If you are a vessel operator, you are no stranger to tremendous responsibility. In addition to coordinating the logistics that keep your vessel running smoothly, such as planning the voyage of the ship and securing provisions, you also have to ensure the safety of your crew, passengers and cargo. With a heightened level of responsibility often comes legal liability. When can you be responsible in court for the actions of one of your crew members?
It depends on who was involved
Courts often treat passenger vessels differently from shipping vessels. They also pay attention to who suffered the injury.
For example, if the negligence of a crew member injures another crew member, their injury will be covered by the Jones Act (a statute that protects the rights of injured seamen). If the injured party is a civilian passenger, then different state or federal laws may apply.
Cruise ship operators aren’t strictly liable for injuries to passengers when the cause of the injury was something other than the actions of the crew. However, courts often hold the ship operator liable for injuries or accidents that the ship’s crew members cause. This is true even when the crew member’s actions were unforeseeable.
Vessel operators can also be liable for crew negligence caused by overconsumption of alcohol while on board. Operators have a duty to make sure that their crew isn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty, in order to avoid potentially dangerous accidents.
Part of preparing for a safe voyage includes hiring the right crew members and training them well. With luck, you will be able to foresee and prevent any crew-related problems on your vessel. That way, you can avoid the expense of having to defend a lawsuit for the negligent actions of one of your crew members.