Jones Act Info Center – What is a Third Party Lawsuit?

As a maritime worker, you face innumerable perils on a day-to-day basis. These hazards can arise from any number of circumstances, from incompetent crew members to unseaworthy vessels. Equipment that has been poorly designed or have some manufacturing defect can make a vessel unseaworthy and cause serious injury or death. As a maritime worker protected under maritime laws, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries from your employer and any third parties that may be liable for your injuries.

Liability for Defective Equipment

While your employing agency is responsible for ensuring that the vessel on which you work is seaworthy, sometimes there may be defects in vessel equipment or machinery that they were unaware of. When you are injured by defective equipment, you may bring a Jones Act negligence claim against your employing agency and a regular negligence claim under the general maritime law against third parties such as the manufacturer, designer and supplier of the equipment.

By way of example, let’s say you are working on a commercial fishing vessel. Part of your job involves working near a 50-ton trawl winch. As the steel cables are being let out, the winch jams and the cable snaps, nearly severing your arm. An investigation into your accident reveals that:

  • the manufacturer of the winch used defective bearings
  • your captain did not enforce a regular inspection and maintenance schedule
  • the last crew member to inspect the winch noticed some stickiness in the operation but failed to report the anomaly to his superiors

Under these circumstances, you would be able to bring a Jones Act case for negligently failing to enforce the inspection and maintenance schedule. Your employing agency may also be liable for the crewmember’s negligence in failing to report the winch malfunction. You would also be able to bring a third-party lawsuit against the manufacturer of the winch, the manufacturer of the bearings and potentially any other entity in the chain of commerce for that winch.

Maritime Worker Benefits

Regardless of who is at fault for any injuries sustained, you are entitled to receive maintenance and cure benefits, which cover your medical expenses and reasonable living costs while you are recovering from your injuries. You are also entitled to receive your regular wages from the time that you are hurt by the time that your voyage is complete.

If negligence is a cause of any injuries, you have the right to bring a lawsuit against your employer and third parties who may be responsible in some way. If successful in proving negligence against your employer and third parties, you could receive compensation for:

  • pain and suffering
  • disfigurement
  • retraining
  • past and future medical expenses
  • past and future lost wages
  • loss of enjoyment of life

If you sustain a maritime injury, you are entitled to receive compensation under the maritime law. Regardless of who is at fault, you may receive maintenance and cure benefits from your employer. If third parties are responsible for your injuries, you have the right to seek compensation from them. Talk to an experienced maritime attorney to determine liability for bodily harm so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

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