Vessel owners and operators have a duty to provide seamen with a reasonably safe environment to work or a seaworthy vessel. When we think of an ‘unseaworthy’ vessel, we may think of old ships that are so broken down they are barely able to stay afloat. However, just about any unsafe condition can make a ship ‘unseaworthy’ under the maritime law definition. Some common examples of ‘unseaworthiness’ include:
- Slippery deck (e.g. grease, oil)
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Failing to comply with Coast Guard or OSHA regulations
- Lack of training or supervision
- Lack of safety protocols and safety equipment
Injured maritime workers can recover damages for their injuries if they can prove the unseaworthiness of the vessel they were on when they injury occurred. Workers can recover damages under the Jones Act or the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness.
To recover damages under the Jones Act, a seamen can file a claim against their employer and will have prove that their employer’s negligence partially or fully caused their accident and/or injuries. The damages you receive will be limited to lost wages (past and future), medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
Unlike filing a claim under the Jones Act, your claims under the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness will be filed against the owner of the vessel. You will have to show that your injuries occurred as a result of a defective or unsafe condition of the vessel. It does not matter if the vessel owner acted negligently or even knew about the dangerous condition. Also, the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness does not limit the types of damages you can recover, meaning you can potentially recover any damages available under maritime law.
An attorney specializing in maritime law can evaluate your case and help determine whether your vessel was unseaworthy.