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Legal Blog

Unseaworthy Vessels Cause Injury or Death

Under federal law, the owner of a vessel, whether it is a small boat or a large ship, is responsible for the safety of the vessel’s crew. From the captain to the cook, vessel owners must ensure the vessel is safe and secure for all of those on board. When the vessel is not safe and this leads to a worker’s injury or death, the vessel owner can be held responsible. This is known as the Unseaworthiness Doctrine.

Any individual who has suffered an injury on a vessel near Texas should reach out to the maritime injury attorneys of The Krist Law Firm, P.C. to learn about their rights to recover. Call today at (281) 283-8500 to find out how our skilled attorneys can help.

The Unseaworthiness Doctrine

Federal maritime law states that vessel owners must protect all seamen. Seamen include all men or women who spend at least 30 percent of their working time on boats or ships as a crew member or an employee who helps the vessel navigate or function. The specific legal theory under which a seaman recovers compensation depends on the circumstances. An injured employee may argue their employer did something intentionally or was negligent, which is why their injuries occurred. An action based on negligence falls under The Jones Act.

However, seamen may not have to prove negligence caused their injuries. Under the Unseaworthiness Doctrine, if the individual can demonstrate the vessel was unseaworthy, then they can recover compensation without proving negligence. This doctrine provides the employee with the ability to seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability, and disfigurement.

What Does Unseaworthy Mean?

The term “seaworthy” indicates a vessel and its accessory equipment are safe for workers and their intended use. Unseaworthy means that a vessel is not safe and secure for the crew. This does not necessarily imply that the ship or boat cannot float or travel across water, though this may be a condition that makes a vessel unseaworthy. A variety of issues with the crew, equipment, and vessel itself can lead to unseaworthiness.

Common issues that make a vessel unsafe for workers and rise to the level of unseaworthiness include:

  • Inadequate number of crew
  • Inadequate training for the crew
  • Excessive hours worked
  • Lack of proper supervision
  • Lack of necessary safety procedures
  • Failure to comply with federal and state safety rules
  • Old and worn equipment
  • Lack of necessary and proper equipment
  • Lack of safe passage between the vessel and shore
  • Improperly designed equipment on the vessel
  • Lack of necessary and proper warnings aboard the vessel
  • Slipping and tripping hazards

Unseaworthy Vessels Can Causes Injury and Death

Working on a vessel is unique and can be particularly dangerous. Boats and ships need an adequate number of seamen who are well-trained and experienced. When there are not enough hands on deck or a vessel owner has hired individuals who do not have the necessary training or experience, then it is likely things will do wrong and the vessel will not be manned properly and safely. A proper crew also includes necessary supervision. All crews must have enough supervisors to ensure employees and work areas are consistently reviewed and maintained. A lack of supervision can lead to unsafe working conditions like slippery decks and ignoring essential safety procedures.

While unseaworthiness can arise due to issues with the crew, it can also come about due to conditions on the vessel or with the equipment. If the vessel’s owner does not ensure the facilities and equipment are routinely inspected, repaired, or replaced when necessary, then conditions can deteriorate to the point of making the vessel a hazardous workplace.

Common injuries sustained on unseaworthy vessels include:

  • Head injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Eye injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Amputations
  • Lacerations
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Gas poisoning
  • Mechanical asphyxiation
  • Electrocution
  • Near drowning
  • Hypothermia

Contact Our Houston Maritime Law Attorneys

Individuals who have suffered injuries while working on vessels in waters around Texas should hire a Houston maritime law attorney who can help them seek compensation in court. Federal maritime law is unique and not all attorneys are prepared to handle cases within this sector. At the Krist Law Firm, we have more than four decades of handling maritime accident cases and helping out clients win the maximum compensation possible for their injuries.

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury lawyers of The Krist Law Firm at (281) 283-8500 to schedule a free initial consultation.