Duck Boat Company Invokes Maritime Law to Avoid Liability


OMAHA, Nebraska. CNN reports that a duck boat company is invoking an arcane maritime law to avoid liability for a recent accident that left nine members in a single family dead. The law dates back to the 1850s and states that a claim against any vessel cannot exceed the value of the vessel itself. The duck boat company claims that the vessel is a total loss, and that this limits the company’s liability.

The claim goes back to a tragic duck boat accident that took place last June after a sudden thunderstorm hit the lake on which the vessel was operating. 17 people died in the accident. The duck boat company claims that it has reached out to family members impacted by the accident to reach a settlement through mediation. However, the lawyers representing the woman who lost her whole family in the tragedy claim that no settlement offer has been made and that the legal ploy to avoid liability will not hold up in court. The woman is seeking $100 million in damages against the duck boat company.

Duck boats can be found in cities across the U.S. They are popular for their versatility. The boats can operate on both land and water. However, the boats have come under increased scrutiny after this tragic accident. CNN reports that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that duck boats have their canopies removed because the canopies could entrap passengers if the boats were to sink. It is believed that the canopy may have made it difficult for victims to escape the sinking boat. The duck boat company is currently being criminally investigated in connection with the accident. According to the Kansas City Star, federal investigators have asked families to refrain from filing civil lawsuits until the criminal investigation is complete. The government is asking that lawyers delay their discovery process until the federal investigation has had a chance to properly finish. However, families have protested this request, claiming that it is slowing down justice for families whose lives have been seriously impacted by this accident.

Civil liability differs from criminal liability. A company or person can be held both criminally and financially negligent for an accident. It is also possible for a company or person to be negligent financially but not criminally negligent. An example of this would be the case of a car accident where a person made a driving error resulting in damages. In the case of a simple driving error, the driver might not be held criminally negligent in the crash. However, if a person drank and drove and then caused damages, the driver could be both criminally and financially negligent for the crash.

Investigators are still evaluating the causes of the duck boat accident and it is likely to be some time before we fully understand what went wrong. However, for any person who travels and who has considered riding these boats, the outcome of any investigation will be important in determining whether duck boats are safe.

Have you been in an accident? Do you have questions about civil and criminal negligence? If you have been hurt due to the negligence or neglect of another person or party, you may be entitled to seek damages for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Rensch & Rensch Law are personal injury lawyers in Omaha, Nebraska who work closely with victims and families to help them seek justice under the law. If you or a loved one has been hurt, visit us at to learn more.

Rensch & Rensch Law
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Suite 102
Omaha, NE 68114

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