Crewmember S.O.S.

Tow Operator Negligence Results in Seafarer Death

Ricardo V. Alsina

Written by
Ricardo (Rick) V. Alsina is an accomplished maritime attorney at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. An active trial lawyer, Mr. Alsina has been with the firm for over 16 years. He has been named to Best Lawyers in America ® and his firm is named to Best Law Firms by US News & World Report ®. In addition, Rick has earned a Martindale-Hubbell rating of AV – the highest rating for legal ability and professional and ethical standards in the industry.

When it comes to maritime accidents, it is a well-known fact that most incidents are the direct result of someone’s negligence. Simply put, someone did something wrong.  Whether it’s the vessel operator’s fault for failing to provide a safe working environment for crew members, failure to provide crews with adequate training or equipment malfunctions that are to blame, hundreds of seafarers are injured, killed or denied benefits each year after suffering an accident while in the service of their vessel.  These accidents can occur anywhere and at any time, some unfolding onboard cruise ships or cargo vessels on the open seas, while others transpire at port. But unfortunately, not all victims obtain benefits such as lost wages or medical care in the wake of an accident.

It’s important that all injured seafarers know they have the right to consult with an attorney to file a Seafarer Claim to obtain the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering. Many times, vessel operators cut back on  crew salaries or safety training to save money, and in turn, create a dangerous environment for workers.

Just this week, a seafarer was killed in Hong Kong after several safety regulations were violated by a tug boat towing company. According to the Hong Kong Marine Department, a slew of factors were involved in the crew member’s death. First of all, the tug company did not have its masthead lights on, which serve the purpose of providing a clear path for both the vessel in question and alerting others in the vicinity that a vessel is approaching. Depending on the size of the vessel, masthead lights are usually displayed over the fore-and-aft centerline of the boat or ship, and can be visible for approximately three to five miles.

An investigation also revealed negligence on the victim’s part, which contributed to the seafarer accident. Authorities found  that the seaman failed to keep a proper look-out for the oncoming vessel. The victim’s own human error, coupled with the fact that the vessel was not sufficiently visible, resulted in the ideal conditions for a tragic maritime accident to unfurl.  The seafarer death – one that could have easily been prevented by both parties had proper maritime safety protocols been executed – is just one of the many that have occurred over the years on both shipping vessels and cruise lines.

Our seafarer accident lawyers believe many of the incidents involving crew member injuries or that result from a crew’s negligence are caused by adverse working conditions maritime companies subject them to – especially for crews onboard cruise lines.  Although seafarers are  entitled to certain benefits in the United States, including free medical care, food and shelter, the cruise lines often withhold and/or attempt to withhold benefits from victims by imposing foreign arbitration clauses in their crew member contracts, which require seafarers to bring claims in foreign countries and prevent them from obtaining their due compensation for accidents and injuries.

This has become a common practice for cruise lines and other marine companies for several years now, and it seems as though it’s only going to get worse. Crew members are forced to work long hours without sufficient breaks, are often paid below minimum wage and are denied their right to benefits after suffering an injury at the hands of a negligent employer.

Although it can be an uphill battle for crew members to go up against the mighty cruise lines, seafarer accident attorneys can make a significant impact in the outcome of an injury or negligence case to help victims obtain the justice they deserve.

Basically, what we do on a daily basis is fight for crewmember and passenger rights against the cruise lines attempts to take your rights away.  Contact us today if you or someone you love needs assistance.


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