By:   Charles R. Lipcon

cargo-ship-at-miami-harborCommercial shipping on barges, cargo ships, and tankers can be extremely dangerous. In our more than 50 years of helping clients from all over the world, we have seen it all: from deaths and amputations, to fractures and electrocutions. There are many common themes that we’ve learned from these incidents over the decades but one thing is crystal clear: nearly every accident or incident can be traced to a clear failure by the employer or vessel owner to make sure the vessel is safe for the crew working aboard. If you are injured while working on one of these vessels, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation from your employer or from the vessel owner.  Let us put our wealth of experience to work for you.  

Common Injuries From Barge, Cargo and Tanker Accidents

Large vessels like cargo ships and tankers transport the vast majority of goods around the world. They are huge and filled with massive amounts of cargo, which must be properly secured to be transported safely. Cargo ship and tanker accidents can result from:

  • Unsecured cargo that shifts or falls over in transit
  • Slips and falls
  • Collisions with other ships
  • Machinery accidents and malfunctions

Injuries as a result of these accidents may cause:

  • Burns
  • Amputations
  • Crushing injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Back and spinal injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Exposure to hazardous substances

Laws That Protect Barge, Tanker, and Cargo Ship Workers

Generally speaking, the law that applies to U.S. based ship workers is the Jones Act.  It is a Federal Statute and it is one of the most worker friendly laws on the books.  The Jones Act entitles commercial shipping crew to Maintenance and Cure. Maintenance and Cure is the right to have your employer pay for medical care and provide you with a daily living wage if you suffer an accident or injury onboard a vessel.  Maintenance and Cure must be provided to you, regardless of who is at fault.  A seafarer whose employer does not follow  their full obligation under Maintenance and Cure may also be awarded punitive damages for the failure

 If the employer, the vessel owner or operator is, in whole or in part, to blame for the cause of the accident, like negligence or improper maintenance, then you may be entitled to significant further compensation for pain and suffering under either the Jones Act, or also potentially under the doctrine of unseaworthiness, which requires a vessel owner to maintain a seaworthy ship (this has a very broad definition but basically any problem with the vessel, or its crew can render the vessel unseaworthy). 

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act also provides for compensation when a ship or dock worker is injured in the course of activities, such as the loading and unloading of cargo, ship repair, or work on decks or piers.

The Death on High Seas Act governs any maritime accident that takes place more than three miles away from U.S. land. It allows a surviving family member to seek damages for the death of a maritime worker caused by neglect or a wrongful act occurring on the high seas.  Generally speaking the Death on the High Seas Act is not a favorable recovery scheme when a death occurs, but with crewmembers, the damages can be supplemented by the Jones Act.  

Who Do You Sue In A Barge, Cargo, or Tanker Accident?

Who to sue in the event of a maritime accident depends upon the specific circumstances of the incident, but in general terms, if the owner or operator of a vessel has acted in a manner that you believe constitutes negligence, then they may be liable for injuries sustained by a seaman. An employer may have failed to properly inspect or maintain a vessel, allowed dangerous conditions to persist, failed to properly train employees or provide adequate safety equipment, or overworked employees to the point that fatigue and injury occurred. In any of these instances, the employer may be held liable for medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.  When we take on a new case involving an accident or injury on a container ship or barge, we start by looking at the contract of employment and work out from there.  It is very common in cases like these that we will sue numerous defendants including the employer, the shipowner and the ship operator.  


Companies We Have Sued

Why You Need An Experienced Maritime Attorney

The laws governing maritime accidents and injuries are different from U.S. laws. Maritime and admiralty laws are highly specific and complex, and statutes of limitations are different. If you’ve been injured in a maritime accident, you need an experienced attorney who knows the laws and regulations surrounding these incidents so that your case meets deadlines and is properly filed. Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A.. is an award-winning maritime law firm full of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys who will give your case the attention it deserves. Call us at 877-233-1238 today for a free consultation.