SCUBA Diving Litigation Attorney Advice regarding SCUBA diving Accidents
SCUBA Diving Accident Attorney
SCUBA diving accidents can occur during a boat dive or an underwater tour. The injuries suffered can range from barotrauma to air embolism and death.
John O’Connell has been scuba diving since 1978. He got involved in litigating SCUBA diving cases in 1991 when a newly married couple from Massachusetts went to Hawai’i for their honeymoon and the husband died while taking an alleged introductory PADI Discover Scuba Diving Experience. Since that time he has worked on numerous SCUBA diving and rebreather accident cases in Florida, Hawai’i, Pennsylvania, California and New Hampshire. Most recently in 2017 he was trial counsel in a case brought by the family of a man who drowned in Maui, Hawaii in a snorkeling excursion when bad weather confronted the snorkelers with 12 foot seas. In 2016 he was counsel in a SCUBA diving death case in Hawai’i and ultimately recovered over 2.2 million dollars for his client. The Court Order re Hambrook in this case reviews the legal basis for liability of boat operators on SCUBA cases to train personnel, have and implement emergency action plans, properly resuscitate drowning victims, carry and train personnel in the use of emergency oxygen and select appropriate dive sites in view of the experience level of divers in their group.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a SCUBA diving accident you should seek out legal advice as soon possible. There are also steps that you should take to secure as much information as possible. You should:
- Make note of now you learned of the dive excursion;
- If you learned of the excursion through information on the web print it out and save it;
- Keep a copy of any promotional literature that you have reviewed or received relating to the dive;
- Note the name, address and home/work phone numbers of any witnesses that you believe observed any portion of the dive;
- Get the name of the divemaster, dive-buddy and/or instructor that led the dive;
- Many dive operators attempt to capitalize on your dive by taking a video which they offer for resale at the end of the dive. If this is the case for the dive, it is imperative that you obtain a copy of this tape;
- Obtain a copy of the police report regarding the accident;
- Obtain a copy of the coast guard report regarding the accident;
- Have someone photograph injuries as soon as possible;
- Have someone photograph the scene of the accident. Videotape it if possible. Make sure something like a newspaper is used in the video or photograph to enable you to correlate the photo/video to a date;
- Secure all scuba diving equipment that was used on the dive and make sure that it is not altered in any way. If a fatality or a serious injury is involved the investigating officer may take possession of the equipment for testing. Try to find out where the testing will be done and keep informed of the results. Make sure to take possession of the equipment (or find out who did take possession) as soon as possible. Sometimes the manufacturer may be called on to examine the equipment. Make sure that you let the investigating authority know that you object to this and request a disinterested party look at the equipment;
- Secure photographs or videotapes from any person in your party that participated in the dive;
- Get the names, address and work/home phone numbers of any other persons who were in the vicinity who took photos or videotaped any portion of the dive preparation, dive and/or dive aftermath;
- Obtain all documents that were given as part of dive instruction or excursion;
- Retain all documents that were signed by the victim or obtain a copy of all documents signed by him/her. This includes any ‘limitation of liability,’ ‘release’ and/or ‘waiver’;
- Often an insurance representative or attorney will contact the victim of an accident in an attempt to obtain a written or recorded statement. Understand that they are not taking the statement so that they can assist the victim – they are on the other side of a potential lawsuit. Do not give a statement without consulting an attorney;
- Do co-operate with Coast Guard and/or police;
- Retain all records of payment for the dive, dive training, transportation, and/or dive course (charge card slip, checks, written receipts);
- If the accident resulted in the death of the diver the potential defendants (through their insurers, attorneys and doctors) invariably assert that the death was the result of a “spontaneous cardiac disrythmia.” A spontaneous cardiac disrythmia is an extremely rare event but an extremely popular defense. If an autopsy is performed you must make sure that the specimens are properly maintained and that you get a copy of the full written report. If organs are harvested, you should obtain all pathology reports. You should seek a competent medical opinion from a specialist as soon as possible.
This is by no means a definitive list of actions to be taken. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible in order to determine your rights. It would be wise to consult with an attorney who has experience in handling personal injury cases and especially diving cases. You may contact my office at (303) 632-7172 or contact John at (617) 996-2500.