Thursday, October 10, 2019

Legal Issues With Full Face Snorkels

Public awareness of the dangers of full-face snorkels is increasing and tour operators in Hawaii are increasingly banning their use due to safety concerns.  A State of Hawaii Advisory Committee is investigating the link between drowning deaths and the full-face masks and Civil Beat recently published another article with additional information.  It has now published two stories, one in 2018 and one in 2019. 
Many snorkelers find the masks difficult to remove which can become dangerous when filled with water.  There have also been concerns about carbon dioxide build-up due to dead-space ventilation in the masks causing users to become light-headed.  Disorientation combined with potentially rough water and the exertion of swimming could lead to a drowning.  

There is some information indicating that the masks designed by Ocean Reef, one of the original manufacturers of the full-face masks, function properly.  However, some consumers may have purchased cheaper masks online with a similar, but defective, design.  Full-face mask designs are not new and have actually been around for about seventy years.  Their popularity has increased recently though, particularly in Hawaii, with increased tourism, travel and interest in exploring the ocean.  

Visitors to Maui are often surprised by the size of the water and the effort it takes to snorkel in relatively calm seas.  Any sizable chop on the water or a strong current often leads to swimmers getting into trouble.  Even strong swimmers sometimes have difficulty getting back to shore. 

While most snorkelers stay on the surface, it's not uncommon for some to dive into the water to reach the bottom or to investigate an interesting coral or fish.  When diving under water, the full-face mask design is inferior to the traditional style with a mask that only covers the eyes and nose.  The hard cover of a full-face design does not allow users to equalize the pressure in their nose and ears, causing severe discomfort only a few feet below the surface.  Additionally, when the snorkel tube becomes filled with water from diving or a wave washing water into it, users may not be familiar with how to clear the tube which can cause the inhalation of water. 

As the number of drownings increases in Hawaii, a number of deaths have been associated with full-face snorkels.  Specific evidence in unattended drownings is difficult to find since there are usually few witnesses.  However, it is possible that a product liability lawsuit will be filed claiming that the products are defective. 

A successful product liability lawsuit must prove that the product did not meet the ordinary expectations of the consumer.  Tying a manufacturer's negligence to a death or injury can be challenging.  However, drowning is certainly not an ordinarily expected consequence of buying and using a full-face snorkel mask. 
If you believe a personal injury or wrongful death was caused by negligence, call our office today for a consultation. We handle personal injury, negligence and wrongful death matters.

Monday, September 16, 2019

You Must Be Alert Driving on Maui

Maui has a large amount of traffic on its roads.  In addition to residents of our island, there are about three million visitors to Maui each year.  A significant number of those visitors rent vehicles to see the scenic beauty of the island making Maui is one of the busiest car rental ports in the nation.  Despite the recent airport expansion enabling rental car companies to park vehicles closer to airport terminals, the Maui rental market has already outgrown the expansion.  Rental companies park thousands of vehicles on vacant lots close to the airport and shuttle vehicles to the lot as necessary. 

Drivers distracted by other passengers, the ocean views or cell phones can cause accidents and despite the beautiful vistas, Maui's roads require the full attention of drivers.  The Hana Highway is narrow in places and, even though the road is maintained often, the forces of nature make the job a never-ending task.  Traffic is almost always heavy on the road to Lahaina and Kaanapali. 

Just this week, a motorcycle went over a guardrail on the Honoapiilani Highway, there was a fatal vehicle accident in Kahului and a landslide near Kipahulu.  These accidents demonstrate the need for full attention.  Already, the fatality rate for vehicle accidents on Maui is significantly higher this year than last.  (33% higher.)

Please remember to drive safely and take your time.

If you or a loved one have been in an accident, call our office for a free consultation.  We may be able to help you recover compensation for negligence, a wrongful death situation or other personal injury.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Boating Accidents and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The accident that occurred on the dive boat, Conception, in California recently has generated substantial attention due to the severity of the fire and the terrible loss of life.  Thirty-four people died when the boat caught on fire and the passengers were trapped inside.  The exact cause of the fire and accident is under investigation.

Cognizant of potential personal injury liability, the owners of the dive boat have filed a lawsuit in federal court stating that they used reasonable care and that the ship was seaworthy.  The lawsuit is an attempt to preempt and limit the owner's liability.  The strategy is based upon maritime law dating to 1851 that requires victims to respond to the lawsuit within a specified amount of time or else relinquish their claim.  The method has been used a number of times before in prominent maritime accidents and has been very effective at limiting liability.

Typically a personal injury lawsuit must be brought within two years in the state of Hawaii.  Hawaii Revised Statute §657-7.  The same two-year time limit applies in California as well.  Other states vary in their and time limits. The lawsuit was widely seen as being in poor taste since the investigation is ongoing and the families are still mourning their loved ones.

If you've been involved in an accident and have been injured, contact an experienced attorney today to protect your rights.