If you work on or near navigable waters, then you are engaged in a high-risk profession, in which physical injury is always a possibility. In this post, our maritime injuries lawyers will answer some of the questions that often arise in connection with these types of injuries.
Due to the nature of maritime work, an accident and injury can happen in any number of ways. For example, a worker may be injured slipping and falling on a slick substance on the deck, such as oil or grease. Lifting of heavy objects can cause injuries. A worker may be injured from too much stress being put on a mooring line, which causes that line to snap back; this is especially common if you are dealing with rough waters, old lines, and an inexperienced mooring crew. Injuries may occur from a personnel basket, rescue boat, or crew boat being lowered too quickly, or from prolonged exposure to chemicals, such as oil fumes or benzene. These are just a few examples of common scenarios that may result in maritime injuries.
Maritime injuries can be caused by a variety of factors. Common causes of maritime injuries include: improper equipment for the job; improperly maintained equipment; inadequately trained crew; incompetent crew members; and/or dangerous conditions.
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to bring a wide variety of claims against a number of responsible parties.
You may be able to bring a claim for negligence (unreasonable carelessness) against your employer under a federal law known as the “Jones Act.” If you meet the requirements for Jones Act status, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. To prevail on a Jones Act claim, you will have to show that your employer’s negligence played a role in causing your injuries. In addition to a negligence claim, you may also be able to bring an “unseaworthiness” claim against the owner of the vessel (which may not be your employer, but another entity altogether). An unseaworthiness claim can be brought against a vessel owner when the vessel is not reasonably safe. This can be a vessel with broken equipment or a shorthanded crew. While a vessel owner does not have a duty to make its vessel accident free, it does have a duty to provide a reasonably safe vessel.
If you do not meet the criteria for a Jones Act case, you still may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries under another federal law, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. You also may be able to bring negligence claims against other non-employer, non-vessel owner parties under what is called “general maritime law.”
We advise anyone who has suffered maritime injuries to take the following steps: