Average Settlements for Maritime Accidents [2024] Staff Profile Picture
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While the ocean can be a breathtakingly beautiful place, it is also unbelievably uncontrollable and unforgiving to those who choose to cast off. Unfortunately, maritime accidents can leave victims with both physical and emotional scars, on top of a tremendous financial burden. With thousands of injuries happening on the seas every year, whether it's commercial or recreational, victims of these accidents need to be prepared to seek compensation for their injuries. In this guide, you will find information pertaining to the average settlement amounts for various maritime accidents, factors that can influence settlement amounts, and how an experienced personal injury attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Average Maritime Settlement Amounts

In this section, we will take a look at a breakdown of the average settlements for various categories of maritime accident lawsuits and the different factors that can play into the settlement amount for victims. While there aren’t exact numbers for maritime accident settlements, and every accident case is different, we have included ranges for settlement amounts.

Passenger cruise ship injuries

The average settlement of an accident that occurs on a passenger cruise ship is between $100,000 and $500,000. These accidents are not common, considering how many people are on cruises each year, but they do happen more frequently than people realize. In 2019 alone, there were over 29 million passengers on cruise ships all over the world, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. While there isn’t exact data on how many of these types of injuries happen every year, some reports and studies suggest that nearly 32% of passengers could experience a serious injury while on a cruise. Maritime laws make these types of lawsuits very complex for victims.

Commercial fishing/working vessel injuries

Due to maritime law and the Jones Act, the average settlement for commercial fishing or working vessel injury claims can be as low as $200,000 and up to well over $2 million. The factors that play into these amounts are the severity of the injury, the conditions of the vessel, employer (or employee) negligence, future earning potential, and lost wages. Working on commercial fishing vessels is a hazardous occupation, with an injury rate that is over four times higher than the national average.

The Jones Act is legal protection for mariners injured during their line of work. Under the Jones Act, injured seafarers can sue their employers for negligence after suffering an injury on the job. Employers must be able to provide seaworthy vessels and equipment, but this requirement goes beyond just the physical conditions. Employers must also make arrangements for sufficient staffing for their crew, proper training, and adequate safety protocols for their vessels. Even if employer negligence is not proven, the employer is still required to pay for all reasonable medical expenses for the employee and provide maintenance while the employee recovers. The injured employee can recover compensation for medical costs, as well as pain and suffering, lost wages, and potential future earnings that are lost due to the injury.

Recreational boating accidents

Boating during the warm weather months is extremely popular in the United States, and rightfully so. From sports boats to jet skis, everyone wants to have fun on the water, and no one wants to deal with scary accidents while operating a maritime vessel. However, just like there are accidents on the road, there are accidents on the water. In 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard reported over 4,000 recreational boating accidents that resulted in over 630 deaths and over 2,000 injuries. The average settlement for these types of maritime accidents is between $50,000 and $250,000, with factors like injury severity, medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and liability affecting the amount.

Maritime wrongful death cases

Wrongful death settlements that stem from maritime accidents can average between $1 million and over $5 million. These accidents can be devastating for the families of loved ones who are lost at sea and have a profound emotional and financial toll on them. Wrongful death lawsuits aim to recover compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, medical expenses, and other damages. Those who work on commercial fishing vessels are much more likely to experience a fatality, as the fatality rate is over 39 times higher than the national average for all other occupations.

Factors that influence maritime settlement amounts

Several key factors can influence the amount of money that is awarded in a maritime accident lawsuit. Depending on what type of lawsuit you’re filing and the damages you are seeking, different factors can sway the judgment on your case. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the most significant factors that can influence maritime settlement amounts for victims.

Severity of injuries

The more serious the injuries are from the maritime accident, the larger the settlement amount is likely to be. More severe injuries from these accidents require extensive medical care, like long-term hospitalization, surgeries, intensive care, and rehabilitation. Other factors in this include loss of limbs, sensory function, organ damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ongoing pain. These injuries can also potentially impact the future earnings of the victim. This can typically lead to higher settlement amounts.

