HomeFAQsMaritime AccidentsIf you’re kidnapped by pirates, can you sue? Who?

If you’re kidnapped by pirates, can you sue? Who?

If you have survived a pirate attack and kidnapping, you may be able to sue your employer for damages, depending upon the nature of the circumstances that led to the attack. It has a lot to do with whether or not your employer acted in a negligent manner.

Piracy may seem like a danger relevant hundreds of years ago, but it’s still a serious concern for workers on oil rigs and platforms offshore. Injury from these types of attacks not only can be physical, but also can cause psychological trauma and lead to an emotional distress lawsuit. If you’re seeking to file this sort of legal action, it’s best to do so with the help of maritime lawyers.

While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent pirate attacks against a vessel that travels international waters or an offshore oil rig positioned overseas, there are some precautions your employer can take. There are physical steps that can be taken to help reduce damages from piracy, as well as international movements by organizations to help combat this growing problem.

5 Ways to Limit Risk of Pirate Attacks

Your employer can assist in the reduction of damages by piracy in several ways:

  • utilizing onboard deterrents such as security systems, dock patrols, fire hoses and loud PA systems;
  • training crew members on actions to take if a pirate attack is imminent;
  • cooperating with naval deployments from nearby countries, including notifying them when your vessel will be in their area of patrol;
  • working within the boundaries of the anti-piracy patrols of East Africa and the Middle East; and
  • informing the Somali coast guard if your vessel will be in the area to raise monitoring of your vessel’s safety.

Unfortunately, even though many of these methods have been in place for years, piracy still occurs in many areas of international waters. There’s no foolproof method of preventing pirate attacks, but taking some of these basic steps during travel through known pirate waters may help increase the safety of your vessel and reduce physical injuries against the crew.

Under the Jones Act, an employer must provide workers with a reasonably safe work environment, which includes taking precautions to avoid any aggressive action from piracy. Assault, kidnapping and hostage situations are common in these incidents and can all lead to long-term mental health issues.

How Incidents of Piracy Can Lead to an Emotional Distress Lawsuit

The traumatic experience of being aboard a platform or vessel that’s attacked can leave a seaman to suffer from many psychological conditions such as: 

  • anxiety;
  • depression;
  • aggression;
  • insomnia; and
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Even if seamen don’t suffer physical injury during the incident, they can suffer long-term mental conditions that can impair both their work ability and personal lives. These are the sort of damages that can be sought through an emotional distress lawsuit, which is an ordeal that shouldn’t be undertaken without the professional guidance of maritime lawyers.

Considering an offshore injury on a platform or vessel in international waters can potentially fall under the Jones Act, you can benefit from an attorney who handles these sorts of claims, rather than regular personal injury attorney.

A typical claim under the Jones Act is usually related to a physical offshore injury that can easily be evidenced and documented. Mental anguish resulting in a lawsuit is a bit more complex to declare than damages in a case, making it a difficult matter to resolve on your own, so you should contact maritime lawyers.

Determining If Suing Your Employer is Appropriate

Ship owners and operators have a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their crew. They must meet vessel safety standards, ensure a safe working environment, and take all necessary and reasonable precautions to prevent pirate attacks or boardings.

You may be eligible to file a lawsuit against your employer if you can show:

  • your employer failed to satisfy its duty of care (didn’t meet safety protocols or acted in a careless or reckless manner);
  • your employer’s actions led to your injury; and
  • you suffered actual, demonstrable injuries.


Examples of Ways Vessel Operators May Be Negligent

If you believe that your employer’s actions were directly linked to your kidnapping, the first thing you want to do is discuss your case with a maritime lawyer. You and your attorney will then look at all the circumstances surrounding your case, and determine whether or not you’ll be able to prove your employer contributed to your injuries.

For instance, the ship operators may be legally liable if they:

  • didn’t increase speed in high-risk areas;
  • didn’t take proper ship protection measures or use barriers (razor wire, steel bars on portholes);
  • didn’t check the anti-piracy map or stay up-to-date on current pirate incidents;
  • didn’t have a muster point;
  • didn’t have alarms working properly or failed to do test exercises; or
  • went through an avoidable high risk area instead of rerouting.


The Damaging Impact of Piracy

The effects of pirate kidnapping at sea are broad and devastating. Pirates may act violently and may cause severe emotional and physical injury to their victims. The victims’ families suffer as well. Not only must they endure fear during the entire time their loved one is held captive, but they suffer financially too.

Save Our Seafarers explains the horrible effects of a pirate attack: “On release, many captives are skeletal, damaged, traumatized and broken in mind and spirit. Although younger seafarers often have a chance to recover and resume their lives, older hostages rarely return to sea.  They and their families pay for the misfortune of being captured with a lifetime of hardship, poverty, illness and depression.”

Compensable Damages in a Pirate Kidnapping Lawsuit

If you and your attorney determine that a negligence case is merited, you’ll be able to pursue compensation for damages such as:

  • lost wages;
  • medical bills;
  • lost future wages;
  • loss of employability;
  • psychological counseling;
  • future medical treatments for your injuries;
  • disability or reduced capacity to work;
  • pain and suffering; and
  • mental anguish.

To consult with a maritime attorney about filing a lawsuit if you were kidnapped by pirates, contact The Young Firm.  Call us today at 866-703-2590 FREE to schedule your consultation.

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