Tugboats are vital to maritime industries. They come in three basic types: oceangoing, harbor and river tugboats. Tugboats perform a variety of important services – they guide larger vessels like cruise ships or container vessels through narrow channels; they tow oil rigs and other structures to their destinations; and they even rescue disabled vessels at sea.
Working on a tugboat can expose deckhands, engineers, crew members and other maritime workers to a number of risks that can result in serious injury.
Article Spotlights Tugboat Accidents
An article on the Tug Technology and Business website entitled “One tug sinks another raised” highlights just how dangerous serving on a tugboat can be, telling the story of nine people who were rescued when the river tug Eric Haney sank on the upper Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois.
The article also mentions other recent tugboat accidents:
- The Crosby Commander, which sank 30 nautical miles south of Marsh Island, in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana (three crewmen escaped; one was never found).
- The Todd Brown, which also sank in the Mississippi River, this time near Columbus, Kentucky.
- The Sunny J, which sank near Vidalia, Louisiana in February.
Risks To Tugboat Crews
Serving aboard a tugboat can expose crew and passengers to many risks, including:
- Winch, cable and line malfunctions
- Defective equipment
- Slips, trips and falls caused by slippery or cluttered decks
- Lack of proper maintenance
- Falling overboard
- Undermanned vessels
- Undertrained crews
- Inclement weather
- Collisions with a dock or other vessel
The results of these injuries can be severe: broken bones, burns, amputations, internal injuries and drowning to name just a few. In addition to the pain and suffering, the injured tugboat worker can face crushing medical bills, long-term medical costs, lost wages, and permanent loss of income. The effect on injured workers and their families can be devastating. That’s why it’s so important for injured tugboat workers to take appropriate steps to protect their legal rights and seek compensation for the damages they have suffered.
Legal Options For Workers Injured In Tugboat Accidents
Tugboat workers have three options when it comes to seeking compensation for injuries due to a preventable accident.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or as it is more commonly known, the Jones Act, is federal legislation that protects American workers injured while working at sea. The Jones Act allows seamen who have been involved in an accident or become ill while performing their duties to obtain compensation from their employers for medical costs and lost income.
The injured tugboat crewman can also seek compensation by filing an “unseaworthiness” claim. Under maritime law, a vessel is unseaworthy if:
- The vessel, or any of its parts or equipment, is not in acceptable condition for its appointed purpose.
- The vessel is not adequately staffed or the crew properly trained to perform their assigned tasks.
- The tugboat’s owner has failed to provide adequate safety equipment for the vessel and its crew.
In addition, a third party may be held liable for injuries suffered by workers while aboard a tugboat, such as the manufacturer of a piece of defective equipment or machinery.
Get Help From A Tugboat Injury Lawyer After A Tugboat Accident
If you were injured while working on a tugboat because of the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to compensation and benefits under general maritime law and the Jones Act. However, pursuing a claim under the Jones Act can be a complicated procedure. Being represented by an experienced tugboat injury lawyer, one who knows the process inside and out, will greatly increase your chances of successfully getting the fullest compensation possible for your maritime accident-related injuries.
The New Orleans maritime injury lawyers at The Lambert Firm have more than 40 years of experience in aggressively protecting the rights of injured maritime workers all over the U.S. We possess the expertise and skills to help you obtain the compensation you are owed for the negligent actions of another. If you were injured on a tugboat or in another maritime work incident, don’t put off seeking legal help. Contact The Lambert Firm today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and advise you on the best way to proceed with your case.