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Cargo Ship Accidents

There are various types of cargo ships, includingdry bulk carriers, container ships, and tankers. Unfortunately, accidents do occur on these types of ships, including accidents while moving cargo or containers and accidents resulting from shifting or sliding cargo.

Injuries can range from very minor to 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. Additionally, your employer might not be making the effort you expect to ensure your well-being or recovery. It can all be extremely overwhelming.

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 four decades of experience assisting injured seamen obtain the best results possible after suffering a cargo ship injury.

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


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Potential Injuries from Cargo Ship Accidents

Cargo ship accidents can lead to various 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 creates 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

Depending on case specifics, there are multiple avenues to compensation that might be available to an individual injured in a cargo ship accident.

Maintenance And Cure

Maintenance and cure provides compensation to seamen injured while working on a cargo ship. Maintenance covers things like rent, utilities, and food—basic living expenses—for the injured individual while they recover. Cure covers medical bills. Medical bills may include bills from hospitals; doctors; therapy; and rehabilitation and prescriptions and other medicines. 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, including:

  • 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. 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’s owner knew the ship’s condition or was negligent. All that matters is that the ship and its equipment was not reasonably fit for their intended purpose , and that unseaworthiness caused or contributed to the injury.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Suppose an individual is injured while working on a cargo ship, but they are not considered a “seaman.” This is when the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) comes into effect. Individuals that fall under the LHWCA include longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders, and harbor construction workers. The injured worker may obtain automatic compensation benefits from his or her employer and sue the vessel for negligence under the 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 pertains to any maritime worker who dies on a ship more than three 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 for comp benefits from the employer and three years for a negligence action against vessel or third party
  • 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 have over  four 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, 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.