Doctrine of Unseaworthiness & Maritime Law in Seattle

Do you work on a water vessel? Was your working environment safe and secure? Were you co-workers qualified to be working beside you? Were you injured because of the latter? If so, you may be able to sue the ship owner for unseaworthiness. When working on a water vessel, the work conditions are already exposed to the inherent dangers of rough waters and adverse weather, you don’t need the vessel itself to be unseaworthy, making conditions all the more worse. If you have been injured, you need to contact a maritime lawyer Seattle today. An experienced maritime injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a claim for unseaworthiness.

Vessel Owner’s Duty to Seamen

Under the Jones Act, a seaman is a worker who works on a vessel in navigation for a minimum of 30 percent of his or her employment, and that work contributes to the purpose of the vessel. Under federal maritime law, vessel owners have a duty to these workers to provide safe and secure working environments. More specifically, under the Unseaworthiness Doctrine, a vessel owner must provide a seaworthy vessel and maintain the vessel as seaworthy by providing:

  • A water vessel that is fit for its intended purpose;
  • Equipment and parts that are fit for their intended purpose; and
  • A crew that is competent and that has received the appropriate training for assigned tasks.

Thus, if any part of the vessel is not fit for its intended purpose or any crew member is incompetent to perform his or her tasks, then the vessel is unseaworthy.

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Vessel Owner’s Breach of Duty

When the vessel owner breaches his duty to provide and maintain a seaworthy vessel, accidents can happen. Some examples of situations that could result in an unseaworthiness claim include:

  • Using improper methods of operation or maintaining unsafe procedures
  • Providing a crew that is insufficient, incompetent, or inadequate
  • Providing inadequate safety gear and safety training
  • Providing ill-maintained equipment that fails under normal operations
  • Creating exhausted workers through heavy work schedules
  • Failing to provide safe work environments with slippery decks, unsafe ladders, unsafe gangways, etc.
  • Failing to warn workers of a hazardous condition
  • Insufficient procedures to address adverse weather.

Compensation for Damages Caused by Unseaworthy Vessel

If you sustained injuries while working on an unseaworthy vessel or if your loved one was killed in an accident or incident due to an unseaworthy vessel, then you likely have a claim to make under the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness. In unseaworthiness claims, you are not required to prove fault or negligence; you must only that the vessel was unseaworthy and because of it, you were injured.

Compensation for your damages includes medical costs, lost wages, physical limitations, and, among other damages, emotional anguish.

Other Sources of Compensation in Maritime Law

The Unseaworthiness Doctrine is separate from compensation under the Jones Act, thus, if negligence was involved, the seaman may have another source of compensation. There are times, however, that it may be difficult to prove either or both unseaworthiness or negligence. If you were injured while working, you may still have a claim to make under the doctrine of Maintenance and Cure.

An experienced maritime lawyer Seattle will be able to identify if your claim can be made under the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness only, or if you may also have a claim under another statute or common law doctrine. Our maritime injury attorneys understand the nuances and intricacies of maritime law generally and the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness specifically. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in the maritime industry in Seattle, contact our office today either online or by phone at 1-800-836-5830 to speak to a maritime lawyer.

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