As maritime lawyers, we have seen our share of employers trying to blame accidents and fatalities as being part of the risks of the job. But the fact is that most accidents just don’t have to occur. In a tragic example, a towboat crewmember in West Virginia drowned to death when he fell off his towboat after a false “all clear” sign.

The Marathon Oil Corp towboat was at the loading docks, and the crewmembers were untying the towboat from the barges. One of the crewmembers apparently gave the “all clear” signal to indicate that all the lines had been untied. The victim however, noticed that one of the lines was still connected to the barge, and ran to untie it. Just then, the towboat operator put the boat into operation, causing the boat to jerk violently, and knocking the crewmember overboard. The victim was sucked under the towboat, and drowned.

You don’t even have to be a maritime lawyer to see what went wrong here. The operator started the towboat apparently earlier than he should have, goaded no doubt by the “all clear” signal by one of the people on the boat. If all procedures had gone according to pan, there was every likelihood the victim wouldn’t have fallen off the boat.

The US Coast Guard is continuing its investigation into this tragedy, but from what we have seen so far, it seems that negligence of crewmembers was at play here. That means that there may be grounds for a claim of unseaworthiness. Issues of seaworthiness arise when a vessel is found to have failed to provide a safe environment for a seaman. A safe environment includes competent, trained crewmembers and adequate numbers of crewmembers. Errors by crewmembers can therefore, become the basis for an unseaworthiness claim.

If you are a crewmember of a vessel and you have been hurt on the job, please seek the advice of an experienced maritime attorney about your Jones Act case.  Contact us at 1-(281) 407-0733 or e-mail us at [email protected] for a free evaluation of your case.  We handle maritime personal injury cases all over the United States and all over the world and have done so very successfully for over 40 years.