We’re still shocked to hear about the September 2nd dive boat fire that killed 34 people off the coast of Southern California. Investigators are now looking into whether the boat’s exit strategy should have been better or other measures should have been in place to help people escape in the event something like this happened. Those answers will not change the horrific incident that unfolded, but it will paint a clearer picture of how it was possible. As the investigations continue, the owners of the boat are already arguing that they shouldn’t be held financially accountable.
Glen and Dana Fritzler have cited a maritime law from 1851 called the Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability Act. It states that a vessel owner may limit damage claims to the value of the vessel at the end of the voyage and to its “pending freight” by providing that he or she did not previously know about the problem with the vessel. The law was actually cited in cases involving the sinking of the Titanic and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
When people are killed in an unexpected mishap, the parties involved often push back, trying to prove that fault for the incident lies elsewhere. Whether or not this is the case with the recent dive boat fire, it’s all the more reason for the victims’ families to seek high-quality legal representation.
In a similar scenario, our settlement planning firm worked for years with the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Station nightclub fire that killed hundreds in Rhode Island. At the time, in 2003, this was the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in history. One of the immediate issues was making sure the best lawyers emerged to bring justice to these families.
In addition to protecting victims families’ rights as they grieve, experienced lawyers can seek answers and closure regarding the situation that led to their loved ones’ death. While we wouldn’t suggest anyone “lawyer up” too quickly, it is worth acknowledging when legal representation will be critical.
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A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).