Ships can be tight quarters, and there is no room for people who have violent or aggressive temperaments. In some cases, a crew member may be the victim of an altercation and become seriously injured. In cases where the aggressor was found to have a nature prone to violence, the employer may be responsible for the injuries under the Jones Act.

Information for Maritime Assault Victims

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When Assault Becomes Unseaworthiness

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also called the Jones Act, gives seamen the right to sue employers if they are injured at sea due to negligence.

It is the vessel owner’s responsibility to ensure the boat is seaworthy—that it is fit for the purpose for which it is intended. That not only means that it is well built and equipped, but also that the crew is both sufficient in number and qualified to be on the ship.

In the case Boudoin v. Lykes Brothers Steamship Co., Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that crew members may be unqualified if they meet characteristics that make them dangerous. These characteristics include:

  • Having a violent character
  • Belligerent disposition
  • Prone to drinking alcohol
  • Prone to fighting or making threats

Having such a person on board, who is deemed “defective,” may make the ship unseaworthy. When a crew member is hurt due to a condition that makes the vessel unseaworthy, the vessel owner is liable to that person for damages. If the defective condition happens to be that a crew member is violent and/or drunk and is prone to such a state, the vessel owner may be deemed liable to the victim for an assault perpetrated by that crew member.

It is not always necessary to prove previous instances of violence by the assaulting crew member. In Pashby v. Universal Dredging Corp., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes all states on the Pacific Coast, found that a person could be defective if they used a dangerous weapon in an assault.

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Damages a Person May Suffer in a Seafaring Assault

The extent of a person’s injuries usually depends on how violent the assault was. After an assault, the victim may have head injuries, broken bones, or bruises and abrasions. It’s important to remember that it does not matter how badly the assaulting crew member intended to hurt you, only how badly they actually hurt you.

For instance, if they push you and you fall off a causeway into the water or hit your neck on a metal pipe, you may suffer far worse injuries than a mere push would normally cause. The vessel owner would still be liable for the full extent of your injuries.

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BOATLAW, LLP | Washington, California, Alaska, and Oregon Maritime Assault Injury Lawyers

If you were hurt in an assault by another crew member while serving as a seaman aboard a vessel, the vessel owner may be liable for compensating you for your injuries. A skilled maritime assault injury lawyer from Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP can represent you and seek the damages you deserve. Call us today at 1-800-262-8529 to schedule a consultation.

We represent clients in courts throughout the Pacific Northwest, including in Oregon, California, Washington, and Alaska.