Powertool Being Used on a Ship

Tools are inherently dangerous, but are even more hazardous when used at sea. Any cut or wound that happens far from shore could have long-lasting complications that prevent seamen from earning a living.

These injuries often occur because of simple oversights, such as using the wrong tool for the job or failing to follow the correct procedures. However, this does not mean the injured crew member is necessarily at fault—especially if they were ordered to do a job quickly or were not given functional equipment.

Options for Seamen After Tool and Machinery Accidents

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to collect maintenance and cure, file a lawsuit against a negligent party, or pursue an unseaworthiness claim. If you are permanently assigned to a vessel or fleet of vessels, and your work contributes to the function or mission of the vessel, and the vessel is used for some level of transportation of goods, equipment, or cargo, then you are a “seaman” by definition.

The benefits a seaman is entitled to are:

  • Maintenance and cure. Under the general maritime law, a vessel owner or employer is obligated to provide medical care to “cure” an injured or ill seaman until they reach maximum medical improvement. The shipowner also has to provide “maintenance,” or a daily paid quantum of money to replace the value of food and lodging the seaman otherwise receives on the vessel.
  • Negligence claims. Under the Jones Act, a seaman may sue his employer when the negligence of a co-worker or a shipowner’s agents cause an injury. In order to prevail, a seaman must show that the negligent party had a duty of reasonable conduct and to act reasonably to do something (or refrain from doing something), committed a breach of that duty, and caused an injury that is compensable as a result of that breach. If successful, a seaman may collect damages for loss of wages and benefits in the past, future loss of wages and benefits, and conscious pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
  • Unseaworthiness claims. This is also a liability claim, but a seaman does not have to show negligence, which involves knowledge on the part of the defendant. In an unseaworthiness claim, a seaman only needs to prove that the vessel (or its appurtenances) was not reasonably fit for its intended purpose, and that the ship’s unseaworthy condition caused the injury.

If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, the experienced maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can explain your legal rights at no cost to you. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


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