Can I File a Jones Act Claim if I was Injured on a Cargo Ship?

Jones Act Jan 24, 2023

Working on a cargo ship presents risks for several types of injuries. If you’ve been injured on the job, you may have a claim under the Jones Act. Seamen who work on container ships can file for maintenance and cure benefits regardless of how they got injured, and they can seek additional compensation for unseaworthiness or Jones Act negligence in many cases.

Common Accidents Onboard Cargo Ships

The Jones Act covers all types of accidents onboard cargo ships. So, no matter how you got injured, you should talk to a lawyer about your legal rights. Some examples of common accidents that result in serious injuries include:

  • Accidents Involving Shifting Containers – Shifting containers can be extremely dangerous. They can pin or crush workers, and these accidents can cause serious or fatal injuries. While this is a risk many workers face, it is a risk that companies can—and should—protect their workers against.
  • Slip-and-Fall and Trip-and-Fall Accidents – Slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents are among the most common causes of injury in all maritime occupations. If you were injured after slipping or tripping on a container ship, you can seek just compensation under the Jones Act.
  • Falls from Heights (including Falls Overboard) – Falls from heights (including falls overboard) can be extremely dangerous as well. Falls from upper decks, falls into cargo holds and other accidents often result in broken bones, brain trauma and other devastating injuries.
  • Crane and Equipment Accidents – Crane and other equipment accidents onboard cargo ships also frequently result in devastating injuries. While these accidents frequently result from maintenance issues, defects or operator negligence, injured seamen do not need to be able to prove fault to seek Jones Act benefits.
  • Gangway Accidents – Failure to properly secure gangways, inadequate gangway maintenance, walking on slippery gangways in bad weather and various other issues frequently lead to gangway accidents. While proof of fault isn’t required, injured seamen will have fault-based claims following gangway accidents in many cases.
  • Fires and Explosions – Fires and explosions on cargo ships can present serious risks for everyone onboard. If you suffered severe burns in a fire or explosion, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation under the Jones Act.  
  • Toxic Exposure and Electrocution – Exposure to toxic fumes in confined spaces like cargo holds and engine rooms can cause serious health problems. Exposure to uncontrolled electricity can cause serious injuries. These are both common accidents on container ships, and they leave seamen facing life-altering injuries and medical conditions in many cases.

Common Causes of Accidents on Container Ships

These accidents (and others) on container ships can result from several different factors. While injured seamen will occasionally be responsible for their own injuries (in which they can still seek maintenance and cure benefits), many accidents on container ships result from issues that vessel owners and shipping companies could—and should have avoided. Some of the most common causes of accidents on container ships include:

  • Captain or First Mate Negligence – Improper operation of the vessel, failure to spot hazards in the water, ignoring hazardous weather and sea conditions, and various other mistakes can lead to perilous circumstances that endanger everyone onboard.
  • Coworker Negligence – Many seamen who work on cargo ships get injured because their coworkers don’t know how to stay safe (or they ignore the rules). When captains, first mates, and other employees are negligent on the job, their employer can be held accountable.
  • Crane and Equipment Failures – Crane and equipment failures can lead to accidents involving moving containers or accidents involving the crane or piece of equipment itself. While some of these accidents result from operator negligence, many result from defects, inadequate maintenance or faulty repairs.
  • Fatigue – Fatigue is a very real concern onboard container ships. If seamen aren’t able to get enough sleep, this can significantly impair their ability to make good decisions and stay safe on the job.
  • Heavy Seas – Heavy seas can endanger cargo ship crew members even if the captain and first mate do everything they are supposed to in order to keep the crew safe. Huge waves, water crashing onto the deck and into cargo holds, and various other issues can lead to serious and long-term injuries.
  • Bad Weather – Along with heavy seas, bad weather is a very real concern for seamen onboard cargo ships as well. When forced to work in bad weather, deckhands and other workers can slip, fall, lose their grip, and face several other risks of injury.
  • Unseaworthy Vessel Conditions – If a cargo ship is unseaworthy, the vessel owner deserves to be held accountable for any injuries suffered at sea. Unseaworthy vessel conditions include everything from inadequate maintenance and repairs to having too few PFDs or lifeboats onboard.

Types of Injuries Covered Under the Jones Act

Regardless of how or why an accident happens on a cargo ship, these accidents can leave seamen suffering from a variety of types of injuries. All types of injuries can lead to substantial costs, and, as a result, it is extremely important that injured seamen assert their legal rights under the Jones Act. The Jones Act covers all types of injuries suffered onboard container ships, including (but not limited to):

  • Broken and dislocated bones
  • Burns (from fires, explosions and toxic chemicals)
  • Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Crushing injuries
  • Ear, eye and nose injuries
  • Internal bleeding
  • Internal injuries caused by exposure or electrocution
  • Loss of digits and limbs
  • Near-drowning injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Organ damage
  • Severe cuts
  • Soft tissue injuries (muscle, ligament and tendon injuries)
  • Spinal cord injuries

Contact a Jones Act Lawyer About Your Container Ship Accident

Were you seriously injured onboard a cargo ship? If so, it is extremely important that you speak with a lawyer about your legal rights under the Jones Act. At Willis Law Firm, our lawyers represent injured seamen nationwide. To speak with a lawyer about your container ship accident in confidence as soon as possible, please call 468-4878 or request a free consultation online today.

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