Lawyer Monthly - February 2023

By far, some of the biggest challenges to preparing for and engaging in meaningful litigation involve acquiring proof of the mechanism of injury or death by admissible evidence. ‘Location, location, location’ is an often repeated phrase in the real estate world, but it is equally poignant when describing collecting evidence on large and small vessels in various locations locally, nationally, or around the world. When a person is injured on a vessel, untangling and connecting the dots to assemble and organise tangible and verifiable evidence is a challenge for attorneys representing the injured person. Maritime cases can happen in a variety of marine settings across the globe; it is never an easy task to have to talk to witnesses, collect evidence by way of statements, live testimony, video or audio and digital formats, conduct surveillance and finally connect that to policies or lack thereof by the defending vessel owners, charters or companies. Beyond this, an injured person often does not contact a lawyer until days or even weeks later, when disembarked from their work vessel. They may not have a clear chain of events of what happened or why. Counsel for the injured person must create timelines and a chain of medical events and try to figure out – after the event – both how and why it occurred. Beginning with first-person statements, collecting information about the ownership and company potentially employing the injured party and their safety practices and training becomes vitally important to proving a case days, weeks, or years after the injury producing event. One of the initial challenges to plaintiff’s counsel in maritime injury and wrongful death actions, as well as general admiralty injuries and death claims is finding witnesses, colleagues and fellow crew members who are willing to tell the truth despite the potential sacrifice of their own job or adverse job actions for going against another colleague or their employer. Most helpful witnesses are honest people who are put in a tough situation or ‘Catch-22’ when they are asked to testify or provide information that could jeopardize their own employment. Knowledge of a vessel’s long-term Obstacles to Prosecuting Wrongful Death at Sea When occurring in a marine environment, the difficulty in litigating a personal injury or wrongful death claim becomes several times greater. Assembling the bare facts involved in such a case is a challenge unto itself, to say nothing of proving ultimate liability. Veteran maritime lawyer Adam Lotkin expands upon these difficulties in this feature, illustrating the challenges legal teams must overcome in order to achieve success. Expert Insight EXPERT INSIGHT 39

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