Examining Negligence and Unseaworthiness

Each seaman, admiralty, and maritime worker has the right to pursue a legal claim when negligence or unseaworthiness resulted in an injury.

Some examples of such negligence include:

  • A shipowner or employer’s failure to properly hire, train, or staff their vessel
  • Failure to provide correct or adequate gear, equipment, or protective clothing
  • Failure to enforce or follow safety protocols
  • Improper maintenance of the vessel or its equipment
  • Being required to work in weather too severe for the vessel to operate safely

Some examples of unseaworthiness include:

  • Poor maintenance of passageways, decks, and gangways, including slippery surfaces
  • Crewing the ship insufficiently
  • Loose or improperly stored wires, cables, and lines
  • Defective bulkheads, rails, and hulls
  • Inadequate or insufficient lifeboats 
  • Malfunctioning emergency response gear
  • Extreme or dangerous work methods or requirements

Wrongful Death in a Maritime Setting

Maritime and admiralty attorneys handle many Death on the High Seas Act claims. These wrongful death at sea claims typically result from:

  • Explosions and fires aboard ships
  • Vessels capsizing or sinking
  • Parting tow lines
  • Cargo handling mishaps
  • Crane and winch accidents
  • Failing to provide prompt and necessary emergency medical attention
team of attorneys discussing contracts

Recorded Statements May Not Be in Your Best Interests

There is no legal requirement that demands that you give a recorded statement to If you have been hurt on a ship or offshore. Providing a statement for your employer or its insurance company or adjuster may only benefit the company, not you. Your employer may threaten to refuse medical treatment if you don’t provide a statement to them. If they do so, they are probably looking out for themselves. 

The Jones Act and maritime law offer you the legal right to seek medical treatment from a physician that you choose. You CAN insist on seeing your own doctor after a maritime injury. If you are informed you must first give a statement, they are misinforming you, and that means you’ll need to be mindful of them doing it again. A maritime lawyer can answer any questions you have about your rights.

The Jones Act Favors the Rights of Injured Seamen

Civil cases require that the plaintiff provide the “burden of proof” or the “preponderance of the  evidence.” In Jones Act claims, this means that injured seamen must prove the negligence of their employers or co-employees. The Jones Act relies upon a “featherweight” burden of proof, so it can be less challenging to be granted damages in Jones Act claims than in other civil suits.

Filing a Jones Act Case

Jones Act claims  in either state or federal court, even though the act is a federal statute. A specific clause provides that a claim can be filed in a state court if that court recognizes federal claims under the Jones Act. However, filing in federal court means the right to select either a judge or jury trial is up to you. If you file in state court, both you and the other party have the right to a jury trial. It may be better to have a trial by judge depending on the specifics of your case. In most circumstances, injured workers will have more than one option for where they can file the suit.