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Seaman injured off Texas coast sues employer

As we have explained in past posts, maritime workers who are injured at sea are sometimes able to sue their employers under the Jones Act if negligence was involved. The Act applies to all workers on all types of sea vessels.

Federal law requires that all vessels in operation must be seaworthy, meaning they are safe to be used for their intended purpose. If a seaman can prove that he was injured while working on a vessel that was "unseaworthy," he can sue the employer for negligence, even if the employer did not know that the ship was unsafe.

An unseaworthy vessel might be one that was structurally unsafe, contained defective equipment or had a crew that was not properly trained.

Last October, a seaman employed by Cal Dive International injured his back while attempting to pull tangled hoses out of the water off the coast of Texas. Following the accident, the seaman sued his employer, alleging that negligence on behalf of Cal Dive resulted in his injury.

More specifically, the seaman accused Cal Dive of negligently failing to do several things, including supervise and train its employees, provide a safe work environment and protect crewmembers from unnecessary risks.

The seaman is seeking damages for past and future medical expenses, mental anguish, pain, impairment, disfigurement and lost wages, plus all court costs stemming from the lawsuit.

Recently, Cal Dive made several discovery requests to the seaman and his legal counsel. Discovery requests are the procedure by which parties to a lawsuit ask each other for specific evidence and information.

Ultimately, the injured seaman will be trying to prove that the vessel he was injured on was unseaworthy, while the employer will be attempting to deny these allegations. It is possible that the lawsuit could settle out of court.

Source: Southeast Texas Record, "Cal Dive International submits discovery requests to injured seaman," David Yates, March 22, 2012

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