Top-Rated Houston Dive Boat Accident Attorneys
Helping People Nationwide Rebuild Their Lives After Dive Boat Accidents
Dive boats and diving tours are popular recreational activities, but with profit comes responsibility. Companies are legally and ethically obligated to ensure their boats, equipment, and practices are as safe as possible. When a dive boat is operated, maintained, or equipped negligently, it puts their passengers and crew at potentially fatal risk.
If you or your loved one were seriously injured in a dive boat accident because of another's negligent behavior, you have the right to seek compensation for your loss. After a catastrophic boat accident, maritime companies often hide behind the law to limit their liability—valuing their profits over the lives of their passengers, crew, or grieving families. With the right attorneys on your side, you can fight against these companies and hold them accountable.
The dive boat accident lawyers at Arnold & Itkin are dedicated to helping injured people secure the compensation they need. We have helped clients recover billions of dollars in compensation for their injuries. If you lost your loved one, we can help you file a wrongful death claim to ensure that the parties responsible are held liable.
When you need the best, contact our dive boat injury lawyers today at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation.
Dive Boat Accident in 2019: Santa Cruz Dive Boat Fire Kills 34 People
On September 2, 2019, a dive boat caught fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, west of Los Angeles.
The Conception dive boat sailed out from Santa Barbra on Saturday with 39 people on board for a diving excursion. Early in the morning of September 2, the dive boat caught fire. Within an hour, the diving vessel was burned down to the waterline. It then sank into 64 feet of water as crews tried to extinguish the fire. Out of the 39 that were aboard the dive boat, only 5 survived. The remaining 34 people aboard were below deck sleeping; the crew was unable to get to them due to the flames, and eventually had to abandon ship to escape the fire.
Less than a week later, the owners of the vessel, Truth Aquatics Inc., filed suit to limit their liability for the incident to the value of the vessel. Their reported value of the vessel? Zero dollars. Truth Aquatics essentially wants the court to acknowledge that they shouldn't have to pay a single cent for the deaths of 34 people aboard their vessel. In the midst of burying their loved ones, the families left behind by The Conception tragedy are now forced to bring their claims forward within six months or lose their chance forever. The law that allowed Truth Aquatics to do this is infamous in the maritime industry; it's called the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851.
How the Limitation of Liability Act Can Affect Your Case
Maritime law states that the owner of a vessel may be subject to liability for any loss or damages that occur during the voyage. The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 was written to allow vessel owners to limit their liability to the value of the ship. In a time where ship owners took on tremendous risk in order to conduct trade or deliver goods, the law made sense. Ship owners had no control over what happened on their vessels at sea; crews had to deal with bad weather, pirates, attacks by foreign powers, disease, and other catastrophic conditions. If a ship lost precious cargo while traveling between ports, the Limitation of Liability Act prevented merchants from driving ship owners into financial ruin.
However, the modern use of the law has nothing to do with the law's historical roots.
Today, corporate vessel owners often rest upon the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 to avoid paying damages for deaths they could have prevented. Companies hide behind this law to prevent being held accountable for their negligence at sea. As a result, survivors and grieving families don’t receive the full compensation they deserve after a tragic accident. If you or your loved one were injured in a dive boat accident, you need an attorney who knows how to beat the "Limitation of Liability" defense, and who has a history of arguing against applying this law in fatal accident cases.
Arnold & Itkin Has Helped Clients Win Against the “Limited Liability” Defense
Our firm has beaten the Limitation of Liability Act defense more than once. In 2010, BP attempted to avoid liability by using the outdated 1851 law after their unsafe practices lead to the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Our team of attorneys represented one-third of the injured crew, and we helped them hold BP accountable for their negligent behavior. As a result, we helped survivors get the compensation they needed to secure their future.
BP wasn’t the only maritime corporation who tried to hide behind the Limitation of Liability Act. In the El Faro case, our law firm shed light on the truth of that case, and we challenged their Limited Liability defense. We prevailed and were able to get our clients far more compensation than what they were originally offered. We helped them secure the compensation they needed to pay for their medical care, income, and long-term needs.
If you were injured in a dive boat, the company may try to use the Limitation of Liability Act for their defense. Our team of experienced and aggressive dive accident attorneys has helped clients win cases against some of the largest corporations in the world—who tried to limit their liabilities for accidents caused due to their negligence.
What Causes a Dive Boat Fire?
Insurance companies have discovered that fire ranked number fifth among the common causes of loss between 2008 to 2012. In most cases, boat fires originate in the engine compartment, where fuel and an ignition source come together. It is vital for boat operators to keep electrical and fuel systems in good condition to prevent fires.
The six areas where fires occur on boats include:
- Off-Boat Sources (26%): If a boat is stationed in a marina or storage facility and something else catches on fire, it is common for surrounding boats to also catch on fire. In 70% of off-boat fire cases, it’s something else on the marina that catches on fire.
- Engine Electrical (20%): Wiring harnesses and starters often are the cause of fires on boats, especially on older boats. Operators must ensure the engine electrical system is safe and up to date.
