Cargo Ship Accident Lawyers

Helping After Container Ship Collisions Across the U.S.

Cargo ships have long served as the backbone of global trade. Today, they are responsible for transporting about 80% of the world’s goods. They have only increased in size and tonnage, with the largest container vessels extending more than 1,300 feet long and capable of carrying 14,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) or even more.

The critical role of cargo ships is undeniable, but these massive vessels pose a serious risk when they are negligently operated or maintained. Crew members, longshore and harbor workers, and even people who have nothing to do with the maritime industry—such as motorists on bridges that extend over harbors, rivers, and channels—may be injured or killed if a container vessel veers off course or loses propulsion. 

At Arnold & Itkin, our offshore injury attorneys have represented people impacted by the worst maritime disasters for more than 20 years. As cargo ship accident lawyers who have won more than $20 billion for our clients, we are known nationwide for facing off against the largest corporations and their teams of attorneys—and winning. We represent good, hard-working people who have found themselves in the worst situations of their lives.

If you or someone you love has been harmed as a result of a container ship or any cargo ship accident, contact our team. Your consultation is free.

Helping Families Find Closure

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Recent Cargo Ship Accidents

Two recent cargo ship accidents involved bridge collisions. On March 26, 2024, the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore suffered a catastrophic collapse following a collision with a large container ship, the Singapore-flagged Dali. Although the investigation into the incident is still underway, an apparent loss of propulsion caused the collision. 

When the Dali struck the bridge, people and vehicles were sent plummeting into the Patapsco River. Six from a construction crew were unaccounted for, and two others were rescued from the water, one in serious condition. The Francis Scott Key Bridge, a vital artery for the region and a significant part of the local infrastructure since 1977, suffered extensive damage, causing immediate halts to traffic and shipping through the Port of Baltimore. 

Just about a month earlier, on February 22, at least 5 people were killed when a cargo ship collided with the Lixinsha Bridge in Guangzhou's Nansha district in Southern China. The impact was so severe that it bisected the bridge, sending two vehicles plummeting into the water below, while three others ended up on the deck of the ship. 

These incidents highlight the severe consequences of container ship accidents, showing how they can not only damage crucial infrastructure but also lead to loss of life, disrupt communities, and impact global trade routes. They signal a clear need for enhanced safety protocols, regular maintenance, and comprehensive crew training. As the maritime industry evolves, prioritizing safety for both those on board and those in proximity to these large vessels is essential. 

Causes of Container Ship Accidents

Container ship accidents can often be traced back to several key issues, many of which stem from the responsibilities shouldered by maritime employers, vessel owners, and operators. 


The condition of a vessel plays a critical role in its ability to safely navigate and withstand the rigors of the sea. Maritime employers and vessel operators have a fundamental duty to ensure that every ship is seaworthy. This includes regular maintenance, timely repairs, and upgrades to safety systems. It also includes ensuring a vessel is fully manned with a capable crew. Failure to maintain a seaworthy cargo vessel can directly lead to accidents, jeopardizing crew and cargo.

Lax Safety Standards

Adhering to established safety standards is both a regulatory requirement and a moral imperative. Maritime employers must go beyond the minimum legal standards to foster a culture of safety that positively impacts every aspect of their operations. Lax safety practices can lead to oversights and errors, significantly increasing the risk of cargo ship accidents.

Lack of Crew Training

Properly trained crew members are the heart of safe maritime operations. Employers are responsible for providing comprehensive training programs that cover everything from basic safety procedures to emergency response, such as evacuation or man overboard incidents. Crews on container ships should also be regularly updated on best practices and new technologies to ensure they are prepared for any situation.

Severe Weather

Severe weather poses a significant risk to cargo ships, and the sinking of the El Faro in 2015 is a tragic reminder of what can happen when vessels encounter powerful storms. The El Faro's loss in Hurricane Joaquin, with all 33 hands on board, was attributed to inadequate weather monitoring and reporting systems, poor route planning, and inadequate safety measures by TOTE Maritime, the owner of the 40-year-old vessel.

Aging Vessels

The risk of accidents increases with the age of cargo ships—if they are improperly maintained. Regular inspections, maintenance, and updates are essential for ensuring the world’s aging cargo ships remain seaworthy. Neglecting the challenges posed by aging ships can lead to serious safety hazards, such as those that affected the El Faro. Older vessels must be properly maintained, and, when necessary, decommissioned to prevent accidents.

