Jones Act Info Center – Should I sign a release for my maritime injuries?

Injuries from slips or trips that result in falls are one of the most common types reported on cruise ships. These huge vessels have stabilizers that keep them steady even in rough seas and storms. Even so, incidents of this sort continue to happen for a number of reasons:

  • Walking surfaces are not covered with anti-skid material.
  • Poorly marked obstacles, or those left on walkways and decks, that cause trips and falls.
  • Lack of regular inspection and maintenance to meet required safety standards.

Statutory Requirements for Cruise Ship Safety

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA) requires vessels to comply with the following provisions to ensure the safety of passengers:

  • The ship’s rails may not be 42 inches or more above the deck.
  • Technology must be installed to enable the detection of passengers or crew falling overboard.
  • Acoustic equipment must be fitted throughout the ship to enable the communication of particular hazards on board or to provide warning of hazardous weather conditions.

Under the CVSSA cruise ships are required to provide a response guide to passengers. This must include detailed information on responsible medical personnel who must respond to any injury on board.

Cruise ship operators must follow guidelines published by the government and the maritime industry to minimize the incidence of slip, trip, and fall accidents. In January 2017, the OSHA also published a final rule on the protection of workers in general industry against these types of incidents.

Any vessel operating in U.S. waters is also subject to inspection by the United States Coast Guard. This is a condition for any cruise ship taking on passengers in a U.S. port even though they may be registered in a foreign country. One of the roles of the Coast Guard is to check the safety of passenger ships and ensure they conform to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea in this regard.

The Role of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC)

The FMC ensures that the operators of passenger ships carrying more than 50 passengers are financially able to settle claims in the case of injury. Passengers are required to institute a claim on their behalf in the case of a slip and fall or trip and fall injury.

However, a passenger may still bring the matter to the FMC’s attention. They will then initiate contact on the passenger’s behalf, but final resolution of the complaint must be made between passenger and cruise operator.

Marine Worker Safety

An international study conducted into injuries to the crew from slips, trips and falls in merchant seafaring showed that these types of incidents accounted for 43 percent of all injuries reported on all types of vessels. The proportion of these injuries rose to over 60 percent on passenger ships.

If any crew member should suffer injury from a fall that is caused by negligence, they are protected under maritime laws, including the Jones Act. On proving negligence, an injured maritime worker may file a claim for compensation. If the incident results in the death of the workers, their surviving dependents are entitled under law to claim compensation.

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