Barge Accident Lawsuit in 2024 - A Complete Guide

Have you been injured due to a barge accident? Did a member of your family die while working on a barge? If your answer is yes to any of these, we recommend that you speak with a maritime lawyer asap. Maritime laws are complex, and they can certainly seem overwhelming in your family’s time of distress. Choosing a skilled and experienced lawyer will help you protect your legal rights and ensure that you get all benefits that you qualify for. By filing a barge accident lawsuit, you can recover the costs of the injuries sustained in barge accidents. This includes: 

  • The direct medical costs (ambulatory care, initial treatment, hospitalization, ongoing care, etc.).
  • Lost income due to time missed at work or diminished work capacity. 
  • Pain and suffering caused by the accident. 

Nevertheless, if someone causes damage to your barge, you can also recover damages by getting professional assistance from the top lawyers.

Federal and state boating laws

Boating accidents tend to be more complicated than other accidents. This is because, depending on the nature and location of the boating accident, several federal and state laws may be implicated. For example, federal laws, also called “maritime” or “admiralty” laws, generally govern boating accidents that occur: 

  1. On navigable waters (bodies of water that provide a channel for the transportation of goods and people), and 
  2. Involve traditional maritime activities (commercial activities rather than recreational activities).


Hiring the top lawyers will help you get a fair barge accident settlement. They will guide you in the whole procedure, from collecting proof of loss and damage to trying your case before the jury.

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Death on the High Seas Act

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) warrants pecuniary damages to the family of certain maritime workers who died three (3) or more miles away from shore. The DOHSA guidelines mandate that negligence or poor judgment of a vessel owner must have caused the death. Some examples of incidents that may qualify for a DOHSA barge accident claim include:

  • A vessel that overturns or sinks.
  • Defective equipment or machinery.
  • Fire or explosion on a vessel.
  • Failure of the operator or crew to follow safety procedures.
  • Failure of any one to lend appropriate medical aid.
  • Incompetence or lack of training of crew members.

DOHSA offers legal remedies to the families of:

  • Passengers or workers who were killed while on a vessel three (3) or more miles away from shore.
  • Passengers or workers on commercial airliners who were outside the 12-mile international water limit when killed.

Wrongful death claims under DOHSA may provide the family with compensation for:

  • Funeral or burial expenses.
  • Loss of financial support (present and anticipated).
  • Counseling services.
  • Financial costs due to the death.

Note, however, that the benefits of DOHSA can only be pursued by qualified beneficiaries, such as the spouse, parents, children, or dependent relatives.

barge accident lawsuit

Compensatory damages in a barge accident

If negligence is proven, most states will allow you to recover damages, such as

  • Medical expenses.
  • Loss of wages and work time.
  • Emotional trauma.
  • Property damage.
  • Pain and suffering.


If the wrongful death occurs due to the barge accident, your barge accident lawyer will help your family members to recover funeral costs, lost companionship, and the deceased’s lost wages.

Few factors that could make your case difficult to win

Some situations will make it very difficult to win a propeller guarding case. Here is a list of the things that could adversely affect the outcome of your barge accident lawsuit

  • Recklessness or negligence on the part of the complainant.
  • One or more persons on board were involved in criminal activity at the time of the accident.
  • The boat operator was ejected, or they were not using a lanyard (emergency ignition cut-off switch) if the boat was wired for one.
  • Diving without a diver in the water flag.
  • Lack of attention from the operator.
  • Improper lookout at the stern of a houseboat.
  • Involvement of boats with top speeds over 25 miles per hour.
  • Accidents occurring between 30 minutes before sundown and 30 minutes after sunrise (this is due to visibility, lighting issues).
  • Older boats (they will say solutions were not available back then).
  • Horseplay led to the person being ejected from the boat or being run over.
  • Swimming just outside a designated swimming area.
  • Sitting on the front of a pontoon boat and dangling feet off before falling overboard.
  • Standing when rejected.
  • Riding in the bow of a bowrider underway at speed.
  • Sitting or standing on the bow when underway (not sitting in a proper seat).
  • Teak surfing (hanging on to the swim platform when underway).
  • Use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Not using a spotter to spot towed fallen wake boarders, tubers, or water skiers.
  • Performance boat with top speeds over 50 mph.
  • Wake surfing behind an outboard or sterndrive (surfing with no rope up close to the rear of the boat).

Steps to take after a barge accident

It has been reported that there were 4,145 barge accidents in 2018 alone. Unfortunately, accidents can happen to anyone, but knowing what to do in the event of an incident can mean the difference between an embarrassing mishap and a life-changing accident.

Here are some steps to take following a boating accident:

First, check out all the damages and injuries suffered after a barge accident. This means checking all passengers and making sure no one has fallen overboard. If the boat appears to have been damaged, ensure that everyone is wearing a life jacket. In addition, drop anchor to avoid drifting into more trouble.

If you have a phone, call 911. Otherwise, you can use a VHF radio to make a distress call.

Keeping in mind that you might need to file an insurance claim or barge accident lawsuit later on, safely collect as much information about the accident as you can. This includes: 

  • The names and contact information of witnesses.
  • The names and contact information of any other parties involved, such as the operator of the other boat in the case of a boat-on-boat collision.
  • Photographs of any injuries or damage.

Submit a Boating Accident Report (BAR) with the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the place where the accident occurred.

An experienced barge injury attorney can help you investigate the accident, file an insurance claim or lawsuit, and collect the damages you are owed.

If you want to know more about filing barge accident lawsuit, contact Ethen Ostroff Law. Our maritime lawyers will review your situation and determine your best options for recovery. To request a free personal injury consultation, contact Ethen Ostroff Law now at 610-510-8883 ( by calling this number, you consent to receive SMS updates from Ethen Ostroff Law).

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