California Boat Fire Attorneys
California Boat Fire Lawyers with Billions in Verdicts & Settlements
Boating companies have a legal and ethical obligation to maintain and operate their vessels as safely as possible. It's especially vital in California; with hundreds of lakes and miles of coastline, boating is both recreational and an important part of industry and research. When boating companies fail to maintain their vessels or mitigate the risks of navigating on the water, they put passengers, employees, and crew members at risk.
One of the most common tragedies to occur on the water, ironically, are deadly boat fires.
At Arnold & Itkin, our California boat fire lawyers help clients rebuild their lives, ensuring they can pay for medical treatment or funeral expenses, get long-term care, and provide for their families. Our case history is filled with the world's largest maritime companies, all of whom tried to hide behind the law to avoid doing what was right. We fought to obtain results for widows of crew members of the El Faro disaster and Deepwater Horizon explosion, even when corporate vessel owners tried to prevent them from obtaining any settlement at all. We know what it takes to win, and we’re ready to fight on your behalf so you can focus on moving forward.
Your loved one's life is worth more than a maritime company's profits. Call our team for help if you’re suffering after a California boat fire. Consultation is free when you call (888) 493-1629.
The California Dive Boat Fire Aboard The Conception
On Labor Day 2019, tragedy struck a California dive boat on a weekend excursion. The Conception, a vessel owned by Truth Aquatics, was just off the coast of Santa Barbara in the early hours of the morning when it caught fire. A total of 39 people were on board when the fire started. Those above deck, the captain and four crew members, were able to escape the boat by jumping ship. All 34 people sleeping below deck lost their lives.
Then, just days after the accident, the owners of The Conception filed a petition to protect them from paying any money to the injured crew or the families of the victims who died on their vessel. They cited a law from 1851, known as the Limitation of Liability Act, in an attempt to limit their liability for damages caused by the fire to $0.
What is The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851?
Over 150 years ago, Congress passed the Limitation of Liability Act to help promote the growth of American shipping. Lawmakers originally intended for the act to protect shipowners from liability from losses or damages that happen during a voyage. This law made sense when it was written for America’s fragile maritime industry in 1851, when ship voyages were treacherous and could last for weeks.
Today, it is primarily used by maritime corporations to shield themselves from accountability.
Today, maritime companies use this act to limit liability after an accident involving their unseaworthy vessel. Maritime companies no longer use this law for the reason it was created; instead, they use it to avoid paying for the harm and damage they cause to their crew, their passengers, and the families they leave behind.
The El Faro Incident & The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851
In October of 2015, the El Faro sank after it sailed into a hurricane. All 33 crew members who were on the ship perished in the accident. Investigators determined that the captain wanted to take a slower route to avoid the storm, but theorized that pressure from TOTE Maritime, owner of the vessel, had him sail into the storm. To make matters worse, the ship had a history of over 23 instances of mechanical issues recorded by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Experts believe the ship lost power during the storm and sank.
TOTE filed a Limitation of Liability Act claim which stated that the lost vessel had a low value. However, an insurance claim from TOTE revealed that it valued the ship much higher than it claimed in its Limitation of Liability Act claim. So, the company was trying to avoid compensating grieving families while trying to cash out on an insurance claim on the El Faro. TOTE gave families no choice: ignore their grief and file a claim, or else risk never getting answers about what happened to their loved ones. While this is a common legal tactic after a maritime accident, many experts believe it to be a fundamentally ruthless tactic.
California Boat Fire Accidents
Because California boats can serve as living quarters for days, weeks, or even months, safe operation them is paramount for passengers and crew members When a boat accident occurs, such as a fire, those on board find themselves in a particularly dangerous position. A boat fire places those above and below decks at considerable danger. Fires trap those who are on board a vessel, whether they are above deck or below.
So, the accidents must be prevented through adequate maintenance. When boat operators fail to maintain aging boats, they unfairly change the lives of dozen of people. According to one provider of marine insurance, boat fires are one of their most common types of claims for damage. This insurer stresses that many of these fires are preventable, with many originating in the engine compartment or from aging electrical components.
