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Negligent Rescuers can be Held Accountable for njuries at sea

Working at sea can be lucrative and fulfilling. Passage by water is the most efficient form of transportation and can be quite enjoyable. Yet, there are dangers inherent to work or travel at sea, and an accident can result in maritime injury and death.

When someone suffers injury or loses a family member at sea, compensation may be available from a variety of sources. One that often goes overlooked, however, is negligent rescuers. Generally, the Coast Guard can be held financially responsible for an injury or death if it can be shown that through their negligence, Coast Guard personnel put the intended rescuee in a worse position than he or she had been in.

Once Coast Guard takes on duty to provide assistance, reasonable care must be exercised

The Coast Guard generally does not have an affirmative duty to give assistance to a person in distress. Even so, once the Coast Guard has decided to render aid to a person or vessel, Coast Guard personnel must carry out the rescue operation with reasonable care. When the Coast Guard breaches the duty of care, a person who is injured as a result, or the family of someone who is killed as a result, may sue for monetary damages.

Lawsuits against the Coast Guard can come about in a variety of ways. In one infamous wrongful death case, a man sued the Coast Guard after his wife fell from a Coast Guard helicopter; although the woman had been rescued by the Coast Guard, she had not been properly strapped in to the helicopter and she did not survive the fall.

Sometimes lawsuits for Coast Guard negligence arise because of delay. When a civilian vessel is attempting to render aid to another vessel in distress but stops because the Coast Guard appears and takes over, an unnecessary delay in the rescue by the Coast Guard could result in liability. In these cases, the Coast Guard may be held responsible for injury or death resulting from the delay of the rescue if the victims would have been in a better position with the original rescuers, who only backed off because of the Coast Guard's arrival.

Contact a maritime lawyer if you or a loved one has been injured

While the Coast Guard often helps seamen in trouble, they have a responsibility to carry out rescues with all due caution. If you believe your injury may have been worsened by a botched rescue, or if you believe rescuers bear some responsibility for a loved one's death, get in touch with a maritime lawyer. You might not be aware that lawsuits for Coast Guard negligence generally must be filed within two years, so it is important to speak to a maritime lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you may have been harmed by rescuers.

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