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Titanic Sub Accident – Legal Implications

From Sunday June 18, 2023 to Thursday June 22, 2023, a series of events unfolded regarding a submersible named Titan, operated by OceanGate Expeditions, during its exploration of the abandoned vessel, the Titanic wreck. The submersible, carrying five individuals, including OceanGate’s CEO Stockton Rush, vanished on June 18, 2023, off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The US Coast Guard, alongside the Canadian Navy and other agencies, launched a search-and-rescue mission using sonar, underwater drones, and other equipment.

On Thursday, a remotely operated underwater vehicle discovered five major pieces of the submersible in two debris areas near the Titanic wreck, located approximately 12,500 feet underwater. Tragically, the US Coast Guard confirmed that the submersible had suffered a “catastrophic implosion,” resulting in the loss of all five passengers. The exact cause and time of the implosion remain unknown, but it likely occurred before rescue efforts commenced.

The Coast Guard expressed uncertainty about the possibility of recovering the bodies from the ocean floor. These events mark a significant and unfortunate incident in the realm of deep-sea exploration and highlight the risks associated with such ventures.

OceanGate Liability, Maritime Law, and Personal Injury Law

Legal experts suggest that liability waivers signed by passengers aboard the lost Titan submersible during its dive to the Titanic wreck may not protect the vessel’s owner, OceanGate Expeditions, from potential lawsuits filed by the victims’ families. The submersible vanished during the dive and was later discovered in pieces on the ocean floor due to a “catastrophic implosion,” according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

While the passengers are believed to have signed liability waivers, the enforceability of such waivers can be challenged if there is evidence of gross negligence or undisclosed hazards. The terms of OceanGate’s waivers could not be independently confirmed as the company did not provide immediate comment on the matter. 

Each passenger paid as much as $250,000 each for the journey down below. Along with signing the waiver, it was believed that the possibility of death was mentioned several times over multiple years. There has been evidence that has emerged stating that multiple engineers and experts made dire calls stating the potential dangers to once the Titan reached extreme depths. 

Legal experts emphasize that if aspects of the submersible’s design or construction were withheld from passengers, or if it was knowingly operated despite unsuitability for the dive, the validity of the waivers could be undermined. OceanGate may argue that it was not grossly negligent and that the waivers apply, as they allegedly described the inherent dangers of deep-sea exploration.

The applicability of the waivers will depend on the investigation’s findings regarding the causes of the disaster. If evidence suggests negligence, families may still have claims despite signing the waivers. However, until the cause is determined, the potential impact of the waivers remains uncertain.

Families of the victims could potentially seek damages from OceanGate if it is found liable, although the company’s ability to pay significant damages is unclear. They may also pursue claims against any third parties involved in designing, building, or supplying components for the submersible if they are deemed negligent and responsible for the implosion.

Vessel and Maritime Personal Injury Lawyer

In cases like these, it is important to have an experienced Maritime Lawyer who understands the legal implications of state, federal, and international water and maritime law. Contact Charles Moure and the Moure Law team to get the compensation you deserve.  Contact us by our email or by navigating to our Contact Page

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