Duck Boat Accidents: Who Is Responsible for My Injuries?

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The horrific duck boat accident in Missouri recently is giving a national spotlight to a dangerous attraction throughout the country that tourists visit every day. Unfortunately, many operations for duck boats don’t maintain their boats, don’t follow all safety procedures, and don’t always train their employees on what to do in the event of an accident. If you’ve suffered injury in a duck boat accident, talk with one of our boating accident attorneys.

The Legal Implications of the Most Recent Disaster

The applicable laws in a maritime disaster date back to the year 1851. The law called the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act states the damages from an accident involving a boat caps at the amount of the boat’s net worth. The amount a duck boat is worth is significantly less than an individual lawsuit filed by each of the victims’ families. This particular piece of legislation also states that in a case of multiple victims, the cases can all enter into one federal court case instead of several individual cases to speed up the process.

This protection happened at a time when the US government was trying to build up merchant ships and the US maritime trading market. With this protection, people were more likely to purchase a boat and start a shipping company, knowing that the law protected them from significant loss. Attorneys have considered this law in every major maritime disaster in the last two centuries. From the Titanic to the 2010 Deepwater Oil Spill, lawyers are ready to use this law to protect their clients. It may seem outdated in current times, especially when a disaster causes a loss of so many lives and personal injuries.

A duck boat is worth approximately $100,000 to $150,000, when in good working condition. This means that the families of all 31 tourists on board, including the 17 killed, would be eligible to enter into one federal court case to fight for a total of $150,000. One family lost nine members in this accident. It was a family trip, and all but two members drowned.

Who Is Liable for Duck Boat Injuries?

Several different parties could be liable for the injuries sustained in the duck boat accident. The duck boat company who operates the boat could be at fault for poor maintenance on the boats. The captain could be at fault for poor driving of the boat. Weather conditions may have contributed to the accident. Since the boat changed routes from its normal course, the driver could be responsible for the change in path.

One particular detail to note about this accident is that there were life vests on board, but none of the victims were wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident. Surviving members of the trip recall the captain of the boat informing them they would not need life jackets, so no one put them on. This one small detail could have saved more lives in the case of this disaster, giving more people the chance to survive. If the captain had given instructions to the passengers to put on life jackets, or the driver had taken a different route, or the weather conditions had been more favorable, the outcome could have been significantly different.

On the other hand, if the owners posted warning signs about the dangers of boarding a boat without a life jacket and the passengers chose to ignore them, the driver could share the fault with the passengers.

Though it may seem like an easy answer to who would be responsible for duck boat injuries – the attraction owner – there may be more than one party to hold accountable. From the boat manufacturer or designer to a negligent city coordinator, the possible outcome may have been a culmination of recklessness.