Vessel disasters are one of the biggest causes of fatalities among commercial fishermen, and cause numerous injuries to maritime workers worldwide. According to research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), many past cases of vessel disasters could have been prevented through better management and safety interventions.
Liability for Capsizing Injuries or Vessel Disasters
Maritime employees have the legal right to a safe and healthy workplace. If any equipment is missing, broken, or falls below a reasonable safety standard, crew members can seek money damages against the owner of the vessel. If the vessel was unseaworthy, employees could be owed further compensation in addition to benefit payments for their medical costs and lost wages.
Despite numerous regulations, many crew members are injured or killed every year due to:
- Missing rescue equipment. A recent NIOSH study found that emergency equipment required by Coast Guard regulations is overwhelmingly effective at saving lives after a disaster. Crew members who used life rafts after their fishing vessels sank were 17 times more likely to survive in the water, while survival rates for those who were in the water for over 30 minutes were 12 times greater if they boarded a life raft and six times greater if they wore immersion suits. Lack of functional life rafts, life boats, and other rescue devices is a common contributing factor in hypothermia and drowning deaths.
- Inadequate training. Safety training is vital for the development of the necessary skills needed to react quickly to an emergency at sea. NIOSH recommends fishermen take a marine safety training class, including training on how to survive a vessel disaster, at least once every five years. In addition, employers should have programs to enforce the use of safety protocols and the completion of required training.
- Reckless actions. Captains and carriers should heed the dangers of sailing in bad weather. If a vessel does not change course even though the owner received advance warning of a hurricane or other inclement weather, survivors and family members may make a claim for negligence.
- Navigation failures. Negligent navigation can result in collisions with docks, sandbars, or other vessels, tearing holes in the hull that lead to sinking. Shipowners can be liable for a lack of warning features (such as proximity alerts, lights, or radio communications) or a crew member’s failure to follow safe navigation rules.
- Loading issues. Overloading the vessel with cargo or passengers can affect the ability to navigate effectively. Unfortunately, employers may be more focused on profits than safety, cramming vessels with more than they carry.
Let Our Attorneys Advise You on Your Next Steps
Maritime legislation is made up of a network of federal statutes, state workers’ compensation regulations, and international maritime injury laws. As a result, it can be difficult to know where to begin your claim for compensation. If you have been hurt or your loved one was lost at sea, our experienced maritime injury lawyers can:
- Help you fill out a timely and accurate incident report for your employer
- Determine your status as a seaman and the status of your vessel under The Jones Act
- Investigate the cause of the accident
- Determine your right to file a legal claim
- Gather evidence of injuries you have sustained in the accident
- Determine whether the vessel was seaworthy at the time of the accident
- Investigate whether inadequate staffing or untrained crew members played a role in your injury
- Review any paperwork that requires your signature (such as a liability waiver, insurance claim, or settlement offer)
- File a lawsuit against an employer, shipowner, or negligent third-party
- Negotiate until we reach an appropriate settlement offer or take the case to trial
If you have been involved in a maritime accident, we stand ready and willing to fight on your behalf. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.