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The Turley & Mara Law Firm, APLC

Open, Stuck, and Broken Hatches Can Give Rise to Jones Act Claims

Jones Act Case

“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S. I want it straight up, with no double talk. I figure you do also. I always use plain English, with no sugarcoating, no B.S. lawyer talk, and no double talk-just old fashioned, unsweetened, unvarnished truth-just the way that I would want it.” -Bill Turley


The first thing I recommend with all my Jones Act Clients, is no matter what, always tell the truth. Never exaggerate your injury. If you are not honest, then the Judge will throw out your Jones Act Case. 

Bank on it. I have seen it many times in court. And the one thing I do not like to see, is hard working folks like yourself, getting ripped off. 

The second thing I recommend is to do the proper research with your Jones Act Case. Order my free book, Win Your Injury Case: The Ultimate No B.S. Guide To Avoiding Insurance Company Tricks That Ruin Your Case [even before you hire a lawyer]


Working on open water is inherently dangerous. With the constant risks of slipping on decks, losing a limb to machinery, and going overboard, it is vital that ship captains and owners take as many precautions as possible to prevent injuries while aboard a ship.

Hatches are one of the biggest causes of maritime injuries. These wide openings that lead into the cargo holds and inner workings of the ship pose enormous tripping and falling hazards, and can be the cause of permanent disability or even death. If the ship’s owner does not put adequate safety measures in place, he could be liable for the costs of lifelong injuries.

Seamen may bring Jones Act injury or negligence claims against an employer if a hatch on their ship caused:

  • Lacerations. Split, broken, or poorly-fitting hatch covers can slice fingers and legs, causing deep cuts that may become infected.
  • Serious falls. Hatches that are left open in poor weather conditions or without proper warning are a common source of falls to the lower levels of the ship. Lack of safety rails around an open hatch have caused seamen to be killed or permanently paralyzed as a result of a fall.
  • Lifting injuries. Hatch covers are notoriously heavy, and if they are not regularly maintained they often become rusty and difficult to open. A seaman who injures his or her back trying to lift a hatch cover could have a negligence claim if the ship owner failed to inspect hatch covers for signs of wear or replace damaged or rusty equipment.
  • Crushing injuries. Hatches may close without warning, leading to crushing or amputation of a seaman’s limbs. If hatch covers have become too old or weak to bear the weight of the machinery, a seaman driving a fork-lift or other equipment can break through the cover and fall through the hatch, becoming pinned under the machinery or cargo.
  • Face and head injuries. Hatches in grating or in narrow passageways should be cordoned off when open, as a fall through a smaller opening is likely to cause a seaman to hit his face and forehead on the floor as his leg goes through the hatch.

Under the Jones Act, employees should get automatic compensation for medical expenses and lost wages for an injury that happens aboard ship. However, if the hatch was left open or the hatch cover was inadequate, a seaman may be liable for further damages by bringing a Jones Act negligence claim against the ship’s owner.

How Can I Tell If I Have a Jones Act Negligence Claim?

The validity of a seaman’s negligence claim rests in the details of his case. For example, if the hatch was open a short time in calm waters in full daylight, you will have a harder time bringing a claim of negligence than if you fell through a hatch that had not been properly inspected or repaired. Please use the information on this website to learn as much as possible about your case and find out what you may be owed by your employer.


William Turley
“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”

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