According to federal law, all vessels in operation must be seaworthy. This means that all sea vessels must be free from dangerous conditions such as inadequate safety equipment, defective design or improperly trained crew members. When one of these problems exists on a vessel and a worker is hurt, the worker may sue the employer under a strict liability theory.
This means that the worker needs only to show that the vessel was unseaworthy and the accident occurred as a result, rather than having to show that the employer knew or had reason to know of the unsafe condition. In these cases, injured workers can be compensated for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earning capacity and other related damages.
Last year, a Texas worker aboard a dredge vessel filed suit against the vessel's owner after he seriously injured his back when he fell out of his bunk bed. The worker, who was a deckhand, said the accident was the result of inadequate lighting on the ship, which the ship owner was responsible for.
The ship owner recently responded to the lawsuit by alleging that the accident was the result of negligence on behalf of the deckhand, who the ship owner said failed to exercise proper care and caution for his own safety. The ship owner also stated that any risks on the vessel were visible and obvious.
The former deckhand is seeking damages for past and future medical expenses, mental anguish, pain, impairment, disfigurement and lost wages, in addition to all court costs. However, first the worker must convince the judge or jury that the vessel was in fact dangerous or unseaworthy.
Source: The Southeast Texas Record, "Defendant says plaintiff to blame for falling out of bed," David Yates, April 18, 2012
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