Vessel engineers have a hard job. They work tirelessly to maintain and repair the mechanical equipment aboard ships. This involves moving around in tight, loud, dark, and hot spaces—often lugging tools and other heavy equipment. Boat engineers regularly work with machinery of all sizes, like engines, generators, hydraulics, heating and air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, boilers, pumps, winches, safety equipment, and electrical components. All sorts of vessels require engineers both underway or at the dock, including containerships, dry bulk vessels, car carriers, tankers, tugboats, ferries, and private yachts.
While their duties are sometimes less than glamorous, ship engineers are often highly educated and credentialed. On merchant ships, there may be a chief engineer and several assistant engineers aboard to keep the vessel moving. These engineers usually hold Merchant Mariner Credentials from the United States Coast Guard. Many engineers also hold undergraduate degrees from specialty merchant marine academies throughout the U.S.
Unfortunately, merchant marine engineers are susceptible to injury in the face of negligence. The list of ways that they can be caused serious injury is long, often including:
Exposure to toxic fumes
Extremely loud noises
Shifting cargo or machinery
Catastrophic machinery malfunction
Slippery substances on deck plating
Improper or unavailable safety equipment
While minor injuries on the job do happen, the injuries suffered by ship engineers can be severe and life changing. In an instant, they can suffer:
Cancer-causing toxic exposure
While vessel engineers have a tough job, their employers still owe them a safe place to work. In fact, that’s why Congress enacted the Jones Act. The Jones Act enables an injured ship engineer to sue for damages like lost future earnings, pain and suffering, and disability if the injury was caused by the negligence of the engineer’s maritime employer. Engineers may also have a claim against the vessel owner under the ancient doctrine of unseaworthiness if the ship, its equipment, or its crew were not fit for their intended purpose. Regardless of fault, engineers hurt in service of a vessel usually qualify for maintenance and cure benefits under maritime law. Maintenance is a daily stipend to help with the injured engineer’s living expenses while cure pays for medical treatment related to the shipboard injury or illness. All of these maritime remedies can be complicated and overlapping. The best way to know if you are entitled to benefits or money damages is to contact a maritime attorney.
If you are an engineer who was hurt on the job, life may be confusing right now. You may be trying to figure out how to get medical help, whether you should be giving recorded conversations to insurance adjusters, and how to pay your bills while you recover. An admiralty lawyer may be able to help with these difficult decisions. You may be entitled to medical expenses, lost wages, and other compensation under the Jones Act and maritime law. Contacting a Jones Act lawyer could be your first step towards resolving your case with maximum benefits.
Mariner Law, PLLC is proud to represent boat engineers from all over the country. The firm is licensed in in Washington, Oregon, New York, Alaska, and Connecticut, but is happy to speak with any engineer who just needs to ask some questions. If you or a loved one was injured or sadly killed while serving as a ship engineer, Mariner Law, PLLC is here to help. There is no obligation to speak with a maritime lawyer from the firm and the initial consultation is free. Call (253) 600-2531.