General maritime law is a type of federal common law that governs most accidents that happen at sea. It covers more injury victims than the Jones Act, which is limited to offshore and seamen who suffer injuries on eligible vessels. Maritime law can provide a broader basis for injury claims, including those arising from passenger injuries on ships and maritime workers.
How Maritime Law Affects Shipping Employees
Shipowners and shipping companies have a legal responsibility for the well-being of their employees. They must provide them with transportation, income, medical services, and room and board while they are working on ships or similar vessels. They also must maintain a seaworthy vessel in terms of sufficient staffing, equipment, supplies, and safety features.
If employees suffer an injury or illness while at sea, shipowners must provide maintenance and cure. In other words, employees are eligible for reasonable medical care and living expenses until they can return to work.
Injured employees also are typically eligible for the compensation that they were to receive while at sea, although employment contracts may limit the amount of unearned compensation they can receive.
Employees’ Rights Under Maritime Law
When you suffer injuries or illness while at sea, you have a right to reasonable and necessary medical care by a doctor whom you choose. You may need to see a company-selected doctor for an initial evaluation, but you are entitled to get ongoing medical care from the doctor or facility of your choice.
Furthermore, receiving medical care is a right, regardless of who is at fault for causing the accident. You are eligible for medical care for injuries that worsen a pre-existing medical condition, as well as new injuries. If you receive differing medical opinions on treatment for your injuries, then the law requires that the dispute be resolved by getting the recommended treatment, even if it is recommended by one medical provider and not the other.
Your right to receive medical care and maintenance and cure benefits following an injury is not dependent on signing any waivers, insurance paperwork, or settlement agreements. You are eligible for these benefits after an injury, regardless of whether you sign this paperwork. In many cases, employers will attempt to limit or avoid their liability by requiring your signature before you receive the necessary benefits.
Do not Give a Recorded Statement
Likewise, you are not required to give a recorded statement about the accident that led to your injuries. While reporting your injury is necessary, you may not be in a condition to give an appropriate recorded statement. Plus, trying to adjust or dispute that statement can be problematic later on.
Maritime Law and Ship Passengers
Shipowners also have a duty to protect their passengers and keep them reasonably safe from the risk of harm. General maritime law allows injured passengers, not just seamen or employees, to bring negligence claims against the shipowners or companies for their losses stemming from their injuries. These negligence claims are similar to those that injury victims could bring against property owners for injuries suffered on land.
How an Attorney Can Help You File Your Claim
Employers and insurance companies often will attempt to limit their liability and financial exposure by minimizing your injuries and situation. They may take advantage of your injuries and try to talk you into a quick settlement at a figure that is less than your potential claim is worth.
Following a severe injury, you may be confused or under the effects of medication, and therefore, unable to make legal decisions. Furthermore, you likely will need legal advice before making decisions about something as major as a settlement of your injury claim.
You can level the playing field by enlisting the help of legal counsel. We can investigate the circumstances that led to your injuries, calculate the costs of necessary medical care, and build a strong demand for compensation to your employer. By putting pressure on your employer to be fair and reasonable, you may be more likely to receive the settlement that meets your needs.
Contact an Attorney for Help with Your General Maritime Lawsuit Today
General maritime law is the cornerstone that governs injury actions related to maritime and other offshore accidents. For more information about your potential maritime law claim, contact Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers at (337) 777-7777.