Being injured at sea can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating. Medical bills add up, time off work takes its toll, and the pain and suffering complicate matters further.
Seafarers deserve compensation for all of these difficulties.
It is often difficult for people who work at sea to find help when their employer is not adequately compensating for injuries or illnesses sustained on a vessel.
Fortunately, seamen have several remedies available under the Jones Act and other maritime doctrines.
An unseaworthiness claim is one such remedy.
Doctrine of Unseaworthiness
Under the doctrine of unseaworthiness, a maritime vessel’s owner and operator must maintain a seaworthy vessel for every seaman who staffs it.
Under maritime law, this obligation is an absolute duty, and owners or operators cannot get around it. If a seaman is injured due to the unseaworthiness of a vessel, the seaman is entitled to recover damages from the owner or operator of the vessel.
What Is Unseaworthiness?
Unseaworthiness refers to the state of a vessel, its parts, its equipment, the training of its crew, and anything else on the vessel that might cause harm.
The vessel’s owner or operator is responsible for keeping these aspects of the vessel in a satisfactory state. If any aspect of the vessel is defective, an unseaworthy condition exists. Seamen harmed by the unseaworthy condition then have a claim for damages against the vessel’s owner or operator.
Filing an Unseaworthiness Claim
To file an unseaworthiness claim, a person must first demonstrate that they are among the class of people covered by the unseaworthiness doctrine under maritime law.
Next, they must prove the owner or operator’s liability due to the unseaworthiness of their vessel. If the seafarer succeeds in their claim, they are entitled to several forms of compensation.
Who Can File a Claim?
Generally, only individuals considered seamen can file maritime unseaworthiness claims against the owner or operator of a vessel. In most cases, anyone who spends 30% or more of their working time aboard a seafaring vessel is considered a seaman under maritime law. Seafaring vessels include:
- Fishing vessels,
- Cruise ships,
- Tug and tow boats,
- Oil rigs,
- Freighters, and
- Other vessels that spend time at sea.
Crewmembers aboard these vessels and anyone who spends significant working time on them qualify as seamen under maritime law.
Demonstrating Liability Due to Unseaworthiness
To demonstrate liability for unseaworthiness, a seaman must show that an unseaworthy condition contributed to the seaman’s injury or illness. Since the doctrine of unseaworthiness creates an absolute duty, seafarers do not need to prove the vessel owner or operator knew about the unseaworthy condition.
Once a seafarer demonstrates liability, there are several forms of compensation they are entitled to. Types of compensation include:
- Pain and suffering,
- Lost wages,
- Medical expenses,
- Lost earning capacity, and
- Disability payments.
An experienced maritime law attorney can help you determine what damages you could receive.
Johns Law Group, PLLC, Can Help
Johns Law Group, PLLC is here to help if you were injured at sea. Our firm has experience handling maritime cases and can quickly identify avenues for injured seamen to recover the compensation they deserve. Contact us today and schedule a consultation