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Steven M. Lee, PC

Q:
How do you determine if a vessel is seaworthy when pursing a claim for compensation for injuries?

A:

When a person is injured on a vessel offshore as a seaman, crewmember, or passenger, it is important to determine the appropriate legal remedies for obtaining compensation for the injuries suffered. This will increase the likelihood that a victim of an accident will receive the full value of his claim. One claim that injured seamen, crewmembers, and non-employee passengers may raise against vessel owners and other negligent parties is a claim under maritime common law that the vessel was not seaworthy.

What Factors Determine the Seaworthiness of a Vessel?

It is important to keep in mind that what is considered a seaworthy vessel under common law is different than under the Jones Act, which has its own definition of seaworthiness. A seaworthy ship or other vessel under common law is one that is fit for the normal perils of the sea and offers reasonable safety to those on it. There is no set definition or checklist of when a vessel is seaworthy. Instead, the law looks at a number factors in determining whether or not a ship is seaworthy.

General factors considered includes the condition of the ship and its equipment and the skill and competence of the officers and the crew. A lack of seaworthiness can also be shown if there were breaches of safety rules or a lack of proper medical facilities.

Of course, the physical condition of the vessel will play a major role in determining whether a ship is seaworthy. Some of the factors regarding its physical characteristics include:

  • The vessel’s stability.
  • Whether the vessel has good handling in rough or choppy waters.
  • The vessel’s buoyancy even when it is carrying a heavy load.
  • Propulsion system reliability.
  • Ability of the ship to shed water efficiently.
  • Speed and agility of the vessel given its age and size.
  • Solid construction that is able to withstand the dangers of the sea.
  • Fire resistance and suppression capabilities.
  • Sufficient safety equipment that is appropriate for emergency situations.
  • Lack of avoidable safety hazards.

What Are the Legal Implications If a Vessel Is Unseaworthy?

A vessel owner has a duty to ensure that his vessel is seaworthy and could face liability for injuries when this duty is breached. He can face liability even if he was not directly at fault or did not know of the specific hazard.

Were you or a family member injured on a vessel due to its unseaworthiness? Determining your legal rights under the numerous laws that may give you a right to compensation can be extremely complicated. You need the assistance of an experienced maritime attorney. Start an online chat to schedule a free consultation to learn why our experienced legal team are the right people to help you navigate the rough waters of filing your claim.

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