Maritime Attorney – Unseaworthy Vessels
While individuals working in the maritime industry are often well aware of the rights the Jones Act gives them with respect to their employers, they may not know that General Maritime Laws permit maritime workers to file a lawsuit against the vessel owner when they are injured on an “unseaworthy” ship or boat. In many circumstances the owner of the vessel will be the seaman’s employer, but in some cases the vessel owner may be a separate entity. Regardless of whether the vessel owner is the employer or another company, the vessel owner has a legal duty to provide a seaworthy vessel and crew.
In order to be seaworthy the vessel must:
- Be fit for its intended use
- Provide a safe environment for maritime employees to live and work
- Be equipped with appropriate safety gear and equipment
- Have a sufficient number of competent and adequately trained crew members
When a vessel owner fails to provide a seaworthy vessel and a maritime worker is injured, the vessel owner can be held legally liable for damages. Damages that may be recoverable in an unseaworthiness claim include past and future lost wages and income, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, retraining costs, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement.
What Makes a Vessel Unseaworthy?
While there are wide variety of factors that can cause a vessel to be unseaworthy, some of the most common conditions include:
- Defective or insufficient tools and equipment
- Uneven, oily or slippery floors
- Faulty vessel design or undersized vessel for job used
- Broken or Dangerous Ladders, Stairs & Handrails
- Inadequate or missing safety equipment or guards
- Lack of appropriate safety rules and procedures
- Worn out, broken or outdated equipment in operation
- Incompetent or improperly trained crew members
- Use of dangerous or incompetent third party contractors or sub-contractors
- Dangerous crew members on the ship or vessel
- Inadequate number of crew members to perform job safely
- Overworked crew members
It is important to recognize that in order to be found unseaworthy, a vessel does not have to be in danger of sinking; rather, unseaworthiness occurs when a ship owner fails to ensure the vessel is in proper working order with the equipment, tools and crew the seamen need to safely and properly perform their duties.
What Should I Do If I was Injured on an Unseaworthy Vessel?
If you are a crew member who has been injured while working on a vessel, you should consult with an experienced maritime injury attorney as soon as possible. When you work with the Willis Law Firm a skilled maritime lawyer will review your case to identify all parties that may be held legally liable for your injuries. If the owner of the vessel failed to meet its legal duties and you were injured as a result, we may be able to file an unseaworthiness claim on your behalf.
You need to be aware that unseaworthiness claims and Jones Act injury claims are subject to a three year statute of limitations or filing deadline under the Uniform Statute of Limitations for Maritime Torts. This would apply to actions under the Jones Act and for a seaman’s claims for injuries due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel. This means the injured maritime worker or seaman would have up to three years from the date of your accident to file your legal claim. However one must be very careful as to whether the accident facts give rise to you being classified as a Jones Act seaman or whether the structure is considered a vessel under the Jones Act or General Maritime Laws. Further beware that some legal claims may have a filing or notice deadlines as short as one year from the date of the accident.
Therefore, it is always best to discuss your accident and injuries in detail with an experienced maritime injury lawyer who can outline your legal options and make sure you are taking all actions necessary to protect your legal rights. Contact the Willis Law Firm today at 1-800-468-4878 for a free and confidential consultation.