Like all employers, shipowners are required to provide their employees with a reasonably safe work environment. If the vessel is not safe for navigation, the maritime employer or shipowner can be named in a negligence lawsuit, allowing the injured seaman to recover injury costs and punitive damages.
Understanding Unseaworthiness Under Maritime Law
A ship does not have to be in disrepair or completely unable to sail to be rendered “unseaworthy.” In order for a vessel to be considered seaworthy under maritime law, the vessel must be suitable and able to perform its specific and intended functions without placing seaman at unnecessary risk.
Some Examples of Unseaworthy Conditions
All parts of the ship, including the hull, structure, decks, and equipment, must be adequately maintained and regularly inspected to ensure they are fit for use.
A vessel may be unseaworthy if it attempts to perform work (such as towing or dredging) that it was not designed to do. A vessel may also be flawed if the original design specifications made the ship inherently unsafe.
Outdated or Failing Components
Any one component that is dangerous can render the entire vessel unseaworthy, such as cranes, winches, lines, cables, or other necessary equipment.
Untrained or Inadequate Crew Members
Since the crew is necessary to the function of the ship, an inadequate crew can be considered an unseaworthy condition. An inadequate crew member could be one that is drunk on the job, was not properly trained for the specific work being performed, or otherwise caused a seaman to be injured in the course of his duties.
In a Jones Act negligence case, the burden of proof on the injured seamen is very light. However, the injured seamen will still have to establish a direct link between the unseaworthy condition and the injury. Our maritime accident lawyers know what evidence is required to prove negligence in unseaworthiness claims, and can advise you of your rights at no cost to you. Contact us online or call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a maritime lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer. You can also download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.