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Professional Mariner Injuries- The Doctrine Of Unseaworthiness

June 2, 2010
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As a New York Attorney who represents seaman who sustain personal injuries, in New York harbor, I am familiar with the doctrine of unseaworthiness. The general maritime law imposes a duty on shipowners to provide vessels, equipment and crew which are reasonably fit for their intended use. If the vessel, or its equipment or crew are not reasonably fit for their intended use, then the ship or that part of the ship or its equipment or crew, is unseaworthy. Shipowners are responsible to compensate professional mariners who sustain personal injuries because of dangerous conditions aboard a ship.

Unseaworthiness is a claim that the ship or its crew or equipment was not reasonably fit for its intended purpose. To establish an unseaworthiness claim, an injured maritime worker must establish that the ship or its equipment or crew, was unseaworthy; and that such unseaworthiness was a proximate cause of the sailor’s personal injury.

A vessel may be unseaworthy because of an inadequate or incompetent crew, including the presence of especially dangerous seamen on the crew; or an assignment of an insufficient number of men to a task; or the. failure to properly maintain equipment; or the failure of equipment under normal and proper use; or misuse of even non-defective, otherwise seaworthy gear; or ‘any other unsafe part of the vessel and appurtenances, or any defective gear used; or the lack of a safe means of boarding and departing the vessel.

The shipowner’s duty to provide a seaworthy ship is absolute, continuing and may not be delegated to a third party. This means the shipowner is responsible for the dangerous condition aboard a ship regardless of who created it. The shipowner’s lack of knowledge or lack of opportunity to correct such conditions, or the shipowner’s diligence are irrelevant. If the ship or its equipment or crew (or the relevant part) was unseaworthy and such unseaworthiness was a proximate cause of an injury to plaintiff, then the shipowner is liable to the plaintiff. It is the shipowner’s duty to provide a ship, equipment and crew which are reasonably fit for their intended purpose.

If a dangerous condition exists aboard a vessel, whether it was brought into existence by the ship’s crew, a third party, or even a fellow employee, the shipowner would still be liable.

 
The Law Offices of Michael H. Joseph