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Cargo Ship Accidents

There are various types of cargo ships, including barges, container ships, and tankers. Unfortunately, various accidents can occur on these types of ships. These include accidents while moving cargo or containers, or shifting or sliding cargo.

Injuries can range from very minor to significant and life-threatening. As with any injury suffered at sea, the line between a routine injury and a dangerous one can be thin. If you have been injured in a cargo ship accident, it is important to contact an experienced maritime attorney that can help you obtain optimal compensation.

Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and California Cargo Ship Accident Lawyers

Suffering an injury while working as a maritime employee can be a stressful and traumatic experience. You may have suffered fractured bones, paralysis, or head trauma. Additionally, your employer might not be making the effort you expect to ensure your well-being. It can all be extremely overwhelming.

This is why if you have been injured on a cargo ship, your case should be handled by an attorney specializing in maritime law. At Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP, our maritime lawyers have over two decades of experience assisting injured seamen get the best results possible after suffering a cargo ship injury. We can build a successful legal strategy for your case.

If you have been injured in California, Alaska, Oregon or Washington, contact Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP at 1 (800) 262-8529 today to schedule an initial consultation.


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Potential Injuries From Cargo Ship Accidents

Cargo ship accidents can lead to different kinds of injuries, including:

  • Burns to the skin
  • Exposure to hazardous materials or chemicals
  • Joint injuries
  • Injuries to the back and/or spinal cord
  • Fractured bones
  • Crushing injuries
  • Head trauma (including concussions and/or traumatic brain injuries)
  • Loss of arms or legs
  • Paralysis
  • Hypothermia, frostbite, or exposure
  • Death

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Potential Causes Of Cargo Ship Injuries

Many factors may cause or contribute to a cargo ship accident. Often negligence or failure to follow best practices by a maritime employer can create an unsafe working environment. Causes of cargo ship accidents may include:

  • Not enough crew members working at a given time
  • Poor training
  • Mechanical or electrical system failures
  • Defective, inadequate, or poorly maintained equipment
  • Slippery or otherwise poorly maintained decks and/or ladders
  • Improperly secured cargo
  • Faulty rigging
  • Bad lighting
  • Employees feeling fatigued due to overwork
  • Failure by the employer to provide the necessary equipment to ensure safety
  • Failure by the employer to use warning signs to indicate hazardous areas

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Types Of Compensation For Injuries Caused By Cargo Ship Accidents

There are multiple avenues to compensation that might be available to an individual injured in a cargo ship accident, depending on the case’s specifics.

Maintenance And Cure

Maintenance and cure provides compensation to seamen that are injured while working on a cargo ship. Maintenance and cure is a common law concept, meaning it is not based on a statute. Maintenance covers things like rent, utilities, and food—basic living expenses—for the injured individual while he or she recovers. Cure covers medical bills. These medical bills may include bills from hospitals and doctors, prescriptions and other medicines, and bills for therapy and rehabilitation. Maintenance and cure ends when a medical professional determines the individual is ready to return to work. In the case of maintenance and cure, the injured individual does not have to prove that the employer was at fault.

Maintenance and cure can be used to get compensation for illnesses and other medical conditions that happen while the individual is at sea, even if the illness or medical condition is not due to their work for the employer.

The Jones Act

The  Jones Act allows a seaman working on a cargo ship to bring a claim for an injury caused by their employer’s negligence.

Under the Jones Act, an individual may seek damages for various things. These include:

  • Lost earnings
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

Unseaworthiness

If a seaman injured on a cargo ship can prove the ship was not seaworthy, they may be able to bring a claim for unseaworthiness, which would make the ship’s owner strictly liable for their injuries. Like Maintenance and Cure, Unseaworthiness is a common law doctrine that does not have a statute associated with it. An individual claiming unseaworthiness may recover damages similar to those available under the Jones Act – lost earnings, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. If a vessel is deemed unseaworthy, it does not matter if the ship-owner knew the ship’s condition or was negligent. All that matters is that the ship was unseaworthy and that unseaworthiness contributed to the injury.

The Longshore And Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Suppose an individual is injured while working on a boat, but they are not considered a “seaman.” That is when the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) comes into effect. Individuals that fall under LHWCA include longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders, and harbor construction workers. An individual cannot recover under both the Jones Act and LHWCA.

The Death On The High Seas Act

In the case of a death on a cargo ship on the high seas, the Death on the High Seas Act applies. This law applies to any maritime worker who dies on a ship more than 3 miles off the shore of the United States where the death is a result of negligence or a wrongful act.

A claim may be brought by the deceased’s spouse, parent, child, or another dependent relative. The amount of compensation the deceased’s family will receive under the Death on the High Seas Act varies based on the expected future earnings of the deceased.


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Statute Of Limitations For Cargo Ship Accident Claims

The statutes of limitations are:

  • Maintenance and cure – 3 years
  • The Jones Act – 3 years
  • Unseaworthiness – 3 years
  • LHWCA – 1 year
  • Death on the High Seas Act – 3 years

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Additional Resources

Marine Traffic Map – MarineTraffic provides maps and other information about ships currently on the high seas.

28 U.S. Code § 1333 – This federal law gives jurisdiction to the federal courts in civil maritime cases.

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Frequently Asked Questions – The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs provides answers to frequently asked questions about LHWCA.


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Cargo Ship Accident Attorneys |  Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California

If you have been injured on a cargo ship, contact Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP. Our knowledgeable maritime lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP have over two decades of experience representing seamen and other maritime workers who have been injured on or near the water. We can help you recover the financial compensation you need to deal with your injuries.

To schedule a free consultation with Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP, call 1 (800) 262-8529. Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP serves clients in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and California.


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  • The Maritime Law Association of The United States
    The Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLA) was founded in 1899. Its formation was prompted by the organization, some three years earlier, of the International Maritime Committee.
  • Washington State Bar Association
    The Washington State Bar Association operates under the delegated authority of the Washington Supreme Court to license the state's nearly 40,000 lawyers and other legal professionals.
  • Oregon State Bar
    The Oregon State Bar is a government agency in the U.S. state of Oregon. Founded in 1890 as the private Oregon Bar Association, it became a public entity in 1935 that regulates the legal profession.
  • Alaska Bar Association
    The Alaska Bar Association is a mandatory bar association responsible to the Alaska Supreme Court for the admission and discipline process of attorneys for the State of Alaska.