Theories of unseaworthiness allow an injured seaman to file a separate claim against the vessel owner under the Jones Act.
One of the beauties of the Jones Act is that it provides more than one course of recovery for an injured seaman. While the Act allows injured workers to file claims of negligence against employers, it also allows workers who believe their injuries have been caused by an unsafe vessel, to file claims of unseaworthiness against the vessel owner. There is one main difference between Jones Act claims of negligence and claims of unseaworthiness. Claims of negligence can only be filed against the employer. Unseaworthiness claims on the other hand, can be filed only against the vessel owner.
Seaworthiness refers to safe conditions for a worker on a vessel. A vessel owner has the responsibility and the duty to provide a seaman with a safe and secure ship. As with several aspects of the Jones Act, claims of unseaworthiness can be interpreted in many ways.
Unseaworthiness claims can be filed in case of:
- Slippery walking surfaces
- Weak or unstable structure of the vessel
- Poorly designed vessel
- Lack of firefighting equipment
- Lack of life-saving equipment
- Lack of enough numbers of life-saving gear for all crew members
- Lack of training for crew members
- Lack of enough numbers of crew members
- Incompetent or criminal crew members
- Lack of safeguards on machinery
- Defective machinery
- Defective tools
- Faulty work procedures
- Inadequate food
These are just some of the situations that can lead to a claim of unseaworthiness. There may be many more such cases where claims may be valid.
A claim for unseaworthiness may be eligible for a jury trial, but only if combined with a Jones Act claim for negligence.
Your maritime lawyer will file your claim of unseaworthiness together with your Jones Act claim of negligence. This offers an injured seaman an additional option for recovery in addition to his negligence claim recovery.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Schaffer and Harris, LLP have represented hundreds of seamen in cases based on theories of seaworthiness, and helped them recover substantial compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured on a vessel and believe that an unsafe work condition caused your injury, contact a maritime lawyer at our office for a free initial consultation. All cases are accepted on a contingency basis. You do not pay a fee until and unless we can recover compensation for you.