On April 19, 2021, the Coast Guard called off its search for the eight remaining crew members of a commercial seacraft. After capsizing off the Louisiana coast on April 13, 2021, in high winds and high seas, the 175-foot Seacor Power had crews from several agencies and Good Samaritans searching to recover its 19 seamen. Their search totaled 175 hours and spanned over 9,200 square nautical miles.
Six crewmen were rescued the day the ship capsized, four by Good Samaritan boat crews responding to a Coast Guard broadcast for help. The following two days brought the recovery of two deceased men, both in their 60s. Four other bodies were later recovered. According to Seacor President John Gellert, Seacor divers would continue salvage operations until they have searched the whole ship.
The Seacor Power capsized around 8 miles south of Port Fourchon, which triggered an emergency position-indicating radio beacon emergency distress notification around 4:30 p.m. to the Coast Guard. It capsized and came to a rest on the bottom only three hours after its departure from Port Fourchon. At the time, winds were blowing at speeds of up to 90 mph, causing the waves to rise up to nine feet high, according to the Coast Guard.
The charterer of the vessel, Talos Energy, suggests that the operator and the master of the ship were in lone control of the lift boat’s movements when it capsized. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that their investigation could take between 12 and 24 months to complete, however, their initial findings were released this week. The investigation team will divide into three main subject groups: people, machinery and the environment.
Many questions will be evaluated as it relates to the maintenance of the lift boat:
- Was it properly maintained according to federal regulations?
- Was it properly classed?
- Were any modifications or repairs in line with federal regulations?
- What was the condition of vessel?
What Makes a Vessel Unseaworthy?
Seamen deserve safe and suitable environments for which to perform their work. When their employers fail to provide them with such, their ship is unseaworthy. To be seaworthy, a vessel must have an adequate design and reasonable maintenance of its hull, equipment, and crew. Often, unseaworthy vessels are still able to sail and navigate. A ship can be unseaworthy even if it isn’t at risk of sinking. Any health or safety hazard on a seacraft can make it unseaworthy.
The owner of the ship needs to ensure that it has adequate navigation and safety equipment, in addition to a thoroughly trained and competent crew. It should be free from any elements that pose a threat to worker safety, such as:
- Slip and fall hazards such as oily, slippery, or uneven floors or clutter
- Toxic substances or fumes
- Water leaks
- Worn-down or defective equipment
- Inadequate or missing safety equipment or guards
- Defective or insufficient tools and equipment
- Faulty vessel design or undersized vessel for the job
- Broken or dangerous ladders, stairs, or handrails
- Lack of necessary safety rules and procedures
- Worn out, broken, or outdated equipment
- Incompetent or poorly trained crew members
- Use of dangerous or incompetent crewmembers or third-party contractors or sub-contractors
- Inadequate number of crew members to perform jobs safely
- Overworked crew members
Unseaworthy Vessels Cause Injuries and Deaths
When a vessel isn’t seaworthy, everyone aboard is at an increased risk of injury and death. Since these potential injuries and deaths could have been prevented if the owner or operator of the ship took reasonable precautions, they could be liable for the disastrous results.
Compensation for Injuries Caused by Unseaworthy Ships
If a person lost their life or was injured while working aboard an offshore vessel, various maritime laws may affect a potential wrongful death or injury claim. Injured workers at sea and their family members usually don’t qualify for workers’ compensation under the same federal or state laws that apply to their land-employed counterparts. This fact can dishearten and deter those who need recovery the most. However, they have legal rights and options.
Instead of traditional Worker’s Comp, surviving family members and injured victims can pursue compensation through the Jones Act and maritime laws, which in many cases can lead to greater compensation that would be available in an ordinary Worker’s Comp claim. Whether or not victims and their relatives qualify for financial recovery usually depends on proving negligence. Retaining the services of an experienced Biloxi personal injury lawyer is critical. If an investigation reveals an unseaworthy vessel, the surviving family members or injured victims may be able to obtain monetary damages from the owner of the ship for negligence.
The types of damages victims and survivors might be able to recover include those for both economic and non-economic losses. Some examples of damages that are often available include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Past and future lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Medical expenses
- Assisted living expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Travel expenses and mileage reimbursement
- Emotional Distress
Don’t Wait to File Your Claim
If you or a loved one suffered a maritime injury or death, you must act quickly to preserve your rights. The sooner you can reach out to a skilled Mississippi maritime injury attorney, the better. Those who file unseaworthiness claims and Jones Act injury claims have a three-year filing deadline, known as the statute of limitations under the Uniform Statute of Limitations for Maritime Torts. This applies to legal actions under the Jones Act and for a seaman’s claims for injuries due to a ship’s unseaworthiness.
An injured maritime worker or seaman has up to three years from the date of their accident to file a legal claim in most cases. However, legal claimants must pay attention to the accident facts to determine if they are classified as a Jones Act seaman or whether the structure is considered a vessel under the Jones Act or General Maritime Laws. It’s also crucial to be aware that some maritime legal claims could have a filing or notice deadlines as short as one year from the date of the accident. When you hire a Biloxi personal injury lawyer, they can help classify your accident and determine the deadline for your statute of limitations.
Call a Mississippi Maritime Lawyer Today for Help with Sea Vessel Occupational Injuries and Deaths
If you or someone you love was injured or killed on an unseaworthy ship, the results could be devastating in many ways. You need a trusted advocate by your side that can hold the liable parties accountable for their negligence. You’ll find such an advocate in Christopher Van Cleave at Van Cleave Law. Give us a call today at (228) 432-7826 or contact us online to schedule your confidential no-obligation legal consultation with a seasoned Biloxi personal injury attorney.