Ferry Worker Accidents

In December 2013, a ferry worker was killed after falling into the Ohio River and, according to the Boston Globe, a high-speed ferry crashed into a Hyannis Harbor jetty on Cape Cod in June 2017. The incident resulted in 18 injuries, including crew members and food service workers. Individuals working on ferries and docks near them are prone to injuries due to equipment problems and even negligence.

Noteworthy ferry accidents have occurred in New York, North Carolina, and Alaska, among many other places in the United States and around the world. As with any maritime accident, workers injured can claim the negligence of their employer put them in danger. A lack of training, equipment problems, or the ferry’s unseaworthiness can be to blame. In many cases, a cause that could have been prevented is found.

A National Transportation Safety Board report on a 2013 high-speed ferry crash in lower Manhattan cited various safety issues. It noted that oversight of vessel operations, passenger access to stairwells, and safety management systems needed to be addressed. The need for data recorders to collect information to help investigations and analyze the cause of accidents was also stated. There were 75 passenger injuries, four seriously injured passengers, and an injured deckhand in the incident.

Workers at Risk During Regular Ferry Operations

Many factors, therefore, contribute to worker accidents. It’s not that the vessel’s themselves are unsafe. Equipment requires frequent maintenance, and training and safety should be managed on an ongoing basis.

However, sometimes an accident is no one’s fault. Bad weather and treacherous waters can lead to problems, but it is up to the vessel’s operator, captain, and crew to determine if conditions are safe enough to run. Workers are also responsible for keeping passengers safe. Negligence is generally a factor if:

  • The ferry’s operators are intoxicated at the time of the accident.
  • The vessel and its equipment were improperly maintained.
  • A mechanical failure contributed to the accident.
  • Workers on the vessel were not properly trained.
  • Cargo was not stored properly, or the vessel was overloaded.
  • The ship was carrying more passengers than recommended.
  • Workers were fatigued or even fell asleep on the job.

The Jones Act, passed in 1920, covers employees aboard all types of vessels, who work while they are in navigation. Injured seamen, including ferry workers, can be compensated for their injuries if they can prove a vessel owner, operator, or crew member was negligent. From lost wages to maintenance and cure benefits, one may be compensated if they can prove this was the case. Individuals have even been compensated for vocational retraining, pain and suffering, and psychological impacts. The chances of adequate compensation are better if a worker and their family are aware of their rights afforded by the law.

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