Barges are a critical part of commercial maritime infrastructure, as are the people who work on them. However, working on a barge in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean, the Puget Sound or the Gulf of Alaska can be a dangerous job. Many barge workers are hurt in the process of doing their jobs as the result of negligence of their employer or other crew or because the barge they were on was not seaworthy. Fortunately, those workers have the option of recovering for injuries under federal law.
If you work on a barge in the Pacific Northwest and were injured, you may seek compensation for your injury. A dedicated maritime lawyer can help you obtain the recovery you deserve. At Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, we represent maritime employees who suffer injury due to negligence or an unseaworthy vessel. Call us at 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule a free consultation.
The Jones Act covers any person who is a seaman on a vessel in navigation. It allows a person who has a substantial connection to a vessel and who contributes to its mission or function seek recovery for injuries suffered due to the negligence of an employer.
Barges tend to work somewhat differently than most ships. Many barges are not self-propelled and depend upon tugboats to move. Some may have questions as to whether a barge constitutes a “vessel in navigation.”
Courts have used a broad interpretation of a vessel in navigation. In Stewart v. Dutra Construction Co., the U.S. Supreme Court, citing 1. U.S.C. § 3, ruled that a vessel could constitute any watercraft capable of being used as transportation on the water.
A barge, regardless of whether self-propelled or not, is likely to be considered a vessel if it is used in the transportation of goods or services. This includes:
Jones Act employers, vessel owners, and the vessel in rem, owe barge workers various duties under the Jones Act and general maritime law.
Under the Jones Act, you can recover when your employer failed to act with reasonable care. The employer must implement procedures that ensure the safety of those working on board and that all employees are properly and sufficiently supervised. The employer has a duty to furnish you with a reasonably safe place to conduct your work under the circumstances.
Under general maritime law, the vessel owner is responsible for ensuring that the barge is seaworthy, meaning it is reasonably fit for its intended purpose, whether that is carrying petroleum, timber, or riprap. There should be no design flaws, and the barge must be properly maintained. The barge’s crew must also be sufficient and qualified to work on the barge. Too few crewmembers may render the barge unseaworthy.
If the vessel operator failed to exercise reasonable care or the vessel was unseaworthy, and you were injured as a result, you could recover for your past and future medical bills, lost wages, lost ability to work and other damages, like pain and suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life.
If you are a tankerman or other barge worker who was hurt due to your employer’s negligence, contact a skilled attorney to fight for your rights. A dedicated maritime attorney from Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski serving Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska and the surrounding waters can help you seek the recovery you deserve if you were hurt due to negligence or unseaworthiness. Call us at 1 (800) 262-8529 to set up a free no obligation consultation.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, August 1, 2018.