They may not be as glamorous as yachts or cruise ships, but tugboats do the down-and-dirty work of marine commerce, maneuvering barges, freighters, and other large vessels into and out of crowded harbors and canals. Because of the nature of their job, tugboats tend to more compact, and more solidly built, than other types of boats, and they run mostly on diesel fuel. Tugboats are also frequently called on in emergency situations, such as rescues of disabled cruise ships or oil platforms (for example, a fleet of tugboats can drag a damaged platform back to shore).
Tugboats often operate in crowded and/or dangerous conditions, making tugboats especially susceptible to the types of accidents that can injure (or even kill) an unwary crewman. It’s not uncommon for a tugboat to collide with, or be rammed into by, the boat it’s supposed to be towing, and the opportunity for accidents is all the greater if multiple tugboats are cooperating on the same job. In addition, sailors on tugboats are at the mercy of the same weather conditions (typhoons, hurricanes, etc.) that are the bane of anyone who makes a living at sea.
Many tugboats are independently owned, and the proprietors work on very slim margins. For this reason, it’s often the case that a tugboat has not been properly maintained, its crew has not been properly trained, or it has been insufficiently staffed, all of which put the tugboat’s crew at increased risk of injury. A fatigued crew is more likely to misjudge the distance between the tugboat and the barge it’s towing, or to secure the ship improperly; a snapped line or loose winch can easily result in severe injury or even death.
The important thing to remember, if you or a loved one has been injured in a tugboat accident, is that your rights are guaranteed by the Jones Act, which allows injured crew members to sue the ship’s captain and owner, and even their fellow sailors, if it can be shown that their negligence or recklessness contributed to the mishap. At the very least, the responsible individuals may be required to cover your living expenses while you recuperate from your injuries, as well as all your medical bills. In the most blatant cases of recklessness or negligence—such as an unseaworthy vessel or an inebriated captain—the Jones Act entitles you to sue the responsible party for longer-term damages, including income lost due to chronic pain and suffering.
For your free initial consultation, call or email our law offices today.
Law Offices of Preston Easley
2500 Via Cabrillo Marina
San Pedro, California 90731