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An unseaworthiness claim is related to the Jones Act. A vessel owner owes seaman a strict and absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. A seaworthy vessel is one that is reasonably fit for its intended use, it should be a safe place to work and live. A seaworthy vessel should be equipped with appropriate safety gear and equipment, safe recreation facilities, and a competent crew. The duty owed to a seaman is more rigorous than the seaworthiness promised in a contract for the carriage of marine cargo.
An unseaworthiness claim includes unsafe conditions existing on the vessel and its equipment, including dangerous conditions arising during the voyage or created by employees or independent contractors.
Unlike the Jones Act claims, which is against the seaman's employer, an unseaworthiness claim is made against the vessel's owner. In many cases those two will be the same. The unseaworthiness claim will bring the owner into a lawsuit as an additional source of recovery. As with the Jones Act, an unseaworthiness claim must be filed within three years of the injury, and must be combined with a Jones Act claim. If an unseaworthiness claim is joined with a Jones Act claim, the plaintiff may ask for a jury trial on the unseaworthiness claim.
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