As a seaman injured on the job, you have a few different ways to get needed compensation. If there is negligence, and you can prove that it contributed to your injury, you can sue for compensation under the Jones Act. You can also seek compensation through the doctrine of unseaworthiness if you can show that the vessel aboard which you were injured was not seaworthy and contributed to your injury.
Unseaworthiness and Absolute Duty
The doctrine of unseaworthiness comes from the concept of absolute duty. This is a concept in maritime law that states the vessel owner has a duty and responsibility to provide seamen with a seaworthy ship.
Get Matched with a Leading Maritime Attorney in Your Area
- Find the leading maritime lawyers in your area
- Discover how to get compensation as fast as possible
- Learn your legal rights as an injured maritime worker
The owner must keep a vessel in good working order and update or replace any aspect of the ship that could cause injuries. Not doing so makes the owner liable for the expenses incurred in the case of an injury.
These could include medical bills, lost wages, and other costs. A shop owner may even be criminally liable if he or she knew about unseaworthiness and allowed seamen to work aboard the ship despite it.
Qualifications for Unseaworthiness
The maritime concept of unseaworthiness is not as straightforward as it may seem initially. A vessel that cannot navigate on the water that would sink or capsize is certainly unseaworthy, but the definition of the term, in the eyes of the law, is much broader.
Working as a seaman aboard a vessel is inherently risky, even if all precautions have been taken. Your employer must provide you with a vessel prepared in every way to be seaworthy, not just in its ability to float and move through the water.
- The doctrine states that a ship owner must provide a seaworthy vessel and maintain its seaworthiness.
- A ship or vessel that is seaworthy is fit for its intended purpose.
- It also must include equipment and parts that are fit for their intended purposes. If any part of the ship, or equipment on it, is not in reasonable shape, the vessel is unseaworthy.
- Being seaworthy also includes the crew of a ship. To be seaworthy, a vessel must have a crew operating it that is competent and trained to do assigned work.
- If any crew member has not been appropriately trained or hired to do an inadequate job, the vessel may be considered unseaworthy.
Making a Claim of Unseaworthiness
If you were injured aboard a ship and you think you claim unseaworthiness, a few requirements must be met.
Qualifying as a Seaman
The first is that you are, according to the definition, a seaman:
- You must be employed on a vessel in navigation.
- Your work must contribute to the ship’s mission.
- You must also spend a significant proportion of your work hours aboard the vessel in question, usually interpreted as at least 30 percent.
In addition to meeting the requirements for being defined as a seaman, you must also be able to prove that the vessel aboard which you received your injury was unseaworthy.
You also have to prove that the ship’s unseaworthiness contributed significantly to your injury. There are many examples of situations that could be considered under the doctrine:
- A member of the crew was inadequately trained to perform his duties, and a mistake he made caused you to be injured.
- Your employer did not hire enough crew members to do the jobs aboard the ship adequately, and you were injured as a result.
- The equipment you need to do your job has not been maintained regularly, and this caused you to have an accident and injury while using it.
- The deck of your ship was not maintained, and you slipped and fell.
- Asbestos aboard the ship was not contained or appropriately removed, and you became ill.
- Harmful cargo was improperly stored or contained, and exposure caused you to be injured or ill.
If you believe you can claim unseaworthiness that caused your injury on the job as a seaman and your employer refuses to compensate you, find a lawyer experienced in maritime law. A knowledgeable attorney can help you get the compensation the law provides.