10 Things That Can Make a Vessel Unseaworthy

Under maritime law, ship owners owe a legal duty to ensure that their vessels are “seaworthy.” If a vessel is unseaworthy, offshore workers who get hurt due to its unseaworthiness are entitled to seek financial compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

The following are 10 common examples of unseaworthiness that can lead to claims for financial compensation. If you have been injured on an unseaworthy vessel, we urge you to contact us for a free consultation about your legal rights:

10 Common Causes of Unseaworthiness

1. Unsafe Ropes, Tools, and Equipment

In addition to covering the vessel itself, the unseaworthiness doctrine also applies to “appurtenances” onboard the ship. Unsafe ropes, tools, equipment and even improperly-stored cargo can all potentially lead to claims for compensation.

2. Lack of Adequate Safety Equipment

Failure to provide crewmembers with adequate safety equipment is also a form of unseaworthiness. In addition to the doctrine of unseaworthiness, federal safety regulations require ship owners and offshore employers to ensure access to adequate safety equipment as well.

3. Unprotected Floor Openings and Stairwells

From stairwells to cargo holds, any fall risks on a ship must be adequately protected. Missing warning signs and inadequate safety ropes and railings can be grounds for crewmembers who are injured in falls to seek financial compensation.

4. Trip Hazards On Deck

Trip hazards are dangerous in any work environment, and particularly onboard a moving vessel out at sea. Ropes, chains, tools, mooring anchors and other potential trip hazards can all lead to serious fall-related injuries.

5. Inadequate Railings

Along with protecting stairwells and cargo holds, ships must often have safe and sturdy railings in other areas as well. For example, raised decks and platforms will often need to be protected with railings in order to prevent crewmembers from suffering injuries in falls.

6. Unsanitary Conditions

Unsanitary living conditions are another form of unseaworthiness. Spoiled food, lack of safe drinking water and other basic deficiencies can all lead to serious illnesses and conditions that require immediate medical attention out at sea.

7. Understaffed or Inadequately Trained Crew

Ships don’t run themselves, and small crews or crews made up of inexperienced and inadequately trained seamen will often put everyone on board the vessel in harm’s way. Hiring an incompetent captain can be grounds to file a claim for unseaworthiness as well.

8. Inadequate Vessel Maintenance

This is perhaps what most people think of when they hear the word “unseaworthy.” Inadequate maintenance of a ship’s engine, hull, deck, cargo equipment, living quarters or other components can often lead to dangerous accidents that result in serious offshore injuries.

9. Slippery Decks and Gangways

Seawater, oil, cleaning solvents, and other liquids can lead to slippery decks and gangways – which can lead to serious slip-and-fall injuries. If you broke a bone, sprained a knee or ankle or suffered another injury in a fall caused by a slippery surface, we can help you seek compensation for your losses.

10. A Ship Doctor with Inadequate Training

Finally, if a vessel owner hires a ship doctor, the doctor they choose must be adequately trained to treat the types of injuries and illnesses crewmembers and seamen can suffer while onboard. A ship doctor’s failure to diagnose or properly treat an injury can be grounds for an unseaworthiness claim as well.

Were You Injured Onboard a Vessel in the Gulf of Mexico? Morrow & Sheppard LLP Can Help

This list is not exhaustive – there are many more types of conditions that can lead a vessel to be deemed “unseaworthy.” In addition, offshore workers will often have other grounds to seek financial compensation as well. If you have been injured during an accident on a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, contact our experienced maritime injury lawyer at Morrow & Sheppard LLP for a free, confidential consultation.

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