The dangers involved in recreational boating was seen by the country this past Thursday on a duck boat tour in Table Rock Lake, Missouri.
At least 39 people have died in duck boats in the past 20 years. Being that tour boats, such as duck boats, are capable of traversing the waterways, the maritime law will likely be applicable. It is key to find the proper maritime lawyer for your tour boat accident to adequately represent your interests in court.
What is a Duck Boat?
Ducks boats, otherwise known as a DUKW, were initially used as a modification to military vehicles in the Korean War and World War II. It is a six-wheel drive amphibious vehicle that is both a land vehicle and marine vessel. After the war, there was a surplus of duck boats, and consequently, they were sold and used for new purposes that they were not originally intended for. Many of these amphibious vehicles were used primarily for police, rescue units, and fire departments. The first tour company to use duck boat was founded by Mel Flath back in 1946 in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. The company is still in operation as the “Original Wisconsin Ducks”.
The marine accident occurred on board the Ride the Ducks Branson, a subsidiary of the company Ride the Ducks of Seattle. The company was sold to Ripley Entertainment in December 17′. Ripley Entertainment is a subsidiary of Canada-based Jim Pattison Group.
During a severe thunderstorm, the Ride the Ducks Branson duck boat carrying 31 people capsized, drowning 17 people. Witnesses on land claimed that it was a tragic scene as passengers on the boat attempted to go for the life jackets that were being swept away by the huge waves. According to the President of Jim Pattison Group, the duck boat departed on the water when the weather was calm. It was returning to land when it was overcome with strong winds and waves.
Ripley posted a statement on Monday offering to pay funeral and medical expenses for survivors and families of the deceased:
“Today, we continue to focus our efforts on the families. We are offering to pay for all related medical bills and funeral expenses, return all personal items from the rescue scene, and assist with any related travel or accommodations that will help the families in their time of need. An event like this deeply touches everyone and we are also providing grief counseling to our employees who have been affected by this tragic accident.”
The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851
The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 was brought into existence by Congress as a means to bolster the maritime shipping industry in a time where there was no insurance for maritime companies. Today, it is still utilized by defendant shipping companies to cap damages in a given claim to the salvage value of the sunken vessel, in this case, the sunken duck boat. It can be expected that the Ride the Ducks company will raise this federal issue in their limitation proceedings. If a judge rules in favor of the defense, this would drastically reduce the opportunity for a large-sized verdict to a sunken duck boat, which is virtually worthless. The value of a duck boat in operation runs approximately between $100,000 and $150,000.
Legal actions, involving recreational boating, tour boats, and the like, involve sophisticated laws and legal theories, including limitation of liability and maritime law. It is very important to ensure that you have a maritime attorney on your side when you are seeking out compensation.
If you have been injured while on a tour boat, contact the maritime lawyers of O’Bryan Law immediately for a case consultation. You may be able to seek compensation for your hardships under the Jones Act.