Cost of blood

Blood is a big expense.”  That’s a quote from the movie “Godfather”. Those words couldn’t be truer. I want to put a face on the cost of blood. I’m going with the face of George Washington, as on the dollar bill. I’ve written blogs on how safety pays. It pays in fewer lost man days, less property damage and fewer days your boat is out of service not earning a dime. Underwriters charge you lower premiums if your loss record is good. Having fewer accidents, especially if they include your mariners, means fewer lawsuits where damages awarded can run in the millions. This is a tangible and practical business motivation to run a safe boat and company.

You can’t put a moral cost on a mariner killed or maimed. Accidents that kill and injure are horrible and everyone feels badly, especially the injured mariner and family of the dead. No amount of money will bring you back to life or replace your arms and legs. But there are lawsuits that award damages to the injured or his family when safety goes wrong and an accident occurs. It has been said that sometimes justice is moving money from one pocket to another. Please forgive my brutal cynicism.

My disclaimer is I am not an attorney, judge or jury. I’ll leave it to the lawyers and experts, courts, judges and juries to litigate these accidents. So please don’t write back a blistering legal critique about this blog.

Here are some real world examples of awards that resulted from death and injuries to mariners.

As examples, fatalities (wrongful death) and personal injuries have resulted in settlements such as follows.

  • Injury to the lower back and shoulder — $2,800,000
  • Nerve injury — $1,900,000
  • Leg injury — $752,000
  • Head and neck injury — $1,200,000
  • Fall injury on barge — $550,000
  • Fatality —$2,200,000+

Settlement size depends on many factors so these numbers serve nothing more than to show examples of how much you might end up shelling out for a death or injury. I’ve heard of some sky high settlements too. These settlements could also include punitive damages over and above the awarded damages and that could be very expensive. As an example, punitive damages can be awarded for the unseaworthiness of the vessel and the court decides what’s unseaworthy. Also, don’t forget the costs of maintenance and cure. There are no cheap accidents.  

Safety pays in the long run and not just because it keeps your insurance premiums reasonable. A lapse of your safety management system or in the day to day safety of operations can lead to bad things. Those bad things could find you involved in very expensive litigation that can destroy your bottom line. But worse, there is no price that can be put on the destruction of the lives of mariners. You’ll have to live with it the rest of your life.

Sail Safe!

About the author

Capt. Peter Squicciarini

Capt. Peter Squicciarini is a licensed master mariner and marine safety specialist at the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command in Portsmouth, Va. He has worked on towing, passenger, and fishing vessels, and was a safety and compliance manager for an East Coast tug and barge company. He also served in the Navy as a surface ship officer and commanded several warships. He can be reached at pdsquicciarini@msn.com.

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