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Common Types of Unseaworthiness That Can Lead to a Maritime Injury Claim


Get in an Accident?

You owe a debt of gratitude to your shipmates for saving your life. After the crane swung around and knocked you into the water, you were sure you were going to die—but you woke up in the hospital. You still won’t be back on your feet for some time, but you’re happy to be alive and you’re determined to make sure that the same mistake won’t happen to someone else.

Now is the time to find out if your employer bears any responsibility for what has happened to you. Was your vessel unseaworthy?


Unseaworthiness Defined

The following is the Ninth Circuit Model Jury Instruction for Unseaworthiness:

A vessel owner has a duty to provide and maintain a seaworthy vessel. [That duty cannot be delegated to anyone else.]

A vessel is seaworthy if the vessel and all of its parts and equipment are reasonably fit for their intended purpose [and it is operated by a crew reasonably adequate and competent for the work assigned].

A vessel is unseaworthy if the vessel, or any of its parts or equipment, is not reasonably fit for its intended purpose [or if its crew is not reasonably adequate or competent to perform the work assigned].

A vessel owner has a duty to provide adequate safety equipment for the vessel. However, the owner of the vessel is not required to furnish an accident-free ship. A vessel owner is not called on to have the best parts and equipment, or the finest of crews, but is required to have what is reasonably proper and suitable for its intended use, and a crew that is reasonably competent and adequate.


What Are Some Examples of Unseaworthiness?

There are nearly limitless ways a vessel can be unseaworthy. Here are just a few ways shipboard conditions have caused maritime injuries in the past:

  • Failure to provide updated equipment,
  • Using old or broken machinery or tools for maintenance,
  • Failure to perform regular inspections on equipment,
  • Unsafe pathways or access points to and from the vessel,
  • Worn steps,
  • Missing handrails on ladders,
  • Failure to provide adequate grip on slippery surfaces,
  • Decks that are cluttered or have unsecured items,
  • Flooded or oily decks,
  • Missing, outdated, or improper safety gear,
  • Failure to train crew members,
  • Unsafe work practices,
  • Unprofessional, unqualified, or inadequate crew members,
  • Lack of adequate number of crew members for the work assigned


When Is an Employer Responsible for an Unseaworthy Vessel?

Under maritime law, employers have a duty to provide a vessel that is reasonably safe. This duty cannot be shifted or delegated to anyone else, so if you are injured on an unseaworthy vessel, your employer may be held directly responsible. As a Jones Act seaman, you do not need to prove that the ship’s owner knew about the unseaworthy condition to get payment for your injuries; you only need prove that an unsafe condition existed and caused your injury.


Research Your Jones Act Case

This website provides all necessary information for persons involved in Jones Act accidents and mishaps. We give you the answers you need to make the right decisions with your Jones Act case.


You can check out other Jones Act articles such as:


The Three Greatest Dangers for Commercial Fishermen


In What Ways Does the Jones Act Benefit the U.S. Economy


How Jones Act Mediation Works: Who Is There and What Happens



If you have any questions about whether or not "unseaworthiness" caused your injury at sea, 

please give my San Diego office a call at (619) 304-1000

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