General Maritime Law Claims Overview

There are number of laws enacted to protect maritime workers who are injured in the course of their work related duties. The Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act are two of the more frequently discussed laws, but under general maritime law, injured maritime workers have the right to collect maintenance and cure, and file claims for unseaworthiness.

Many of the potential claims can be filed together, and it will likely take an experienced maritime law attorney to determine the best strategy given an individual’s specific set of circumstances. Here is a summary of the claims that exist under general maritime law.

Maintenance and Cure

Maintenance and cure are remedies available to injured maritime workers that somewhat resemble workers’ compensation for onshore employees. Like workers’ compensation, maintenance and cure benefits are not dependent on proving the employer’s negligence. With few exceptions, employers are obligated to provide these benefits to maritime employees injured in the course of their employment related duties on board a vessel.

The benefits under maintenance and cure are limited. Maintenance refers to the cost of rent or mortgage payments, and food. Many companies set the amount at a fixed rate, and union agreements sometimes set the amount available, although in some cases individuals have been able to collect a rate above those agreements. These payments do not include anything above that truly necessary, thus car and phone payments are not included in deciding this amount. Cure refers to medical treatment for the injury that or illness that the individual suffered while working aboard the vessel. Unpaid wages for the course of the voyage should be included in maintenance and cure as well.

Maintenance and cure payments continue until the injured individual reached the point of maximum medical improvement. This point is reached when the individual is not expected to make any further progress in his or her recovery.

Unseaworthiness Claims

General maritime law demands that seaworthy vessels are provided to maritime workers. This is an absolute duty placed on the owner of the vessel. As such, this means that any part of the vessel and its appurtenances (such as attached machinery and equipment) that is not properly functioning makes the vessel unseaworthy, and the owner is liable for any injuries that result from the unseaworthiness. It does not mean that the vessel has to be incapable of functioning or traveling on navigable waters. The fact that the duty is absolute means that the owner need not have caused the improperly functioning aspect of the vessel, nor do they have to have known of it, all that is necessary is that something is not working properly and that that thing caused an injury to someone working on that vessel. In some instances an improperly trained, unstaffed, or overworked crew might be grounds for an unseaworthy claim as well.

If a seaman makes a successful claim based on unseaworthiness, then he or she has the opportunity to recover damages including medical expenses for the injury, disability compensation, loss of income, and pain and suffering, among other damages. This means the possible damages under an unseaworthiness claim can far exceed the available damages for maintenance and cure.

Deciding the best course of action

There are many other laws that pertain to maritime workers, and an attorney would have to know information about the employee involved and the cause of the injury or illness in order to determine which laws are relevant for that employee. Given the complexities of maritime law, and the various possible sources for remedies, an injured seaman should speak with an experienced attorney in order to determine how to proceed with his or her claim. It is not uncommon for an individual to have multiple claims. While filing claims under multiple theories is often a good course of action, it will not mean duplicating the recovery for the same things (you cannot collect maintenance and cure to cover medical bills, and have an unseaworthiness claim that pays for the same medical bills).

Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation

At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you in order to find the best strategy for seeking compensation for your maritime employment related injuries. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with an experienced attorney.

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