If a vessel is not in safe and working order, an injured seaman may make a claim under the Jones Act of unseaworthiness and seek damages. This is considered negligence because a ship that is unseaworthy is the owner’s responsibility. If you have been injured on a vessel that is not seaworthy, you are protected in two ways: by the Jones Act and by the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness.
When Is a Vessel Unseaworthy?
The definition of unseaworthy according to maritime law slightly differs from what it might mean in non-legal language. Unseaworthy does not necessarily mean that a ship can’t sail or that it is in danger of sinking.
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Under maritime law, a seaworthy vessel is designed, maintained, and built to navigate waters and provides seamen with the equipment, training, and environment to do their work adequately. If a vessel does not meet these requirements, it is considered unseaworthy.
For example, a ship may be able to navigate waters without the risk of sinking. Still, if a piece of equipment that a seaman has to use to do their job is not functioning correctly, the ship is unseaworthy according to maritime law.
The seaman has not been provided with the necessary equipment to do the job. If that faulty or inadequate equipment causes injury, the ship’s owner is negligent for providing an unseaworthy vessel.
The Doctrine of Unseaworthiness
The Jones Act provides for compensation in cases in which the owner or employer is negligent and that negligence causes an injury. This includes unseaworthiness.
If you have been injured aboard your ship and prove that the vessel’s unseaworthiness contributed to your accident, you can make a Jones Act unseaworthiness claim.
You also have protection under the part of maritime law called the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness. This applies specifically to negligence caused by an unseaworthy vessel.
The basic idea underlying this doctrine is that a ship owner has a duty to provide a crew with a seaworthy vessel. It is a fundamental right of all maritime workers.
Jones Act vs. Doctrine of Unseaworthiness
If you have been injured aboard a ship as a seaman and believe the vessel was unseaworthy, you have both avenues for seeking compensation.
If you can prove negligence on the part of your employer, the Jones Act can provide you with limited compensation. This includes compensation for medical bills related to the injury, including future medical bills, lost wages and lost earning capacity in the future, and pain and suffering.
There is a lot of overlap between those rights under the Jones Act with the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness. The main difference is that an unseaworthiness claim could entitle you to even more damages than you can get from the Jones Act.
You may qualify for all the compensation allowed under the Jones Act plus additional compensation.
The burden of proof for unseaworthiness is also slightly different than that for the Jones Act. A Jones Act claim has to prove the employer was negligent and that the negligence contributed to your injury.
To claim on the doctrine, you have to show that an unseaworthy condition of the vessel contributed to your accident.
You do not have to prove that your employer knew about the situation that made the vessel unseaworthy or that the employer was negligent. There must be some condition of the vessel that made it unseaworthy and contributed to your injury.
Knowing what kind of claim to make when you are injured and whether or not to call upon the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness is not always clear.
To ensure you get the best outcome, rely on the advice and counsel of a lawyer knowledgeable about maritime law and experienced in helping injured seamen get the compensation they deserve.