The collision of two seafaring vessels can cause catastrophic injuries to Jones Act employees. Even with the advent of new technologies, collisions are far too common at sea—and these incidents often end in the tragic loss of human life.
The Many Types of Vessel Collisions
The number of commercial vessels on global waters continues to grow, making seas and harbors more and more crowded with each passing year. Ships may travel too close to each other if traffic is not coordinated carefully, resulting in:
- Allision. This type of collision involves only one vessel, and occurs when a ship crashes into a stationary object (such as a buoy, bridge, or seawall).
- Bow-on collisions. This is a head-on collision where two vessels strike each other on their front ends.
- Side collisions. One of the more deadly types of crashes, this occurs when a ship is struck on its side by another vessel. Injuries and casualties are often high due to a reinforced bow tearing a hole into the lower decks of the ship, causing flooding in communal areas and crew sleeping quarters.
- Stern collisions. A ship that collides with the rear of a vessel runs the same risks of punching holes in the ship, but at the additional cost of damage to the cargo. Depending on the materials loaded at the stern, a collision may cause an explosion, fires, or leaking of hazardous materials that require the crew to abandon ship.
Why Do Ship Collisions Keep Happening?
When ships collide, it may be difficult to know the exact cause of the incident—especially if companies and shipowners are actively trying to avoid liability. Our Jones Act injury attorneys have helped many clients who were hurt in maritime collisions, and we know how to gather the evidence needed to prove negligence. For example, your injury may have been due to:
- Human error. Mistakes made by captains, boat pilots, and crew are the number one cause of maritime injuries, and collisions are no exception. Pilots may misjudge the distance needed to safely pass by another vessel, captains may be unfamiliar with differences in maritime traffic patterns and maneuvers in different parts of the world, and crews may be put at risk from simple communication problems (such as transposing numbers).
- Poor weather response. Many accidents that are blamed on weather are actually caused by negligence. Storms, rough seas, and other bad weather conditions may be outside of a captain’s control, but the responses to these hazards can make the difference between life and death. If captains fail to decrease speed in heavy fog or ignore reports of ice floes, they may be liable for resulting collision injuries.
- Navigation errors. Ships are heavily equipped with radar, GPS tracking, and other navigation systems, and crews may rely too heavily on the accuracy of these instruments. Ships should monitor the radar and maintain a visual lookout and in any situations where collisions are common.
- Unseaworthiness. Shipowners may be liable if their vessels are not properly equipped and staffed to make their journey safely. Unseaworthiness can apply to a wide range of conditions on a ship, including lack of safety equipment, untrained crew members, outdated technologies, or poorly-maintained equipment.
- Defective components. Navigation systems are only one of the many mechanical components needed to guide a ship across the sea. Sudden engine failure can leave a vessel unable to maneuver, while a malfunction in communication equipment can prevent a captain from warning a vessel of impending impact. Even after a collision has occurred, a defective alarm system may fail to prevent sailors from responding to the crisis in time to avoid injury.
- Lack of defined travel lanes. Maritime employees both at sea and on shore have a duty to minimize collision risks, particularly in high-traffic areas like harbors and shipping lanes. Without constant communication, ships may run aground or sideswipe each other even when they are heading in the same direction.
If someone you love has been injured in a collision at sea, you should contact the experienced maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up your no-obligation consultation. To learn more about these cases, download your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.