Here’s What an Injured Seaman May Recover After Being Hurt at Work
There’s no question that maritime work is necessary and vital to the economy, but it’s also frequently dangerous for the workers. The good news is that systems are in place to assist seamen who suffer injuries and need to take time off to recover. Federal law requires employers to provide “maintenance and cure” to eligible maritime workers who are hurt in an accident.
Knowing If You Are Eligible for Compensation as a Seaman
How much you can recover, and from whom, depends on your specific job definition under applicable federal law. Not everyone who works on or around a ship is actually considered a seaman for legal purposes. Under the Jones Act, you are considered a seaman if:
- You spend at least 30% of your work time on board a vessel
- That vessel is capable of traveling under its own power
- The vessel normally crosses navigable waters for trade or travel purposes
As you might expect, there are times when legalese and red tape can interfere with recovering compensation for an injury while working on a boat. For instance, a brand-new ship that hasn’t started transporting cargo yet, or even a vessel currently in dry dock, isn’t considered capable of traveling under its own power.
Seamen who are injured in these scenarios may not qualify for relief under the Jones Act and could have to turn to other options for recovering damages. If you’ve been hurt on the job, an attorney can help you determine whether the Jones Act applies in your situation and find the best source of potential compensation.
Compensation for Injured Seamen in Louisiana
If you qualify as a seaman, the Jones Act provides for what’s known as “no-fault” remedy, meaning that you are potentially eligible for compensation after an injury no matter who is ultimately responsible for the accident. You don’t have to go to court and prove negligence on the part of your employer to start receiving payments.
Instead, the Jones Act essentially establishes a worker’s compensation option for individuals employed on seafaring vessels. Under this federal law, employers need to provide payments to injured workers for both maintenance and cure. Here’s what that specifically covers:
- Maintenance. Because many seamen live and sleep on the vessel during the course of their employment, the “maintenance” half of the equation covers your basic cost of living. You must be provided payment for renting housing on land while you recover away from the vessel. It also covers groceries and some restaurant meals, as well the cost of utilities like electricity, gas, and water. The Jones Act does not cover phone or internet bills, however. The specific amount paid daily for maintenance can vary depending on your employer and any relevant union contracts. You should always have an attorney go over the amounts being paid, as employers may try to provide less than is necessary for the critical costs of living payments.
- Cure. The second half of the equation covers medical expenses directly related to your maritime injury, such as an emergency room visit, hospital stay, the cost of surgery, and any needed prescription medications or follow-up visits. Payments continue until the injured seaman is determined to have reached “maximum medical improvement.” That threshold is determined by a doctor, and is the point at which the patient either fully recovers, or is not expected to recover any further even with additional medical treatment.
Unfortunately, neither maintenance nor cure covers other important costs like lost wages, loss of future earning potential, permanent disability, or non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Recovering the full and fair amount you are owed may involve maintenance and cure from your employer, as well as a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent parties responsible for your accident. In some situations, a lawsuit may be warranted to seek punitive damages from an employer who purposefully withholds proper maintenance and cure to an injured seaman.
Contact a Knowledgeable Louisiana Maritime Attorney
Even if you don’t fit the description of a seaman under the Jones Act, you may still be entitled to compensation under other maritime laws. The bottom line is that you need to contact an attorney quickly if you were seriously injured during a job that takes place on or near water. Schedule a consultation with the Scott Vicknair law firm today to find out how we can help protect your legal rights as a maritime worker.