What Is Most Likely to Kill You at Sea? Human Error

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Manual laborers are the most likely people to get injured in the workplace. That does not change when the labor happens on a boat. You might think that inclement weather or falling overboard is the most dangerous thing out on the ocean. However, there is something far more deadly: human error.

The majority of maritime accidents are related to human error. Because of this, the Jones Act was created. The Jones Act came to the support of workers in the maritime industry when they get injured on the job.

About the Jones Act

The Jones Act is a piece of federal legislation that exists to protect maritime workers by regulating ocean commerce. One piece of the legislation focuses on supporting the United States economy. This part states that if goods are shipped from one US port to another, the boat must have been built in the US, be owned by a US citizen or resident, and be operated by US citizens or residents.

On top of this, it offers certain labor rights to sailors. Perhaps most importantly, sailors are permitted to seek workers’ compensation and damages from the shipowner, captain, or crew if they are injured.

If you have been injured while working at sea to transport goods between two US ports, you can seek damages under the Jones Act. An experienced lawyer can help.

Human Error As the Cause of Accidents

Like many workplace accidents, accidents on boats are generally attributed to human error. Even though people already knew that human error accounted for a bulk of the problems, the actual statistics have even surprised the experts.

Studies indicate that at least 75% of maritime accidents are caused by human error. Some experts believe that that number is too low, and they provide a range of figures up to 96 percent. The discrepancy may be related to differences in how different researchers define “human error.”

Accidents are also the largest financial liability for those in the maritime industry. Due to the Jones Act, ship owners and captains alike may be held responsible if a crewmate is injured.

Types of Maritime Accidents

Maritime accidents are often more dangerous and deadly than workplace accidents on land. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this. 

If the ship sinks or a crew member falls overboard, they may be at risk of drowning or freezing to death. Ships also have close quarters and heavy machinery. If a fire starts or an explosion occurs, it is hard to evacuate when surrounded by water.

Some of the most common maritime accidents that can occur include:

  • Shipwrecks
  • Injury due to unsafe procedures
  • Crew falling overboard
  • Exposure to hazardous materials
  • Injury from heavy machinery or rigging
  • Fires and explosions

Most Expensive Maritime Accidents

For ship owners and captains, some accidents are more expensive than others.

By far, the most expensive accident is a shipwreck. In addition to the financial loss and liability, the shipowner may also be responsible for wreck removal procedures. Wreck removal can become complicated for several reasons, including:

  • Ships are larger than they used to be, so retrieving the pieces takes more resources;
  • There are concerns about protecting the underwater ecosystem during wreck retrieval;
  • Pieces of the ship or its cargo may be difficult to locate if they float away with the current.

Crew liabilities are the next most expensive. When a crew member seeks compensation for an accident, they are often entitled to significant damages.

Shipowners may also need to pay pollution costs to comply with certain regulations, or they may need to pay litigation fees after an accident.