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Accidents, Injuries & Deaths at Sea Stir Concern Over US Warships


Much media attention has been focused on the US Navy of late, particularly after collisions involving USS John S McCain and USS Fitzgerald this summer took the lives of 17 sailors who are now either dead or missing—more than the number killed in Afghanistan this year. Specifically, many members of the public are now concerned that US warships may be especially vulnerable to hackers, placing many lives in danger each year.

Thus far, analysts involved in the accident reviews have pointed to internal issues and operational tempos in heavily trafficked waterways as the potential culprits. However, the sheer number of accidents that have occurred just during basic operations over the last few months has stirred concerns about potential outside factors affecting safety on these ships; factors that go beyond human error. The nature of the incidents and the narrow window in which they occurred has many speculating about outside interference in general.

“Spoofing” GPS & AIS Navigation

To date, many experts have downplayed the likelihood of outsider intrusion and hacker attacks on these ships, instead citing human negligence or error as the likely causes.

However, although the US Navy uses encrypted navigation systems that would be difficult to hack, plenty of tests have been run demonstrating that technology does exist to misdirect GPS navigation–a process known as “spoofing.” This software and electronic gear is fairly easy for private parties to obtain, and can direct large ships hundreds of yards off course without the system detecting that change. They make causing a collision by hacking or hijacking GPS a very real possibility.

The technology is also able to hack the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which most commercial and passenger ships use to locate other ships and avoid collisions. Thus, for example, hackers could foreseeably jam a Navy ship’s guidance system while also going after a commercial or private ship’s unsecured navigation system.


The US Navy and other government entities can be held liable for accidents like these under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), Military Claims Act, and/or Military Personnel and Civilian Employees’ Claims Act.

The FTCA allows you to file an administrative claim and collect compensation from the government for issues related to personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage if they were caused by the negligence of a federal employee acting within the scope of their employment. However, the law contains quite a few exceptions, particularly when it comes to activities related to military service. If you are interested in pursuing a claim like this, first discussing it with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the law’s limitations.

In addition, both the Military Claims Act compensates plaintiffs for claims for up to $100,000, and the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees’ Claims Act up to $40,000 in most circumstances related to personal injury, wrongful death, and/or property loss. 

An Injury Attorney Can Help

If you have suffered an injury or the loss of a loved one due to a maritime accident, contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys at Lavalle Brown & Ronan today to discuss your options. We serve clients in Boca Raton, Florida, and surrounding areas.

For more information and in depth analysis, please contact Attorney Ken Ronan at and Case Manager Richard Bagdasarian at


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