Maritime Law FAQs

There are various laws that address the ability for maritime employees to seek compensation for injuries or illnesses that they suffer in the course of their employment. These laws are complex, and differ from the workers’ compensation laws that govern onshore employee injury claims. If you are a seaman who was injured in the course of your employment, here are some answers to just a few of the questions that you might be asking.

What should I do first if I suffered a work related injury?

This part might seem obvious, but seek medical attention. This is obviously important for your own well-being, but it also plays a role in any claims you might make regarding your injury. Records of work related accidents and illnesses are going to be reviewed by insurers, and insurers do not like to pay claims. If an insurer sees that you are seeking compensation for an injury and that you did not seek medical attention for several days or longer, then they are going to use that information to attack your claim, and say that the injury you suffered could not have bee that bad, because you did not immediately see a doctor.

Along the same lines, report the injury to your captain or a supervisor. Injury reports are another thing that will be scrutinized, and there are deadlines for how long you have to file.

What sort of claim should I file?

This is a somewhat complicated and fact specific question, since there are several ways to seek compensation from your employer. Here is a brief description of some of the ways you can seek compensation.

  • Maintenance and cure

Maintenance and cure is a form of compensating seamen who are injured in the course of their work. This only provides for maintenance, as in room and board, and medical care related to the injury or illness suffered, and unearned wages for the current voyage. As far as benefits go, this is just the basics- it will not pay for your phone bill or cable. The upside is, there are only very rare circumstances when an individual does not qualify for these benefits. They are not fault based, so if a seaman, who is employed on a vessel, is injured as a result of duties performed as a part of that employment, the he or she can almost certainly collect maintenance and cure.

  • Unseaworthiness claim

An unseaworthiness claim is a suit filed against the owner of the vessel the seaman works on. In order to have grounds to sue based on this claim, there must have been a problem with the vessel, or a part of the vessel’s equipment that made it not suitable for the purpose it was meant for, and that problem must have caused the injury. The owner of the vessel does not need to have been responsible for the unseaworthy aspect of the vessel, or even known that the problem existed in order to be held liable. A successful unseaworthiness claim will allow for damages far beyond what is collected in a maintenance and cure claim.

  • Jones Act claim

The Jones Act allows for injured seamen to sue their employers based on negligence. This is a fault based claim, where the employer must bear some responsibility for the injury or illness that occurred. The standard for a Jones Act negligence claim is slightly less burdensome than a traditional negligence claim, making it a bit easier to prove the employer’s liability. Damages are greater than in maintenance and cure, and are similar to those of a regular negligence claim, and unseaworthiness claims.

  • Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act

The Longshore Act applies to individuals who are maritime workers, but who do not technically qualify as seamen, such as harbor-workers, shipbuilders, shipbreakers and naturally, longshoremen. It is very similar to workers’ compensation for land based employees, although it tends to offer injured employees higher benefits than onshore workers’ compensation programs. It is not a fault based system, so no negligence or wrong doing needs to be proven.

What if I lose my job for filing a claim against my boss?

Many individuals fear that filing a suit against their employer can result in them being fired. Retaliation against employees for exercising their rights, or filing a claim based on a work related injury is illegal. Still, keep good records and copies of everything related to your job and your claim.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

Maritime law is complicated. You should consult an attorney to discuss the facts specific to your case. An experienced attorney will be able to help you develop a strategy for seeking compensation, and to ensure that your rights are being protected throughout the process.

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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