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Settlements Reached In Manhattan Commuter Ferry Crash

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Several settlements have been reached in lawsuits stemming from January's crash of a Wall Street-bound ferry from New Jersey that was carrying hundreds of commuters.

More than 80 people were injured in when the boat struck a pier, including one seriously. More than three dozen people have sued the boat's owner in federal court.

Notices of four settlements were filed in U.S. District Court in Newark this week. They ranged from $20,000 for a passenger who suffered knee trauma and bruising to $80,000 for another passenger who had torn shoulder cartilage.

"We're very pleased with the way it worked out," said Michael Pappa, an attorney representing a 55-year-old passenger who suffered a scalp laceration as well as ear and neck injuries and received a $42,500 settlement. "It was important to us to try and negotiate in good faith and resolve the case as quickly as we could because of all the other cases."

William Bennett, an attorney representing boat owner Seastreak LLC, said Wednesday that about 35 to 40 additional claims were resolved before they reached court, the result of the company reaching out to commuters who suffered injuries or damage to personal property. In all, the company has paid out about $1 million to settle personal injury claims, he said.

"They've done something most vessel owners don't do, which is to be very proactive in trying to resolve claims," Bennett said.

Bennett said Seastreak also has spent about $500,000 to repair a barge that was damaged in the accident.

The boat departed from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., with 326 passengers and five crew members. It crashed into Pier 11 at South Street and Gouverneur Lane, sending people tumbling down stairs and into walls. The ferry captain has told federal investigators he couldn't control the boat's engines in the seconds before the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. In its preliminary report in January, the NTSB noted that the vessel's engines were replaced in early 2012 and passed a Coast Guard inspection several months later.

The NTSB said the boat crashed after the master crewmember steering it reduced the speed from 30 knots to 12 knots. The agency said he tried to switch propulsion control from the boat's center to its side. The captain told investigators the propulsion control failed during that process.

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