Maritime Workers on Ship DeckDistractions aren’t just a problem on the road, they are a major peril for employees who work on or near water. In a car, it is only the driver who could cause an accident—on a vessel, any crew member’s inattention can cause serious or fatal injuries. When distractions combine with the dangers of open water and heavy machinery, a maritime worker may suffer amputation, traumatic brain injury, lacerations, spinal damage, or hypothermia.

Liability for Maritime Accidents Caused by Distraction

Maritime workers have a duty to mitigate distractions while on duty, such as using their smartphones to talk or text or listening to loud music. On the other hand, vessel owners may be responsible if they did not make efforts to reduce distractions from noisy machinery, outdated systems, confusing instructions, or unseaworthy conditions aboard the ship.

Distraction-related accidents can occur anywhere at any time, including:

  • Open water. There are many hazards on open water, including floating debris, sandbars, and the risk of falling overboard. If a crew member is more interested in checking his emails or social media accounts, he may fail to notice when a coworker falls overboard, increasing the time it takes to mount a rescue.
  • Shipping lanes. An accident in a crowded body of water can involve multiple vessels and injuries, and may be caused by a distracted crew member on another ship.
  • Docks and harbors. Pilots and navigators must pay close attention to their duties when bringing ships in and out of port to avoid dock collisions and grounding. Ship owners and operators should have strict policies in place prohibiting the use of electronic devices during potentially dangerous maneuvers.

If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be liable for the accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.