Seafarer Unseaworthiness FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Who Is Entitled To The Warranty Of Unseaworthiness?

Crewmembers, officers, captains and masters of any vessel (whether American or foreign) are entitled to the warranty of unseaworthiness. The warranty of seaworthiness does not extend to passengers, visitors or guests it is a unique form of strict liability against a yacht or vessel owner to the benefit of a crewmember.

What Is The Difference Between Jones Act Negligence And Unseaworthiness?

The Jones Act is a negligence based claim meaning that the employer must have some degree of fault in causing the accident. Unseaworthiness, on the other hand, holds a shipowner/operator strictly liable for an injury caused by an unfit vessel, equipment or co-worker even if the shipowner/operator is unaware of the condition. Furthermore, a Jones Act claim can only be brought against the crewmember’s employer whereas an unseaworthiness claim may be brought against the vessel owner or operator.

What Are Examples Of Unseaworthiness?

Examples of the breach of the warranty of unseaworthiness include:

  • Defective or Improperly Maintained Hull, Gear, Equipment & Tools
  • Inadequately Trained Crew or Incompetent Captain
  • Unreasonably Slippery Decks, Gangways and Ladders
  • Deck Obstructions
  • Incompetent or inadequate Crew
  • Unsafe Method of Work
  • Carrying Heavy loads
  • Unreasonably Stressful Work Schedules Causing Fatigue
  • Failure of Vessel Equipment Under Normal Use
  • Slippery Decks
  • Unsafe Ladders and Stairs
  • Failure to Provide Appropriate Protective Clothing
  • Unfit Cargo
  • Inadequate Safety Equipment
  • Improperly Trained Ship’s Doctor

What Is The Defense Of The Primary Duty Doctrine?

The “primary duty doctrine” bars a plaintiff’s recovery if his or her injury arises from a condition created by the seamen’s own breach of a contractual duty which s/he assumed as a term of employment. The majority rule is that the primary duty doctrine should only apply to officers; and not to ordinary seamen. Courts will look to see if the seamen involved had some supervisory function aboard the vessel before applying the doctrine. The doctrine does not apply if negligence of the employer contributed to the injury.

What Types of Damages Am I Entitled To Under An Unseaworthiness Claim?

There are several types of damages that can be sought under an unseaworthiness claim which include:

  • Pain and Suffering – Although it is difficult to put a dollar amount on the pain and suffering that you may have endured during your injury, this amount will be carefully estimated to be appropriate in compensating you for the hardships of your injury.
  • Disfigurement – Many severe injuries impact the way someone looks, walks and/or hears. If this happens, a crewmember may be entitled to disfigurement damages, which are intended to compensate someone for the embarrassment that they feel due to how they look after the accident.
  • Mental Anguish – If your injury has affected your ability to enjoy life and all of the things that you loved to do before you were injured, you are eligible to seek damages for mental anguish.
  • Lost Wages/Lost Earning Capacity – Unseaworthiness is designed to compensate workers who have lost wages for the time that they were unable to work due to injury. Unseaworthiness also covers seamen who have recovered from their injuries but are not able to earn wages at the same level that they did before they were injured. If your earning capacity has been affected by your injury, you may legally seek damages for this change in pay.
  • Medical/Assisted Living Expenses – If you have been injured while working on a vessel, you will need to seek medical attention to recover. Health care is very expensive and an unseaworthiness allows compensation for any hospital care, medications, surgeries and any assisted living services that you require during your injury. Ongoing medical expenses may also be sought if your injury will affect your life for years to come.

The attorneys at the law firm of Brais, Brais & Rusak have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve. To reach our lawyers you may click email the firm, call 1-800-499-0551 from within the U.S., Skype BraisLaw worldwide or click Contact Us to select and complete a form for a free evaluation of your case.


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