Maritime workers who are injured aboard vessels of any kind, including tugboats, may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and general maritime law. A tugboat is a small boat designed to push and tow larger vessels. While tugboats vary in type and purpose, they are all strongly built. Some tow disabled ships while others move barges and oil platforms or assist large vessels in maneuvering through ports or navigable rivers. Due to their sturdy construction and powerful engines, tugboats are often used to perform additional roles, such as assisting in firefighting or icebreaking.
Types of Tugboats
There are many types of tugboats with differing shapes and design; conventional tugs, tractor tugs, and azimuthal stern drive tugs, to name a few. However, the three main types of tugboats based on their construction and intended purpose are:
- Seagoing: This type of tugboat is designed to go out on the ocean. It is the largest and most powerful type of tug, falling into one of four categories: standard seagoing tug, notch tug, integrated tug and barge (ITB), or articulated tug and barge (ATB).
- Harbor: Harbor tugboats are typically smaller than seagoing tugboats. They are only used to help large ships navigate crowded harbors and staff is kept to a minimum of only a captain and a deckhand.
- River: River tugs, or push boats, push or tow larger vessels on rivers. They are used to help the vessels get back to shore when they are broken down and in need of repair.
Tugboat Hazards and Common Accidents
Tugboat workers face various hazards. Tugboats, while smaller than most vessels, carry lots of equipment that is necessary for the job; workers may therefore be left with limited space. In addition to crowded conditions, those who work on tugboats face other dangers. Some of the most common hazards and resulting accidents include:
- Capsizing: Tugboats may overturn in the water due to instability caused by unbalanced weight, water leaks, or adverse weather.
- Collisions: A tugboat may collide with another ship or even stationary objects, such as docks and pier columns.
- Fatigue: Long hours, physical labor, and inadequate staffing all contribute to the possibility of fatigue among tugboat workers.
- Lack of training: Many tugboat accidents can be avoided by training workers properly; inexperienced or improperly trained workers often cause or contribute to accidents.
- Mechanical failure: Defective machinery and equipment are extremely hazardous; snap-back injuries from broken hawser lines are among the most common on tugboats.
- Slip and Falls: Tugboat workers may suffer slip and fall accidents when wet or slick surfaces are not remedied expediently.
Compensation for Injured Tugboat Workers
Those who are injured in tugboat accidents may be entitled to compensation if their injuries were caused by negligence or unseaworthy working conditions. Tugboat workers are protected by maritime law and may therefore pursue compensation against their employer, the tugboat owner, or a third party. There are generally three bases of compensation:
- Jones Act: Under this federal law, seamen may either file for no-fault maintenance and cure benefits, full compensation based on their employer’s negligence, or a negligence claim against a third party other than their employer.
- Doctrine of Unseaworthiness: Tugboat owners are required to keep their tugboats in seaworthy condition. Injuries that occur due to unseaworthy conditions, such as defective equipment, slippery decks, or lack of safety equipment, are compensable under maritime law.
- Third Party Negligence: Sometimes, a party other than the tugboat worker’s employer is responsible for their injuries. For example, an injured maritime worker may sue the manufacturer or distributor of an unsafe product, or a negligent maintenance and repair company.
The types and amount of compensation available depends on the circumstances of the case. Some forms of compensation for injured tugboat workers include the cost of medical bills, lost wages, daily living expenses, pain and suffering, and in cases involving a fatality, funeral costs.
Cape May Maritime Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Assist Workers Injured in Tugboat Accidents
If you were injured in a tugboat accident, contact a Cape May maritime accident lawyer at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Our skilled and experienced attorneys can help you collect the maximum compensation to which you are entitled. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Wildwood and Cape May. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 888-999-1962.