Jones Act Law – Yachting Accidents

With the over 95,000 miles of gorgeous United States coastline, yachting opportunities are boundless. Yachts can be motor-powered or sail-powered and range from 40 feet to over 40 meters long. With mono-hulls, catamarans, and trimarans, every yacht experience is unique. The one thing that yachts all have in common though, is their inherent danger. When you’re on the water, one small mistake can turn into a disaster within seconds. Yachting accidents make the headlines every year due to negligent supervision, operation, and maintenance.

As a crewmember, you have rights under maritime laws, such as the Jones Act, that enable you to bring an action against your employer for any injuries that you obtain as a result of your employment aboard a commercial yacht. These laws also require that the owner and operator of the yacht uphold certain duties to you and your passengers.

Responsibilities of Commercial Yacht Owners & Operators

Maritime laws require charter vessel owners to provide and maintain a seaworthy vessel and to ensure that mariners and passengers enjoy adequate safety protection during their time aboard. Commercial yacht owners must ensure that the vessel:

  • is fit for its intended use
  • is protected against leaks
  • is inspected for mechanical problems
  • is outfitted with appropriately maintained equipment
  • is furnished with proper safety and flotation gear for passengers and crew

A commercial yacht operator is charged with ensuring:

  • the vessel is operated in a safe and competent manner
  • the compliance with maritime regulations, including navigation and rules of the road
  • that crew are competent and well-trained
  • the vessel is not overloaded with passengers or cargo

A commercial yacht captain is tasked with the heavy responsibility of ensuring that his or her crew is competent to handle a wide range of emergency situations, particularly when passengers become intoxicated and begin making poor choices. Adequate supervision of crew and passenger activities is key to ensuring people are not injured or killed.

Yachting Accidents and Injuries

Accidents involving commercial yachts generally fall into 4 categories. Passengers and crew may be injured or even killed when:

  • the yacht collides with other vessels or fixed objects
  • they fall overboard
  • they slip and fall during rough seas or due to slippery surfaces
  • they improperly use yacht equipment

Accidents aboard commercial yachts can cause a variety of injuries, such as:

  • traumatic brain injuries
  • amputations
  • broken bones
  • bruises and lacerations
  • drowning

While yachting can be dangerous, with a competent captain and crew and a seaworthy vessel, your experience at sea does not have to end in tragedy. Most yachting accidents can be prevented by ensuring:

  • the yacht operator pays attention and follows the rules of the road
  • adequate lookouts are posted
  • alcohol is consumed responsibly by guests and never by captain or crew
  • the vessel maintains safe speeds for the conditions
  • the crew is properly trained and passengers are briefed about emergency procedures
  • safety equipment is readily available and worn in emergencies
  • the vessel is frequently inspected and maintained appropriately

There can be a number of responsible parties in the event of a yachting accident and different laws may apply depending on whether you are a passenger or crew. All yacht crews should be covered by the Jones Act or other maritime laws that entitle them to compensation for their injuries and the right to sue their employer for negligence.

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