What Are Common Ship Deckhand Accidents?

What Are Common Ship Deckhand Accidents?For people who enjoy traveling or just being around bodies of water in general, the position of a deckhand sounds exciting. Deckhands are workers who play important roles in the operation and maintenance of a ship.

While the image of a sailor may come to mind, deckhands also work on superyachts and other types of boats and ships. At the same time, there are certain dangers that come with being a deckhand. Like other occupations, deckhands are at risk of suffering from serious workplace accidents. When deckhands suffer an injury in a maritime accident, they have the right to seek compensation for their injuries.

What are the responsibilities of a deckhand?

Even though it sounds like a deckhand is an exciting occupation, it is a physically demanding position. Deckhands must be able to consistently operate and maintain different types of equipment on a ship. Some of the common duties of a deckhand include:

  • Tying up a ship as the ship comes into port
  • Untying the ship before it leaves the port
  • Cleaning and maintaining the deck
  • Securing cargo on the deck
  • Loading and unloading cargo
  • Following the Captain’s orders
  • Steering the vessel and monitoring water depth
  • Cleaning the crew quarters on the ship

With these types of responsibilities, there are many opportunities for a deckhand to become seriously injured in an accident.

Dangerous aspects of working as a deckhand

Just like the duties of a deckhand are different based on the type of ship, so are the different types of risk factors. Deckhands who work on tugboats face different risks compared to deckhands who work on yachts, for example. However, there are common accident risks that come with any deckhand position that have the potential to cause serious injuries. Some of these include the following:

Working in changing weather conditions

Deckhands must perform their duties regardless of the weather conditions on board. That means deckhands must be able to maintain and operate the ship in stormy weather or in the midst of a heat wave.

Remaining in top physical shape

Deckhands are constantly using their entire bodies for hours and hours to lift and move heavy items. The constant use of those muscles over long work hours can place a physical strain on the deckhand’s muscles, back, and knees.

Dangerous work environment

Deckhands have an equal chance of being seriously hurt on the ship as they do off of the ship. Being exposed to different types of equipment and constantly changing weather conditions can cause deckhands to fall or be struck by an object. Deckhands are also at the risk of the Captain’s decisions. The Captain can make a costly mistake that can cause a deckhand fatal injuries, like wrongly maneuvering the ship as a deckhand is in the process of untying it.

Common types of deckhand accidents

Some of the common types of deckhand accidents include slip and falls, drowning, being struck by objects, and amputations.

Slip and fall accidents

There are many opportunities for a deckhand to slip and fall, whether it is on a deck that has become slippery, or off the deck as the worker assists with cargo. Slip and fall accidents can cause deckhands to suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), herniated discs, and spinal cord injuries.


One of the most common accidents deckhands can experience is a drowning accident. Deckhands can suffer serious or fatal drownings when they fall off of the ship or the ship sinks due to another’s negligence.

Being struck by objects

Deckhands must handle various types of objects, from heavy ropes to cargo to lifeboats. Because they have to constantly move these objects in a constantly changing environment, it is possible for them to be struck by these objects. This type of accident can cause deckhands to experience head injuries, broken bones, neck injuries, and back injuries.

Traumatic amputations

Operating heavy equipment can cause an accident resulting in the loss of a body part. Deckhands can also suffer from traumatic, sudden amputations when the heavy machinery malfunctions. Other deckhands who fail to maintain the upkeep of the machinery can place another deckhand’s health at risk.

How are ship owners held accountable for deckhand accidents?

Many deckhand accidents are considered catastrophic. Just like other workers, there are specific federal laws that protect maritime workers and hold ship owners accountable for their negligence. Regardless of the nature of the industry, maritime employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees. The following acts of legislation allow maritime workers to pursue compensation for their accidents:

  • The Jones Act. The Jones Act allows injured seamen who suffered an accident at sea to file a personal injury claim against their employers. Maritime workers who transport goods from one American port to another have the option to file their personal injury claim in federal or state court.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is federal legislation that provides workers’ compensation benefits to injured maritime workers. This Act allows deckhands to pursue compensation for medical services, rehabilitation services, and lost income. Even injured deckhands whose accidents took place on docks instead of at sea are allowed to pursue compensation through this Act.

What is “unseaworthiness?”

Even though working at sea comes with an element of danger, ship owners have a legal duty of care towards deckhands and other maritime workers. When ship owners fail to execute this duty of care to their maritime workers, their vessels can be declared “unseaworthy.” Ships can be declared “unseaworthy” when there are serious hazards present that could have been prevented or corrected. A ship can be deemed unseaworthy if there are dangers like faulty equipment, or something as simple as missing signs.

When you or someone you love has become a victim of a maritime accident, including on the Jackson River, it is time to contact Bailey & Greer, PLLC. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you will not have to pay any fees until we win your case. Trust us to help you seek the justice that you deserve. Call us today at 901-475-7434, or submit our contact form to get started.