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A Legal Perspective on Technical Diving

Delise & Hall
Phone: (504) 836-8000 or 1 (800) DIVER 55 (348-3755)
Fax: (504) 836-8020


Prepared by The Law Firm of Delise & Hall Attorneys at Law and Admiralty
August, 1998

Historians will document the 1990′s as the dawning of the information age. Development of affordable computer hardware, sophisticated software and the evolution of the “information superhighway” provide the general public access to technology previously reserved for the military and government communities. One of the benefactors of this advanced technological revolution is the recreational diving industry.

With the release of this technology, today’s diver has access to previously remote areas of the sea and other underwater locales. Profiting from this liberation of information, divers are now able to employ computer generated decompression tables and gas mixtures where in the not too distant past U.S. Navy Decompression Tables and few limited gas mixtures were their only alternatives. Back then divers were required to “hand calculate” the appropriate decompression table – now dive computers do the work for them.

Mixed gas and nitrox now provide alternative breathing mediums, to air for the diver who wishes to dive deeper and for extended periods of time. Dry suits warmed with argon, sophisticated BCD’s and other state of the art equipment provide comfort and safety to the more adventurous divers. Rebreathers, once the sole possession of a select few, namely the military and scientific divers, will soon be obtainable and affordable to the general public.

Such advances and developments in equipment and procedures will continue to drastically revolutionize the diving industry. With this revolution comes legions of highly skilled divers collectively known as “technical divers”. Who knows what adventures will be available for the next millennium?

The dramatic introduction of alternative breathing mediums, computer generated custom decompression tables and sophisticated cutting edge equipment presents new risks and challenges. As technology is introduced to the market, today’s diver must recognize the need to continue to access training and education in the complexities of the theoretical and practical consequences of “new age” diving.

Not all divers have the skills or psyche to survive in the often times hostile environment of the “tekkies”. Military organizations throughout the world closely screen diving candidates to eliminate those who are psychologically, physically and emotionally unfit to meet the challenges of diving were very few dare to venture.

The advent of new technology has also enticed instructors and start-up enterprises to hasten the providence of instruction, equipment, techniques and certification. In some cases,divers – novice or experienced – are improperly seduced through promises of indoctrination into the select group of technical divers convincing them that “expertise” is attainable through the completion of a hurried course where months of rigorous training, prudent study and a cautious certification process would better serve the energetic naive technical diving candidates.

In the rush to market of this technology and equipment, the dive community has been witness to an unacceptable number of diver deaths worldwide within the technical diving community. The legal community of lawyers, insurance underwriters and the courts are just beginning to grapple with the complexities of technology of the undersea and how the law should address the ill-fated loss of life.

The basic legal analysis of an incident involving technical diving at a fundamental level remains the same. Technical instructors, certifying agencies and students must recognize that the law mandates a reasonable and prudent approach; at such a high level of diving, acceptance of even marginal risks may come at a high price.

Delise & Hall is staffed with attorneys who are well versed and experienced in handling technical diving litigation. Perhaps more importantly, we are also staffed with divers who bring their experience in logging countless hours of diving and instruction of deep air and mixed gas diving and use of the attendant equipment.

In addition to serving as legal counsel to technical organizations such as the Woodville Karst Plains Project (WKPP), as well as legal representation of divers and their families, involved in diving injuries and fatalities worldwide, Delise & Hall, in its role of fighting for a safer dive community also acts as a clearing house for documentation of technical diving injuries and fatalities as well as distributing medical and technical referrals.

We remain ever vigilant in our mission of working on behalf of diver safety and education. To aid us in this endeavor or for more information, contact us at 1-800-DIVER-55 or e-mail us at