What Makes for an Unseaworthy Vessel?

What Makes for an Unseaworthy Vessel?

Many avenues of recovery under maritime law require a showing of unseaworthiness or ship owner negligence to recover for your personal injuries and wrongful death. Passengers and crewmembers may hold vessel owners strictly liable due to unseaworthy conditions aboard a vessel. Strict liability hold a party responsible for damages or injuries, regardless of whether they were negligent. Unseaworthiness refers to conditions on the vessel that make it unfit for safe navigation.

Under maritime law, several actions may assert strict liability against the vessel owner due to unseaworthiness. To name a few:

1). Personal injuries to crew members or passengers due to unsafe or defective equipment such as faulty or inadequate safety equipment (life jackets, flashlights, handrails), faulty engines, or improperly maintained machinery aboard the vessel.
2.) Additionally, loss of life or property due to the sinking, grounding, or collision of an unseaworthy vessel. If a ship engine is faulty, it may fail, and the helmsman will have no way to slow down if already underway.
3.) A vessel can be considered unseaworthy if it’s manned by an incompetent crew. Crewmembers should diligently inspect the vessel before every voyage to ensure the safety equipment. A vessel is likely unseaworthy if any machinery fails to function as intended.

Strict liability due to unseaworthiness applies regardless of whether the shipowner or vessel operator was aware of the unseaworthy condition. The shipowner or vessel operator have a non-delegable duty to ensure the vessel is seaworthy and may be strictly liable for any damages or injuries that flow from those unseaworthy conditions.

Think of unseaworthiness like flying an aircraft: would you take off unless you were certain every part on the airplane was fully functional? The same due diligence is expected in maintaining vessels, because if something preventable goes wrong, it could be the difference between life and death.

If you were injured due to an unseaworthy vessel, call our Clearwater Maritime lawyers today for a free case consultation at 727-669-2828.

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