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Another Tragedy On A New York Commuter Ferry

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Last Wednesday, January 9, 2013 was like a repeat nightmare for many New Jersey and New York commuters as the High Speed Commuter Ferry, the Seastreak Wall Street crashed into a pier near Wall Street. Initial reports from New York harbor indicate that 57 people were injured and one was injured critically. Human bodies laying in stretchers along the New York waterways was a sight that many New York metropolitan residents hoped they would not see again. Again the New York community has been dealt a major blow not by terrorism, but by ineptitude of the Ferry workforce. Our New York ferry accident attorneys have experience in handling all types of boat accidents and stand ready to assist any of the passengers involved in this tragedy.

Passengers and witness accounts suggest that the Seastreak Wall Street had a high speed forceful impact with the pier which suggests crew inattention and negligence. Although initial reports suggest that the crew was experiencing mechanical problems steering the vessel, the question remains that if that is the case, why didn’t the captain cut the engines, which would have at least lessened the impact. This crash resulted in a tragedy for several commuters who were on their way to work in Manhattan from New Jersey.

Unfortunately, this is not the first problem that New York’s Commuter Ferries or the Seastreak Wall Street has had. In both 2003 and 2010 major maritime fatalities occurred when a Staten Island Ferry crashed into a dock, which resulted in several fatalities and serious personal injuries. One of the crashes actually resulted in criminal prosecutions of a crew member who was incapacitated. Additionally the Seatreak Wall street has had prior docking incidents one of which was reportedly caused by a mechanical failure. The National Transportation Safety Board has revealed that they are now analyzing data from the data’s ferry recording system which is likely to yield insight into the causes of the accident including whether there was a mechanical cause of the crash, which is indicative of negligent vessel maintenance, inspection or repair. If the data excludes a mechanical cause of the crash it is likely that the cause of the failure was crew negligence and gross inattention to duty. The Coast Guard is also waiting for the results of mandatory post- accident drug tests to come back, which also may provide some insight into the cause of the accident. Our experienced New York boat accident attorneys have experience in getting to the bottom of the cause of vessel and maritime accidents, crashes, wrongful death and other maritime fatalities. Regardless of the cause of the accident, whether it be vessel maintenance issues or crew negligence the General Maritime Law provides a remedy for those who suffer personal injuries or wrongful death in accidents at sea. Our New York boat accident lawyers have extensive experience in litigating personal injury cases in the New York and New Jersey Federal Courts including Maritime and Admiralty matters.

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As a New York Attorney who represents seaman who sustain personal injuries, in New York harbor, I am familiar with the doctrine of unseaworthiness. The general maritime law imposes a duty on shipowners to provide vessels, equipment and crew which are reasonably fit for their intended use. If the vessel, or its equipment or crew are not reasonably fit for their intended use, then the ship or that part of the ship or its equipment or crew, is unseaworthy. Shipowners are responsible to compensate professional mariners who sustain personal injuries because of dangerous conditions aboard a ship.

Unseaworthiness is a claim that the ship or its crew or equipment was not reasonably fit for its intended purpose. To establish an unseaworthiness claim, an injured maritime worker must establish that the ship or its equipment or crew, was unseaworthy; and that such unseaworthiness was a proximate cause of the sailor’s personal injury.

A vessel may be unseaworthy because of an inadequate or incompetent crew, including the presence of especially dangerous seamen on the crew; or an assignment of an insufficient number of men to a task; or the. failure to properly maintain equipment; or the failure of equipment under normal and proper use; or misuse of even non-defective, otherwise seaworthy gear; or ‘any other unsafe part of the vessel and appurtenances, or any defective gear used; or the lack of a safe means of boarding and departing the vessel.

The shipowner’s duty to provide a seaworthy ship is absolute, continuing and may not be delegated to a third party. This means the shipowner is responsible for the dangerous condition aboard a ship regardless of who created it. The shipowner’s lack of knowledge or lack of opportunity to correct such conditions, or the shipowner’s diligence are irrelevant. If the ship or its equipment or crew (or the relevant part) was unseaworthy and such unseaworthiness was a proximate cause of an injury to plaintiff, then the shipowner is liable to the plaintiff. It is the shipowner’s duty to provide a ship, equipment and crew which are reasonably fit for their intended purpose.

If a dangerous condition exists aboard a vessel, whether it was brought into existence by the ship’s crew, a third party, or even a fellow employee, the shipowner would still be liable.

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