An unseaworthiness claim, like a negligence claim under the Jones Act, provides a way for injured seamen to be compensated for their injuries (for things like pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages).
The claim is based on the rule that a vessel owner’s duty is to provide a seaworthy vessel to its crew members. This means that the vessel must be reasonably fit for its intended purpose. If it isn’t, an injured crewmember may have an unseaworthiness claim.
A claim for unseaworthiness is different from a Jones Act claim because you don’t have to show that there was negligence. Still, injured seamen can bring both a Jones Act claim and an unseaworthiness claim.
We recommend speaking with a Louisiana offshore injury lawyer, as the claims process can be confusing at times.
Why Is It Considered Unseaworthy?
Generally, a vessel is deemed unseaworthy if it is not reasonably fit to perform its intended purpose. This includes having unrepaired safety procedures and a lack of necessary safety equipment. This means that a vessel could be unseaworthy if it has any issue that compromises its safety.
To make an unseaworthiness claim, you must be able to show that the vessel was not in compliance with the warranty of seaworthiness at the time of your injury.
What Conditions Can Lead to An Unseaworthiness Claim?
Whether a condition makes a vessel unseaworthy depends on the facts of each case, but the following conditions may allow for an unseaworthiness claim:
- An inadequate crew (either because of numbers, incompetence, or failure to properly train)
- Unreasonably slippery decks, walkways, or ladders
- An extreme work schedule
- Failure to provide proper equipment, such as cold weather clothing
- Misuse of equipment
- Defective tools or other gear
- Failure to instruct crewmembers on the use of life preservers
Who Can Be Sued for Unseaworthiness?
An injured seaman can bring an unseaworthiness claim against his employer if his employer owns and operates the entire vessel or if it chartered the vessel. Even if it isn’t his employer, a seaman can still bring an unseaworthiness claim against the vessel owner or operator.
Examples of Unseaworthiness Under Maritime Law
There are several different reasons why your vessel might be considered unseaworthy. These reasons include:
- The ship does not have any lifesaving or firefighting tools onboard. This can be due to the fact that some tools are missing or damaged.
- The vessel is not prepared for any emergency, including flooding and firefighting emergencies. It might be unseaworthy if you notice these issues on your ship.
- The vessel has poorly-trained or unqualified crew members. This can be extremely dangerous, as they may not know how to operate the ship or respond to emergencies properly.
- The vessel is in a state of disrepair. This includes things like rust, leaks, and broken equipment. A seaworthy vessel should also not have unsafe conditions that lead to injuries, like slippery decks, exposed wires, and leaking oil.
- A vessel is also not considered fit for purpose if there aren’t enough lifeboats and rafts to accommodate all passengers and crew on board, making it impossible in an emergency.
What are the Effects of Unseaworthiness?
When a vessel is unseaworthy, it means that you are at risk of being injured or lost at sea. That may lead to:
Serious injuries and/or loss of life
An unseaworthy vessel may cause you to suffer serious maritime injuries, which can have long-lasting effects on your well-being and that of the other crew members. These injuries include broken bones, lacerations, burns, and head injuries.
In some cases, an unseaworthy vessel can lead to death. If you are lost at sea or experience a severe injury due to this issue, there is a risk that you may not survive.
Expensive Medical Expenses
If you’ve been injured due to an unseaworthy condition, it’s likely that you’ll require medical treatment which can become costly.
Loss of income
If you are injured due to an unseaworthy vessel, chances are you will be unable to work for an extended period. This can lead to a significant loss in income, as you can no longer earn a salary.
As a maritime worker, you may also have medical bills piling up, which can be challenging to pay off when you’re not working.
Pain and suffering
It’s also likely that you and your family may experience a great deal of pain and suffering. This is especially true if you are left with permanent injuries due to the unseaworthy vessel. You may also have to deal with emotional distress, which can be incredibly difficult to cope with.
If you have been injured due to an unseaworthy vessel, you may be able to receive compensation through the doctrine of unseaworthiness. This can include damages for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. If you become disabled due to the unseaworthy vessel, you may also be able to receive disability benefits.
To make a claim as an injured seaman, you must be able to show that the vessel was not in compliance with the standards required for a seaworthy vessel at the time of your injury
Experienced in General Maritime Law
Whether you are a seaman and if so, whether you have a claim for unseaworthiness can be challenging to determine and depend on your case’s facts.
Our law firm is experienced in general maritime law and negligence claims experienced by maritime workers. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, The Mahone Firm is here to help. Call a New Orleans personal injury attorney at (504) 564-7342 for a free consultation. I will meet with you for free to discuss your case and figure out your options.
Or, click here for answers to some questions commonly asked of New Orleans personal injury attorneys.