Exploring the water off of our gorgeous coastline can be a terrific form of recreation. Diving can give people a close-up look at a mysterious world hidden from our everyday view. However, a number of different factors can make a day quickly turn from fun and fascinating to tragic. Our Panama City diving accident law firm believes in the importance of safety. We represent victims in civil court, helping them seek compensation after an accident that stemmed from faulty equipment or the negligence of others.
The News Herald is reporting on a tragic diving accident in our region. On Saturday August 18, 2 individuals were diving approximately 6 nautical miles off the Panama City coast. The divers had been using a buddy system while exploring about 100 below the surface from a commercial vessel. Speaking on behalf of the Coast Guard, Lieutenant Michael Clausen reported that the ship's operator contacted the Coast Guard around 8 A.M. after the pair had surfaced with one diver unresponsive and the other showing symptoms of the bends. A Coast Guard vessel met the boat as it headed back in. Officers performed CPR but were unable to save the unresponsive diver, a 43-year-old man who was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The second diver showed signs of the bends, a headache, dizziness, heavy breathing, and nausea that can result from coming up too fast from a dive and having air bubbles form in the blood. The boat involved in the dive was a commercial vessel, and the operator held a commercial license. Names of those onboard the boat have not been released, although reports suggest most of the six passengers hailed from Louisiana and that the trip was recreational. The Coast Guard is continuing to investigate to determine whether the equipment was functioning properly and if operator error was involved.
It is too soon to draw conclusions about the cause of this weekend's tragedy. However, a number of different legal principles can apply in diving tragedies. Product liability law applies when a negligent design or manufacturing error leads to an accident or a death. In other cases, the accident may stem from improperly trained personnel, the failure to properly maintain dive equipment, or other negligence on behalf of a company that operates recreational dives. Sometimes a company may cite a waiver of liability.
Courts have upheld some releases, noting that diving is a voluntary activity. However, no waiver can entirely release companies from all forms of legal responsibility. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you explore whether a waiver is valid given the specific factual circumstances and the legal principles at issue. Do not make the mistake of taking a company's word for it if they tell you that you cannot sue.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a diving accident in Panama City or our neighboring region, please contact our firm. We offer a free consultation to all potential clients, and most cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, so you owe no legal fees unless we help you recover compensation.