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Vessel Owners Owe Seaman a Non-Delegable Duty to Maintain the Vessel Seaworthiness

Vessel owners operating in navigable waters have a duty to maintain their vessels in a “seaworthy” condition. Whether an injured seaman has a claim for vessel unseaworthiness is often an issue in maritime injury litigation. “Seaworthiness” is more than a vessel’s ability to travel from Point A to Point B. Courts often define the term to require that the vessel be constructed, outfitted, manned, and in all respects fit for a voyage at sea.

Seemingly minor vessel defects, such as worn out paint that makes steps slippery or ladders with uneven rungs, can create liability for unseaworthiness when those defects contribute a seaman’s injury. In fact, courts often find that a vessel owner’s failure to crew their ships with well-trained and competent seaman can cause the vessel to become unseaworthy.

Importantly, the vessel owner’s duty to maintain a seaworthy vessel generally cannot be delegated to another party. This means that vessel owners cannot attempt to place responsibility on any other entity, whether it be a staffing company or repair company, for failing to make the vessel seaworthy. While any party may be sued for its negligence, the duty to maintain a seaworthy vessel remains with the vessel owner.

Given the increasingly complex network of corporate entities that own, charter, manage, repair, and staff seagoing vessels, it is important that injured seaman seek the advice of a competent maritime attorney to evaluate potential unseaworthiness claims. The law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner is the oldest personal injury law firm in Texas. Many of our attorneys have extensive experience in prosecuting maritime injury claims. If you have been seriously injured or you have lost a loved one due to a maritime injury, contact us at 713-396-3964 or 800-594-4884.

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