Senate Goes On Recess Postponing Vote on Admiralty/Maritime Laws

918333_u_s__capitol_building.jpgI previously reported in my post, Legislation To Amend Death On The High Seas Act And Other Key Maritime Laws Postponed, about legislation that is currently before the Senate that will eliminate harsh and outdated Maritime laws, including laws that allow limitation of liability for vessel owners, as well as operators of oil rigs. The legislation which is postponed also would eliminate the harsh restriction on damages for wrongful death that occurs on the high seas, and would allow increased compensation to the victims’ families involved in the BP Oil spill.

We are hopeful that the Death on the High Seas Act will be amended to apply to all vessels on the high seas, and would include claims involving wrongful death of passengers aboard cruise ships. The cruise ship industry is lobbying heavily to be excluded from any amendments which would increase the amount of compensation to families who lose a loved one on a cruise ship due to wrongful death.

The Senate is in recess until September 13, 2010. Hopefully there will be a vote on the current provisions amending the Maritime laws. In the meantime, during August, the American Association for Justice (AAJ), formally the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, have advised of the importance to set up meetings with Senators in your home state.

During the summer district work period for Congress, members of Congress often hold what is referred to as Town Hall Meetings, in their district and which is open to all of their constituents.

This is a great opportunity to meet members of Congress and voice your support for important legislation, including the current legislation that is pending regarding amending the harsh and outdated Maritime laws.

Our Maritime and Wrongful Death firm has been active in trying to see the injustices created by these outdated laws eliminated once and forever. Our firm has seen too many examples of cases involving wrongful death where family members are devastated from the loss of a loved one, and further devastated upon being told that the loss is compensated by the meager payment of the economic loss the family members suffer as a result of the death. It is an extremely hard concept to understand, and one that has been brought into the spotlight by the BP Oil spill. The family members who lost loved ones as a result of the BP Oil spill have been lobbying for this needed change in the Maritime laws.

Should you wish to obtain any information regarding these members’ Town Hall meetings, and an opportunity to see if your representative has a constituent news letter which you can sign up to obtain, you may contact the district office directly for information. You can get the needed information by visiting www.house.gov or www.senate.gov to find out the district contact information for your Senators and representatives.

It is always important after making contact with a member of Congress, to follow up with phone calls and letters. They must hear from their constituents. We need to all get involved in order to combat the heavy lobbying by the special interest groups, including the cruise ship industry who has a lot of power with Congress due to the heavy amounts of money they spend yearly on lobbying and campaign contributions.

I previously reported a disturbing encounter I had with a member of Congress during Congressional Hearings I testified at regarding Maritime laws and safety. The Congressman, despite the presence of family members who had lost loved ones on cruise ships, showed no compassion when he tried to divert the focus that was on the cruise line industry to a focus on Maritime attorneys. He made it clear that Florida makes a lot of money from the cruise ship industry, and wanted to know how much Maritime lawyers were making as a result of suing the cruise ship companies. I responded by telling him that it was irrelevant what maritime attorneys may make in bringing legitimate claims against the cruise ship companies which results in creating better safety practices in the future by holding the cruise ship companies accountable for their wrongdoing. Instead, I the focus needs to be on the current Maritime laws, and whether they provide adequate protections to the millions of passengers who sail on cruise ships each year.

While it is true the cruise ship industry is good for the State of Florida, as well as other ports where they generate money, they must be held accountable for their wrongdoing, and there must be adequate safety laws and protections in effect to protect the millions of passengers who decide to enjoy a pleasurable vacation aboard a passenger cruise ship.

As I previously reported, the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act of 2010, has been signed into law by President Obama, and it is a positive step. However, the Limitation of Liability laws must be amended in order to hold not only the oil companies accountable, but to hold all companies that operate ships, including the passenger cruise ship industry, fully accountable.

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