- Other DC Electrical (15%): Other DC electrical issues can also cause fires, such as loose battery connections, chafed battery cables, and aged battery switches.
- AC Electrical (12%): Most AC electrical fires start somewhere in the marina pedestal and the shore power inlet on the boat. Inspecting these connections is vital to reducing the risk of boat fires.
- Other Engine (9%): An overheated engine or blockage of water intake can cause a boat fire. Ensuring that the engine is in excellent condition is important before bringing diving passengers aboard.
- Batteries (8%): With older dive boats, voltage regulators can cause fires because of their failure rate. Dive boats that are 10 years or older should replace their regulators to reduce the risk of a fire.
Attorneys for Commercial Diving Accidents
Commercial diving is an occupation that involves underwater construction, scientific research, and more. Per the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), commercial divers are subject to a multitude of accidents. Offshore diving, a branch of professional diving, is used by the oil and gas industry in the exploration and production sector. Divers receive special training and are used mainly in the Gulf of Mexico.
Although any type of professional diving is dangerous, offshore diving is one of the most hazardous occupations in the industry. If you've been injured, contact Arnold & Itkin today.
Commercial Diving Health Risks
According to OSHA, commercial divers are exposed to a variety of health concerns.
Like recreational divers, offshore divers are subject to:
- Circulatory problems
- Respiratory issues
Additionally, they may suffer catastrophic injuries related to construction such as burn injuries and crush injuries. Because of decreased visibility and other environmental factors, offshore construction, and demolition is significantly more dangerous than what takes place on dry land.
OSHA Commercial Diving Regulations
Because of the innate risks involved in commercial diving, OSHA has an extensive set of rules, regulations, and guidelines employers must follow to make sure that their employees are kept safe while diving. For example, the employer and the diving team must meet specific qualifications. Generally speaking, the dive team must have the experience and training necessary to perform the task that they were hired to complete. If the job requires the use of specific tools, every member of the dive team must know how to use them.
Additionally, each team member should be familiar with diving operations and emergency procedures. Any team member that will be exposed to hyperbaric conditions must be trained in diving-related physics and physiology. Any team member in control of hyperbaric conditions is required by OSHA to receive the same training. Each member of the diving team should be assigned tasks and duties that align with the employee's level of training. Additionally, an employee cannot be exposed to hyperbaric conditions against his/her will unless the employee needs decompression treatment.
Employers are required to comply with OSHA standards before, during and after a dive. Before the dive, the employer must provide emergency aid and the telephone numbers of accessible hospitals, available physicians, an operation decompression chamber, an available means of transportation, and the nearest United States Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center. During the dive, the employer must provide divers with a way to enter and exit the water safely. Additionally, the employer must provide a way to help injured divers out of the water.
Health Concerns That Professional Divers Face
According to OSHA, professional divers are at risk of suffering from a variety of unique health concerns. Dysbarism is one of the most common.
What is dysbarism? In short, it is a medical condition with a multitude of complicated symptoms that usually results from an individual being exposed to rapid changes in ambient pressure. For example, if a diver is several hundred feet underwater, his/her body is under a great deal of ambient pressure. If the diver swims to the surface too quickly, he/she may suffer from dysbarism because of the rapidly changing atmospheric pressure.
A variety of symptoms can identify dysbarism. One of the most common forms is decompression sickness (DCS). DCS occurs when inert gas bubbles are subjected to decreased pressure. Because of this, DCS usually occurs shortly after a dive. OSHA has published several manuals designed to help employers ensure their employees do not suffer from DCS. When precautions are taken, DCS and other related health risks can be avoided. Individuals suffering from DCS or another form of dysbarism may suffer breathing difficulties, confusion, and joint pain.
Generally speaking, DCS is the most common form of dysbarism and is usually caused by gas bubbles forming in one or more locations of the diver's body. For example, if gas bubbles begin to form in the diver's joints, he/she may experience joint pain. This symptom is called the bends. Similarly, if a diver develops bubbles in the spine or head, he/she may experience staggers. Staggers is symptomized by dizziness and confusion. Bubbles may also form in the chest or skin. Bubbles form in the diver's chest is referred to as chokes and can be identified by coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Although mild forms of DCS may be treated at the dive site, DCS may also be a life-threatening condition.
Fighting for Those Affected by Commercial Diving & Dive Boat Accidents
Companies are obligated to keep their customers and passengers safe. When companies offer their services to the public, it’s with the understanding that their services are reasonably safe. If customers die while in their care, and it’s due to their negligence, the company is legally and ethically liable for the damages.
Our dive boat accident attorneys have helped hundreds of grieving families hold at-fault parties accountable for the death of a loved one. Although seeking compensation won’t bring back your loved one, it can prevent accidents like this from occurring again. Our team of dive boat accident lawyers has won billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements because we have the skills and experience needed to win. We know how difficult life becomes after such tragic accidents, so we are always ready to provide you the guidance you need.
Review your legal options by contacting our dive boat accident lawyers at (888) 493-1629 today.