What is the Unseaworthiness Doctrine?

When you work on a boat, you have the right to assume that the vessel is safe and ready to be out on the water. If something goes wrong and causes injury or illness, you can likely file a claim for compensation. But does this require proof of negligence from the employer? Experienced maritime injury attorney Elissa M. Coombs can provide all the answers you need in order to recoup your losses after an accident.

Liability for Unseaworthy Vessels

The Unseaworthiness Doctrine applies to seamen who are covered under the Jones Act and is, along with the Maintenance and Cure Doctrine, one of the remedies that a worker has in pursuing a claim after suffering an injury.

Unseaworthiness is a condition-based theory of liability, similar to strict liability. It applies when certain conditions on the vessel make it unfit for its intended purpose. For example, if a boat has a piece of equipment that malfunctions and causes injury to someone, then the injured worker could have a claim for unseaworthiness because that piece of equipment was not supposed to malfunction. When it malfunctions, it makes the boat unfit for its intended service. The condition itself establishes the unseaworthiness of the vessel, allowing the injured worker to recover under that legal theory.

Situations that might be evidence of unseaworthiness include improper safety equipment, slipping and tripping hazards, or broken equipment on the boat. It could also mean that there are not enough crew members to properly work the vessel.

Differences from the Jones Act

This doctrine differs from the Jones Act, which is a negligence-based theory. To recover under the Jones Act, the seaman would have to prove that the employer was somehow at fault, like knowing that a piece of equipment was malfunctioning and not repairing it.

The Unseaworthiness Doctrine, on the other hand, has nothing to do with an action or inaction on the part of the employer. The key factor is that the condition of the vessel makes it unfit for service. If that condition causes injury, then the injured seaman can then recover for their injuries under that doctrine.

Call Us if Your Vessel Was Unseaworthy, Leading to an Injury

If you are a Jones Act seaman and were injured due to a malfunction or other faulty condition on your vessel, you could recover compensation through the Unseaworthiness Doctrine. For qualified advice on how to approach this claim, call the Law Office of David E. Gordon at your earliest convenience.