years we have seen a significant increase in the number of cruise holidays as well as the use of private boats and jet skis. Unfortunately, this increase in sea-based activities has also led to an increase in accidents and in some cases fatalities. We will now take a look at some of the more common instances of accidents at sea, how you can claim for compensation and the varying timelines you need to follow.
Time Limits Can Vary
While traditionally those who pursue compensation through the UK courts will have three years from the date of the accident (or diagnosis) during which to begin a claim, this situation is slightly different for accidents in foreign waters and it is important to be aware of the subtle differences. There are certain areas of the world where accidents at sea need to be pursued through the courts within two years. When discussing your case with a personal injury solicitor they will make you aware of any variation in the traditional timescale and how you should proceed.
Common Accidents At Sea
As we touched on above, there has been a significant increase in the number of cruise holidays in recent times. This has also prompted a general increase in sea-based activities as holidaymakers from the UK and around the world look to maximise their enjoyment. We will now take a look at common accidents on the sea and the potential to claim compensation.
Seeing huge cruise liners in the newspapers or on websites is a whole different matter than when you see one up close and personal. These cruise liners are absolutely huge with many of them boasting golf courses and other similar attractions. It probably goes without saying but the captain of the ship is responsible for the well-being of all passengers and all employees. This tends to be the general rule of the sea and perfectly reflects the importance of the role of captain and ship management.
Some of the more common accidents associated with large cruise lines include:-
- Slips, trips and falls
- Injuries caused by falling items
- Falling overboard
While these are fairly standard accidents when it comes to personal injury claims, the fact that they happen on the sea gives them a whole different perspective.
Small Boats and Yachts
If you go for a holiday overseas you will likely be bombarded with offers from companies running small boats and yacht ventures. While the vast majority of these vessels will be extremely well maintained and managed, this is not always the case. As a consequence, unfortunately the same types of accident tend to occur on a regular basis for those aboard small boats and yachts. These include:-
- Collision with other boats and jet skis
- Falling overboard
- Slips, trips and falls
- Injuries caused by faulty equipment
- Faulty or insufficient safety equipment
Even though we have seen a significant tightening of regulations regarding yachts and boats, sometimes these regulations can be “stretched to the limit” in popular holiday destinations. In line with maritime law, the captain of any ship is responsible for all passengers and employees. There is obviously an obligation on the management of such vessels to ensure they are shipshape and Bristol fashion.
Over the years we have seen a huge increase in the number of jet skis used by holidaymakers. Simple to use, economic on fuel and able to travel at relatively high speeds, they obviously offer an array of challenges when it comes to health and safety. However, with the increased number of jet skis in use we have also seen an increase in the number of accidents. These include:-
- Collisions with other jet skis and boats
- Drowning due to inadequate safety equipment
- Faulty jet skis restricting control and causing accidents
- Collisions with individuals in the water
Those who have used a jet ski will be well aware of the power these machines offer and the potential to cause significant injury when hitting other transport or individuals. Again, like cruise liners, small boats and yachts, there are strict regulations regarding jet skis but these are not always adhered to.
While we have tended to focus on different forms of sea-based transport in this article, it is worth noting that good old-fashioned swimming can be dangerous in some waters. Some of the more common accidents associated with swimming include:-
- Hit by sea-based vessels
- Exposure to infected waters
- Injuries caused by beach overcrowding
- Cuts and abrasions from objects in the water
Unfortunately, despite the prominence of various warning signs it seems that many people get carried away when on holiday while enjoying themselves. Even if an individual is partly to blame for an accident they may still be able to claimant compensation against any other parties involved. The issue of shared liability is one which is often overlooked by victims.
Common Injuries Received
Whether enjoying the latest cruise, a journey on a relatively small boat or yacht, jet skiing far off land or simply swimming, there are many common injuries. These include:-
- Cuts and lacerations
- Loss of limbs
- Illness and disease
- Brain damage caused by oxygen starvation
Unfortunately, many accidents which occur at sea can lead to significant injuries and long-term impairment as well as prove fatal. There are a number of unique risks associated with the sea and while they may appear to be “accidents” very often there is a degree of liability attributed to various third parties.
Common Causes Of Boating Accidents
The simple fact is that the increased popularity of boating/yachting trips, as well as the use of jet skis, has led to more traffic on the water. As a consequence the more traffic the greater chance of collisions and potential injury. Over the years a number of common causes of boating accidents have emerged which include:-
Unprepared for bad weather
Many of the ill maintained/inappropriate tourist vessels used for sea journeys are flimsy to say the least and often unable to cope with bad weather conditions. As a consequence, the potential dangers of setting out to sea unprepared for bad weather can be potentially fatal. Even larger more seaworthy vessels can often suffer if they are unprepared for a significant change in the weather.
Whether aboard a small yacht/boat or using a jet ski, many people feel the need for speed when on holiday. This type of reckless behaviour can not only endanger the individual but also those in their vicinity. Even though it is common sense to be careful, on land or on water, these warnings are often ignored in the “heat of the moment”.
While we have seen a number of accidents involving tourists in charge of sea vessels while under the influence of alcohol, unfortunately, there have been some instances of commercial vessels in the same situation. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the person in charge of the vessel to ensure the safe well-being of others. Where a commercial vehicle is operated by an employee, under the influence of alcohol/drugs, the responsibility for passenger safety will lie with the captain/management company.
If you travel overseas for your holidays you will likely come across boats and jet skis which simply look unseaworthy. As a consequence, equipment failure is still relatively common across the more popular tourist destinations as the thrill of the moment takes over from a more cautious/safety based approach. Those who rent out faulty/ill maintained equipment may well be responsible for any injuries received and liable for compensation.
As happens in the workplace, if an employee is placed in a position for which they have little or no experience/knowledge then the employer would likely be liable in the event of accidents/injuries. This is exactly the same when it comes to unlicensed/inexperienced drivers of sea vessels such as boats, yachts and other forms of transport. In the event of an accident the driver and the employer would likely be the parties hauled before the courts.
Where To Pursue Compensation
Unfortunately, many people who have been the victim of accidents caused by negligence in foreign lands have automatically assumed there is no pathway to claiming compensation. The reality is that compensation can be pursued in the UK from individuals/companies based in the UK or overseas. Some of the more common parties pursued as a consequence of accidents/negligence include:-
Where a UK-based holiday company has worked with overseas partners to arrange a variety of excursions for holidaymakers, they may at least be partially liable in the event of accidents/injuries caused by negligence. This could include pre-planned boating trips, the use of jet skis and other similar activities.
It is still possible to pursue individuals/companies based overseas for compensation as a consequence of accidents caused by negligence. In reality it is simpler to claim compensation for parties within the EU than some of the far-flung corners of the world. However, just because a third party is based overseas does not mean they are safe from prosecution.
While we tend to focus on management companies, and those in control of seagoing vessels, sometimes it is the actions of fellow travellers which can cause accidents and injuries. Therefore, if an accident was caused as a consequence of negligence from a fellow traveller there is still the potential to claim compensation.
As the number of sea vessels continues to grow in popular tourist destinations, and there is greater demand for cruise ship facilities, unfortunately this has led to an increase in the number of accidents and injuries. As we have highlighted above, there are many different scenarios in which accidents can occur and injuries can be received. When pursuing compensation there are a variety of options open and even in the event that the victim may be “partially responsible” the issue of shared liability is worth considering.
It is also worth noting the variation in deadlines across different countries when claiming compensation for sea-based accidents. When discussing your case with a personal injury solicitor they will be able to advise you of any anomalies compared to the UK system.