Medical expenses

Expanding on injury severity, the financial burden of your medical care will directly impact settlement negotiations. If your injuries require ongoing medical care, expert testimony could be necessary to estimate your future medical expenses. If these expenses have also made a significant impact on your ability to afford everyday necessities or continue the activities you participated in before suffering your injury, it could strengthen your claim for compensation. It’s extremely important to keep documentation of all treatments, surgeries, medications, and rehabilitation costs that you have incurred due to the accident. 

Lost wages

One of the biggest factors in settlement amounts for maritime accident lawsuits is lost wages. This is income that is lost due to the accident and any potential future earnings that are lost. In order to determine this, you’ll need to calculate the lost wages from the time of the accident to the present and any potential future lost income if the injuries are severe enough to impact your ability to work. If the accident has limited your career options or earning potential, an expert might be able to evaluate and estimate your lost future income to strengthen your case. Additionally, lost benefits can be factored into the compensation, such as loss of health insurance, retirement contributions, and more.

Liability and Comparative Negligence

The main factor in most personal injury lawsuits, and often the determining factor for settlements, is the establishment of negligence that resulted in the accident. The courts would have to determine who caused the accident and to what degree. Proving the other party’s negligence, such as safety failures on a cruise line or the recklessness of the person operating the vessel, is the most crucial aspect of strengthening your case and getting the compensation you deserve. There are some states, however, that have comparative negligence laws. This means that if it is determined that you contributed even a small amount to the accident, they can reduce the amount of compensation you receive.

Pain and Suffering

Another factor that can have an effect on settlement amounts is pain and suffering. This is the physical and emotional distress you experience from the accident, and it is compensable. While medical costs do have to do mostly with your physical injuries, pain and suffering damages encompass both the physical and mental aspects of your accident. Things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other emotional consequences from the accident can be supported by professional evaluations.

Insurance Coverage

Another factor that can play into the potential settlement amount is the amount of liability insurance that is available for the responsible party. Some insurance policies carry limits for the amount of payout from the responsible party’s policy. This is an area where having an experienced personal injury attorney can help you out. Your attorney will go to bat for you and will attempt to negotiate with the insurance company to reach a fair settlement within the policy or potentially exceed it. 

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help Recover Compensation

For those who have suffered a maritime accident, the aftermath can be overwhelming. You’re left with having to juggle your own physical injuries, emotional distress, and the financial burden that comes with it. Having to navigate the highly complex world of maritime law and seeking proper compensation is not what you should be focusing on after a serious accident at sea. In this section, we’ll look at how a specialized personal injury attorney can help you recover your due compensation.

Filing lawsuit and negotiating settlements

Your attorney will be able to handle the heavy lifting when it comes to filing your lawsuit. They will understand exactly how to file your lawsuit with the correct parties and the specific legal requirements of maritime law. Seeking a trial and going to court isn’t completely necessary for these types of lawsuits, but an experienced attorney can handle it. Additionally, if your attorney is an expert in maritime law, they’ll be able to negotiate on your behalf with the insurance company or responsible party to secure a fair and satisfactory settlement for you. As the victim, you deserve proper compensation, but insurance companies will do everything in their power to limit your compensation. 

Investigating your case

To build a strong case for you, your attorney will dive into every detail of your accident. They will be able to determine the factors that led to the accident, whether it was due to negligence of the vessel operator, equipment failure, or other contributing factors. They will also search for any additional evidence that can strengthen your case, such as video footage, photos, and witness statements from anyone who may have seen the incident. In their investigation, your attorney will be able to interview any person who witnessed the accident or has relevant information to support your claims. 

Understanding of maritime law

Maritime law is a complex and specialized field with regulations and legal precedents that aren’t the same as other personal injury laws. It’s important that you find an attorney who specializes in maritime law because their extensive knowledge and expertise in the field will be a major factor in your pursuit of compensation. They will be able to ensure your legal rights as a victim of a maritime accident are fully protected throughout the entire process and that you are treated fairly and justly under the law. has an online directory that can assist you in your search for an experienced maritime lawyer! Start your search in their directory today!

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