Q: I was recently injured while working on a ship, and my accident is covered by the Jones Act. Can I also sue the manufacturer of defective safety equipment that contributed to my injuries?
The Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) may not be the only remedies available to you if you’ve been injured due to the actions or inactions of someone other than your employer. If you were hurt while using defective or poorly maintained equipment, you may have an additional claim under general maritime law.
Receiving benefits under the Jones Act does not affect an employee’s right to file a lawsuit against negligent third parties. Lawsuits against third-party defendants are typically caused by:
- Product liability. These cases arise when an employee is injured by an unsafe or defective product. A product liability lawsuit may involve virtually any type of equipment used in the maritime industry, including doors, latches, engines, winches, forklifts, and cranes. An injured maritime worker may have the right to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer, designer, and distributor of the defective equipment. To do so, he must prove that the equipment is unreasonably dangerous due to the defect, that the defect caused the injury, and that the defect existed when the product left the control of the manufacturer.
- Maintenance liability. Employers are generally immune from lawsuits under the LHWCA. However, a worker injured aboard a ship can pursue a claim against his employer if that employer is also the owner and operator of the vessel, and if his injuries were caused by the owner’s negligence. Additionally, third-party contractors can be held liable for poorly maintained or improperly repaired equipment under their care, hazardous conditions caused by their work, or the negligence of their employees.
Determining Third-Party Liability
When you’ve been injured while performing maritime work, your lawyer can help you determine if you have a viable third-party claim. Attorney Steve Lee has the experience necessary to answer that question, and many others, during your free, no-obligation consultation. To learn more about what the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., can do for you, visit us on Facebook.