The maritime industry involves working on ships and docks, and with machinery and equipment that have a lot of moving parts. When parts, equipment, or gear are defective, maritime workers can suffer injuries that can be life-altering. Defective maritime products are a significant hazard to maritime workers.

Maritime workers should know that they do have rights if they suffer an injury due to a defective product. At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, our maritime injury attorneys are here to help workers and their families understand their rights, and explore potential options for obtaining compensation.

Below, we provide information on product liability, defective maritime products, and how injury victims can get help.

What is Maritime Product Liability?

Maritime product liability is an area of law that holds manufacturers, distributors, and retailers liable for injuries caused by defective products used in maritime activities. This includes injuries that occur on ships, boats, offshore platforms, and other watercraft.

To establish a maritime product liability claim, the plaintiff must show that:

  • The product is defective.
  • The defect caused the injury.
  • The product was used in a maritime activity.
  • The defendant was in the chain of distribution of the product.

Maritime product liability claims can be complex and involve a variety of legal issues. It is wise to seek legal counsel from an attorney before attempting to file any type of lawsuit on your own.

Defenses to Maritime Product Liability Claims

The defendant may be able to defend against a maritime product liability claim if they can prove that:

  • The product is not defective.
  • The plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the injury.
  • The product was not used in a maritime activity.
  • The defendant was not in the chain of distribution of the product.

Examples of Defective Maritime Products

There are various maritime products that, if defective, could potentially cause injuries. Some examples include:

  • Life Jackets: Defective life jackets may not properly inflate or secure around a person, leading to drowning or injury in case of an emergency.
  • Flares and Distress Signals: Faulty flares or distress signals might not function as they should, hampering the ability to alert nearby vessels or rescue teams.
  • Boat Engines and Propellers: Defective engines or propellers may unexpectedly stall or fail, leading to accidents, collisions, or injuries to passengers or swimmers.
  • Docking and Mooring Equipment: Defective cleats, ropes, or bollards can fail under pressure, causing vessels to break free and potentially collide with other boats or structures.
  • Marine Electronics: Malfunctioning navigation systems, radar equipment, or communication devices can lead to navigation errors, collisions, or the inability to seek assistance in distress situations.
  • Safety Harnesses and Tethers: Faulty safety harnesses and tethers for working or moving around on boats can lead to falls overboard or injuries.
  • Marine Safety Equipment: Defective emergency rafts, life rings, fire extinguishers, or other safety equipment may fail to function correctly during maritime emergencies, increasing the risk of injuries or fatalities.

The potential for defects can exist in various other maritime products, as well. If you have concerns about a specific product, it is advisable to do the following:

  • Ensure regular maintenance and inspections
  • Contact the manufacturer
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines
  • Investigate potential recalls
  • Get medical attention if there are injuries
  • Contact a maritime product liability attorney

Who is Liable for Defective Maritime Products?

Determining liability for defective maritime products or parts can be complex and depends on various factors, including the circumstances of the case, applicable laws, contractual agreements, and the specific parties involved. Here are some potential parties who might be held liable:

  • Manufacturer: The manufacturer of the defective maritime parts may be liable if the defect occurred during the manufacturing process or if the product’s design has inherent flaws.
  • Distributor or Retailer: If the defective part transfers to a distributor or retailer before reaching the consumer, they may liable for the defect. This is especially so if they have a role in the product’s condition or safety.
  • Supplier: If a particular component of the maritime part is supplied by a separate entity, such as an independent manufacturer, they may be liable for any defects.
  • Boat Builder: In cases where the defective part is integrated into a larger vessel, the boat builder or shipyard may face liability. This is possible if they failed to properly install or inspect the part, or if the vessel’s design contributed to the defect.
  • Repair or Maintenance Provider: If a defective part is identified during routine maintenance or repair work, the entity responsible for servicing the part may be held liable for any subsequent issues if they failed to address or replace the defective component.
  • Owner or Operator: In some cases, the owner or operator of the vessel may bear some responsibility for a defective part. This is especially true if they were aware of the defect but failed to take appropriate action or neglected routine inspections and maintenance.

The specific circumstances and applicable laws can vary in maritime product liability cases. Legal cases involving defective maritime parts often require expert analysis and interpretation to determine liability.

How Can Defective Maritime Product Injuries be Prevented?

Here are some tips for preventing accidents and injuries caused by defective products in the maritime industry:

  • Inspect all safety equipment before use.
  • Make sure that all safety equipment is in good condition and that it fits properly.
  • Report any defective equipment to your supervisor.
  • Get regular training on the safe use of machinery
  • Be aware of the potential dangers of defective products.
  • Always use products, machinery, and equipment as intended per the instructions or safety guide.
  • Always use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when using machinery and equipment.

Can Maritime Workers Seek Compensation for Defective Product Injuries?

Maritime workers can seek compensation for injuries they suffer due to defective maritime products. Injured maritime workers have certain legal rights and avenues for seeking compensation. The appropriate avenue depends on the circumstances and the applicable laws. Here are some potential avenues for compensation:

Jones Act Claims

Under the Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920), eligible seamen working on vessels may pursue claims against their employers for injuries caused by negligence. This includes injuries resulting from the use of defective maritime products. If the defective product caused the injury, the worker may qualify for compensation, such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

For maritime workers who do not qualify as seamen under the Jones Act, the LHWCA provides a system of workers’ compensation for injuries occurring on or near navigable waters. The LHWCA primarily provides for wage replacement and medical benefits. However, workers may still have the option to pursue separate product liability claims against responsible parties if defective maritime products caused their injuries.

Product Liability Claims

Maritime workers who suffer injuries due to a defective maritime products may also pursue product liability claims against the manufacturers, distributors, or retailers of the defective products. Product liability laws vary, but in general, victims must show that the product was defective and that the defect caused their injuries. Compensation in product liability cases can include:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Punitive Damages

Get a Free Maritime Defective Product Injury Consultation

If you are injured due to a defective maritime product, it is important to consult with a maritime injury attorney who has experience with defective product claims. At Kherkher Garcia, our attorneys can assess the specific circumstances of your case and guide you through the appropriate legal avenues for seeking compensation. Getting started is as simple as calling us at 713-333-1030, or completing our online contact form.

Our consultations are 100% free, so don’t wait to find out more about your legal rights.

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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

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