An investigation into a barge accident last month in Louisiana has indicated that speed and human error were the main causes of the accident.

On October 21st, the barge which was being towed on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway crashed into Houma’s Downtown Marina, seriously damaging its bayou overlook.  Initial reports blamed the accident on high wind conditions at the time of the accident.  But since then, weather has been ruled out as a possible factor. The Coast Guard has also ruled out any mechanical malfunction as the cause of the crash. It’s instead looking at the speed of the tugboats towing the barge, and error of the captains.

According to the investigation team, the tug boats that were towing the barge were travelling at about 4mph, or 3 ½ knots, which is too high a speed to guide a barge underneath the twin span bridges. Investigators believe that if the boat had been travelling between 1 and 2 knots, it would have been possible for the captain to control the barge. The boat owner’s insurer is expected to pay for the damage to the bayou overlook. Fortunately, the accident did not result in any injuries.

Barge and tugboat operators may fall under the definition of a Jones Act seaman.  Crewmembers on a tugboat may be able to hold an employer accountable for injuries sustained in accidents, even if the accident was caused by other crewmembers. Under the Jones Act, a seaman may be able to claim damages even if the error was caused not by the owner of the boat or the employer, but the incompetence of fellow crewmembers.

Maritime Attorneys Must Prove Jones Act Seaman Status of a Worker

In such a Jones Act claim, a maritime lawyer must be able to prove that the injured worker meets the definition of a Jones Act seaman. This means that the seaman

·        Must be assigned to a vessel in navigation

·        Must contribute to the function of the vessel

·        The vessel must be in navigation.

The maritime attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers are trial attorneys representing commercial fishing vessel crew members, barge and tugboat operators, cruise liner crews, offshore and jack up rig workers, tanker and freighter crews and other workers who qualify for Jones Act seaman status, in injury and wrongful death litigation.