When a seaman is injured, he or she has several options to collect compensation.
The first is to collect Maintenance and Cure, which does not require proof that the employer is at fault for the injury in any way. Maintenance and Cure, however, is a very limited remedy and covers only your basic living expenses and medical care. And even that ends when your condition reaches “maximum cure.”
For an injured seamen to recover more significant damages for an injury, he or she must prove the employer or ship owner was a fault. There are two ways to prove fault: negligence under the Jones Act, and unseaworthiness under General Maritime Law.
Negligence vs. Unseaworthiness
Negligence commonly refers to an unsafe act, or to an unsafe failure to take action that causes an injury. For seamen, this often refers involves the failure of the seamen’s employer to provide a safe working environment and safe working conditions. But it can also involve the careless act of a fellow crew member.
In contrast, Unseaworthiness usually refers to a dangerous or defective condition of the ship, or of ship’s gear.
Common Negligence, Tripping And Falling Hazards
• Ladders or steps that are slippery from grease or inadequate non-skid treads
• Decks that don’t have an adequate non-skid surface
• Unmarked tripping hazards
• Deck openings left uncovered
Failure To Provide Proper Tools And Equipment
Working as a seaman on a commercial vessel is a physically demanding job. However, there are a variety of tools and equipment that should be made available to a seamen and the ship’s crew to assist with some of the more dangerous tasks. The failure of the employer or ship owner to make equipment available to the crew, or to take the time to use, is a negligent act.
For example, seamen are sometimes required to move heavy objects, such as life raft canisters onto their fixtures on deck. For this task, a mechanical lifting device such as a chain fall with an A frame, or a portable or fixed davit should be employed. If instead, the employer requires the ship’s crew to lift the 250-300 pound canister without mechanical assistance, this would be considered negligence.
Failure To Provide Proper Training, Instruction And Supervision
A seamen’s employer is required to perform job safety analysis to analyze the work procedures for jobs that can potentially be dangerous or unsafe. The job safety analysis is intended to help the employer anticipate potential dangerous conditions or situations and thus provide solutions to mitigate the threat.
However, it is unfortunately common for a seamen to be assigned to a potentially dangerous job that the employer has not properly analyzed, expecting the seamen to figure out a safe way to handle the situation without any preparation. This is like a football coach calling a play the team had never practiced against their biggest rival. Without a game plan, seamen are vulnerable to a catastrophic and career-ending injuries.
When a serious injury does occur, it’s not uncommon for the employer to try to place the blame on the injured seamen for simply doing the potentially dangerous job he or she was assigned.
Companies like Matson, Crowley APL and Horizon have all re-written their safety manuals to allow them to blame the seaman for not refusing to work as ordered. This perversion of safety “management” is itself negligent and can provide a basis of liability against these companies.
Common Seamen Injuries Due To Negligence
• Back injuries – herniated disk or slipped disk
• Neck injures
• Shoulder injuries
• Broken ankles and wrists
• Knee Injuries
Damages For Negligence Claims
If a seaman can prove a negligence claim, he or she is entitled to additional damages. Those damages include all of his lost wages, lost earning capacity, past and future medical expenses and even damages for pain and suffering.
Contact the Seamen Injury Hotline
At the Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor, we will provide a free and confidential case review to fully understand the circumstances of your accident and how best to approach the case. To arrange a consultation, please call us today toll-free at 888-440-5829, or complete our confidential form and we will follow up with you directly.