Maritime drowning is a high risk for seamen, despite improved safety and technology in recent years. It’s important to understand that drownings happen both at sea and on vessels that are in port or tied to a dock. Longshoremen, harbor workers, and workers on offshore oil platforms have a risk of drowning alongside other maritime workers like commercial fishermen who may spend more time at sea. Maritime workers deal with inherent risks in their jobs, and falling overboard is one of the biggest. Sadly, a fall overboard is often fatal.
The sad truth is that many of the drownings that happen each year could be prevented with appropriate safety precautions. Employers and vessel owners are liable to provide certain safety measures and yet, many maritime workers drown because of negligence on behalf of their employers.
Just last week, a boat was rescued from sinking in the Bellingham area. As reported by whatcom-news.com, a 57-foot vessel hit rocks and was sinking when it was rescued by Coast Guard Station Bellingham crew. Three people and a dog were saved from the sinking vessel in Echo Bay on Sucia Island. After arriving on scene, the Coast Guard boat crew removed water from the vessel with a dewatering pump for approximately five hours. The vessel was then towed toward shore, where it was moored in Bellingham. Thankfully, this story had a happy ending.
Most Common Reasons for Maritime Drownings
Some drownings may be unavoidable, such as during a total vessel loss. We picture seamen being tossed overboard in a terrible storm but, truthfully, many drowning accidents don’t occur when seamen are suddenly at the mercy of a rogue wave.
The most common reasons for maritime drownings are:
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents because of slippery surfaces or obstacles onboard
- Employers who don’t take appropriate workplace measures to prevent drownings such as:
- Failure to provide life vests or other flotation devices such as rope rings
- Sending improperly trained workers to complete a potentially dangerous task
- Stocking the vessel with damaged or worn-out life preservers
- Allowing or pressuring maritime workers to work overtime hours that result in fatigue and exhaustion
- Failure to set up a buddy system where workers work in pairs to reduce the risk of job-related accidents
- Failure to keep all safety equipment up to date and in good working order
- Failure to set up a regular inspection program to make sure that workers are wearing mandatory life preserving equipment
- Failure to provide or secure safe access in and out of their vessel
- Damaged Jacob’s ladders
- Failure to provide personal fall prevention measures
What are the consequences of negligence by a vessel owner or maritime employer?
When a maritime employer or vessel owner fails in any of their legal obligations to provide a safe working environment and one of their workers is injured or killed as a result, they may be liable for losses because of their negligent behavior.
Seamen and other maritime workers or their surviving dependents have the right to sue an employer for failing to provide a safe workplace that results in a drowning accident. Seamen who are injured as a result of the negligence of an employer are eligible for compensation because of the Jones Act. Longshore workers, dockers, shipfitters, and other maritime workers who are not covered by the Jones Act are eligible for compensation because of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act (LHWCA).
Seek the help of a maritime injury attorney
If you or a loved one was injured due to the reckless/negligent behavior of another seaman or maritime employer, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced maritime injury attorney fight for justice on your behalf. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a maritime accident lawyer. Call the most experienced practicing maritime accident attorneys Bellingham has at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing grieving family members in Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!