Sources of fires started aboard boats between 2009 and 2013 include the following:
- DC Electrical (43%)
- AC Electrical (12%)
- Other Engine (9%)
- Fuel (7%)
- Other/Unknown (29%)
Experts suggest the easiest way to prevent boat fires is through maintenance. Because fuel systems and electrical systems work together to propel a boat, just one spark from a poorly maintained electrical wire can cause a catastrophic fire. Notably, many fires occur on boats which are more than 25 years old. Owners of aging vessels must be vigilant in having every electrical component of a boat replaced as they age.
Common sources of California boat fires include:
- Old wiring harnesses
- Reversed batter cables
- Aged battery switches
- Air conditioning
- Electric heaters
- Poorly maintained engines
Arnold & Itkin’s History of Defeating Limitation of Liability Claims
After the El Faro sank, our attorneys fought for families as they grieved. We were able to disprove TOTE’s claims and obtained the compensation that our clients deserved instead of the initial amount the company tried to pay them. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP tried to use the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 to escape providing fair compensation to workers and their families. Our firm helped one-third of the crew fight BP’s attempt to avoid accountability. We’re proud that our efforts resulted in them receiving more compensation than BP was originally willing to provide.
California Boat Fire Accident FAQ
Why are boat fires so dangerous?
Any fire is dangerous. A fire on a boat has several added levels of danger, however. Crew members and passengers may be trapped on board, unable to escape. Smoke may travel into enclosed areas on the vessel, causing loss of consciousness and death before the crew and passengers even have a chance to try to escape. Then there is the fact that the vessel is surrounded by water. Even if the people on the boat have a chance to escape a fire, unless they are rescued quickly, they will be at risk of hypothermia, drowning, and injuries caused by sun and water exposure. Boat fires put everyone on board in danger. Victims and their families deserve a chance to seek justice, and our team at Arnold & Itkin is here to make that happen.
What should I do if I was injured in a boat fire in California?
If you were injured or lost someone you love in a boat fire or any type of boating accident off the California coast, you should involve an attorney as soon as possible. The sad truth is that at-fault corporations often turn to the Limitation of Liability Act to try to avoid responsibility for injuries suffered and lives lost in boat fires and other accidents at sea. Instead of receiving the help you need, you could find yourself left with no answers and no support. Our attorneys have a successful history of defeating misapplications of the Limitation of Liability Act to protect our clients’ rights and hold negligent corporations accountable for their wrongdoing.
What causes boat fires?
Most boat fires are caused by electrical problems. One study found that over half of boat fires from 2009 through 2013 involved electrical systems. Fuel and engine problems can also cause fires, and in about 3 out of 10 fires reported during that time, the cause was specific as “other” or “unknown.” Defective electrical systems, poor maintenance, and failures to implement safety standards can cause fires and put crew members and passengers at risk if backups fail, there are not enough lifeboats or lifejackets, or there are no workable plans in place for fast evacuations.
Identifying the cause of a boat fire is a crucial step when our team represents the injured and families of those who have lost their lives in these preventable tragedies. We work with investigators and experts in many different fields to build strong and compelling cases for our clients—and we do not back down in holding at-fault parties accountable.
When Companies Try to Avoid Responsibility, We Hold them Accountable
The attorneys from Arnold & Itkin have seen misapplication of the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 in the past as we represented families of the victims of the El Faro and the Deepwater Horizon disasters. We fought these attempts to use this 150-year-old law to withhold justice from our clients, and we won. Our results show that the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 can be defeated in court and that we know how to do it.
If your loved one died during the California boat fire on Labor Day, we’re ready to help. When you call Arnold & Itkin, you’ll receive a free consultation from a team which has helped restore thousands of lives through billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements. We know you want to grieve for your loved one, so we’ll fight for answers while you have a chance to heal.
Call our California boat fire lawyers for a free consultation at (888) 493-1629. Our team is standing by to help you discover the options available to you and your family.