Improper Loading & Stowage

The way cargo is loaded and stowed can greatly affect a ship's stability and seaworthiness. Incorrect loading practices can lead to imbalance, shifting cargo, and even capsizing. It is the responsibility of vessel operators to ensure that cargo is properly secured and distributed.

With Cargo Ships, a Safety-First Culture Must Be Promoted 

Although there are many different causes of cargo ship accidents, many have a common factor: a company’s pursuit of profitability over safety. An example of this is bunkering fraud, which occurs during the bunkering (refueling) process. Cargo ships may be filled with lower-quality or degraded fuel in an attempt to save money, which can lead to a loss of propulsion.

Until owners and operators of the world’s cargo vessels put safety first, incidents like the loss of the El Faro will continue to occur. Maritime companies must be held accountable.

Responsibility for Cargo Ship Accidents

Ultimately, the responsibility for cargo ship accidents lies with the companies that own and operate these massive vessels. They can be held accountable for the damage their negligence causes. The Jones Act, Death on the High Seas Act, and general maritime law, as well as personal injury law, may dictate how a person injured in a container ship accident can seek answers and compensation. 

As container ship accident attorneys, our team at Arnold & Itkin represented three widows of El Faro crew members who were lost in Hurricane Joaquin. We helped them hold TOTE responsible for their failure to protect their crew’s lives. We have a history of holding negligent maritime companies and other corporations accountable for failing to put safety first, and we will continue to fight for those who have suffered the consequences of a focus on profitability over lives.

Talk to a Cargo Ship Accident Lawyer About Your Case: (888) 493-1629

Trying to figure out your next steps after a maritime accident can be overwhelming. You may be unsure of where to turn, how to get the medical attention you need, and who is responsible for making you whole again. By talking to a cargo ship accident lawyer, you can get your questions answered so you know what to do and how to move forward.

Your initial consultation with Arnold & Itkin is free, and there is no obligation to work with our firm. This consultation is an opportunity for you to find out what you can do to protect your interests, and how we can help. If we take your case, you can feel confident that we will put our knowledge and resources to work as we seek a result that helps you build a brighter future. You also pay no upfront costs and no legal fees at all unless we win. 

Contact our cargo ship accident attorneys today at (888) 493-1629 to discuss your rights and options. 

Common Questions

  • What Should I Do After a Cargo Ship Accident?

    If you're involved in a cargo ship accident, your first priority should be ensuring your safety and the safety of those around you. Follow emergency procedures and cooperate with rescue efforts. Once safe, document your experience and any injuries. Then, consult with a cargo ship accident attorney to understand your rights and explore options for compensation, especially if the accident resulted from negligence or safety violations.

  • Can Crew Members Receive Compensation for Cargo Ship Accidents?

    Crew members injured in cargo ship accidents may be entitled to compensation under maritime laws such as the Jones Act, which allows seamen to seek damages from their employers for injuries caused by negligence. Compensation can cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. Consulting with a container ship accident lawyer can help you determine eligibility and guide you through the claims process.

  • How Many Crew Members Does a Container Ship Have?

    The crew size of a container ship can vary significantly depending on the vessel's size, route, and operational requirements. Typically, a modern container ship operates with a crew of between 20 to 40 members. This includes officers who manage the navigation and technical operations, as well as ratings who handle general duties, maintenance, and cargo operations. For larger and more technologically advanced ships, the crew size might be on the lower end due to automation and efficiency improvements, while smaller or older ships might require more personnel for manual operations.

  • What Are Some of the Types of Cargo Ships?

    Cargo ships are categorized based on the type of cargo they carry and their specific design features. Common types include bulk carriers, container ships, tankers, general cargo ships, reefer ships, roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ships, and heavy lift ships. Ro-ro ships, for example, are equipped with ramps that allow vehicles to be driven on and off the vessel. Reefer ships have refrigerated holds for transporting perishable goods.

  • What Compensation Can I Receive After a Container Ship Accident?

    After a container ship accident, the type of compensation you may be eligible to receive depends on your role in the incident and the jurisdiction under which the claim is made. For crew members, compensation might include medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and damages for pain and suffering under laws like the Jones Act (in the U.S.). Others could claim for injuries, loss of property, and psychological distress. A container ship accident lawyer can help you understand what compensation you may be able to receive.

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