The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has ordered all persons asserting claims related to the sinking of the S.S. El Faro to file their respective claims with that court by December 21, 2015. Failure to comply with the strict deadline may result in a claim being defaulted or barred.

The 40-year-old cargo ship went missing amidst the forces of Hurricane Joaquin in its final voyage to Puerto Rice on October 2. All 33 of the ship’s crewmembers lost their lives when El Faro lost propulsion and sunk east of the Bahamas. Tote Maritime, who owned the ship and employed its crew, subsequently filed a complaint to limit its liability for the losses stemming from this tragedy.   Tote Maritime seeks to cap its liability at no more than approximately $15 million dollars, a value based on the ship’s tonnage. Today’s court order requires all claims for compensation related to the El Faro disaster to be filed by December 21, 2015.

Sylvester C. Crawford, Jr., a 40 year old father from Lawrenceville, Georgia, was among the 33 crewmembers that perished aboard the S.S. El Faro. The Seafarers International Union (SIU) member was working his first hitch as a QMed aboard the ship when it sailed into the path of Hurricane Joaquin. Crawford’s family recently retained the attorneys of Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP to represent them in a legal claim against Tote Maritime for their loss.

“We are honored to represent the Crawford family as they seek justice for their beloved Sylvester,” said Matthew D. Shaffer, a maritime attorney and managing partner of Schechter, Shaffer & Harris.

Although the crewmembers’ families are still mourning the unexpected loss of their loved ones, the legal battle over the sinking of El Faro has already begun with full force.

“It is shameful that Tote Maritime has initiated litigation in a venue far from their home seeking to limit its responsibility to these families to pennies on the dollar, while at the same time seeking the full measure of reimbursement for the loss of its ship,” said Matthew Shaffer. “Such actions are doomed for failure but will succeed in costing the survivors time and money as they look for answers in this tragedy.”

Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers has represented individuals like the Crawford family for over 50 years across the United States. Its attorneys have over 100 years of combined trial experience in holding employers and shipowners responsible for serious maritime accidents and deaths.

Family members affected by the El Faro tragedy are strongly advised to contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss their legal rights in light of the court’s upcoming deadline to file claims. If you or a loved one was injured in a maritime or offshore accident, call 1-800-282-2122 today to speak to an attorney at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP for a free, confidential consultation. Legal assistance is available both in English and Spanish (Español).