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Is a ship undergoing repairs a navigable vessel?

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2018 | Admiralty & Maritime Law

If you were to be involved in an accident that occurred offshore in Lousiana jurisdiction due to the negligence of other members of your crew, or of your captain, you would probably soon be faced with an excess of jargon. Some of these words are common, but they take on a specific meaning in the context of the Jones Act. It is probably wise to make legal decisions based on an informed understanding of the terms involved. In some cases, you could find that you have more of a case than your employer would like you to believe.

One of the more important terms involves the status of the vessel on which an injury occurs, specifically whether it was in navigation. If you were to be injured on a cargo vessel while sailing, the definitions are relatively clear: a court would probably find that you were on a navigable vessel. However, as you probably know, it is not always that straightforward.

In fact, you could be on a vessel in navigation more often than you realize. A court could consider ships of many types, such as towboats, fishing vessels and pipeline barges, to be in navigation for Jones Acts claims even if these vessels are docked temporarily undergoing minor repairs. FindLaw discusses the topic of navigability at the end of an article about maritime gambling, stating that courts often find vessels that are not permanently moored to be navigable. 

In contrast, if you were to be injured during your duties as a seaman on a ship that was unable of sailing, such as one undergoing hull repairs in dry dock, a court might disagree with the claim that you were on a vessel in navigation. That does not mean you would not necessarily be able to obtain compensation for your injuries, but it would likely limit your effective strategies. Please do not take this as legal advice. It is meant to inform you.