A maritime injury is a term for when a worker on a ship gets hurt while the vessel is on U.S. navigable water. Maritime workers do not qualify for traditional workers’ compensation coverage, but they do have legal remedies for their employment-related injuries. The worker can pursue compensation under maritime law or the Jones Act.
The Jones Act
To help you understand what a maritime injury is, we will look at the statute itself. According to the Jones Act, specifically 46 U.S. Code § 30101, the United States’ admiralty and maritime jurisdiction applies to injuries that happen because of a “vessel on navigable waters,” even if the harm occurs on land. The injury could be fatal or non-fatal.
Some people who work on or adjacent to navigable water qualify for coverage under the Jones Act, but others do not. Employees in traditional maritime occupations like harbor construction, shipbuilding, ship repair, and longshore workers have their own federal law that provides legal remedies if they get hurt on the job. Those employees must pursue their injury claims under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LWHCA), according to the Department of Labor.
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The Confusion About Seaman
The Jones Act applies to injured seamen, but the statute does not define the term “seaman.” The Jones Act and the LWHCA are mutually exclusive, meaning that if you qualify for coverage under one Act, you are not eligible for the benefits of the other one.
The LWHCA excludes seamen, which it defines as the masters or crew members of a vessel. Reading the two statutes together, many courts suggest that, through the exclusion language of the LHWCA, the Jones Act applies to the masters and crew members of vessels on navigable water.
The Department of Labor also says that seaman status does not require that one’s tasks involve navigation or other transportation functions. It is enough that a worker’s job helps the vessel function and fulfill its mission.
Legal Remedies for Maritime Injuries
When a person with seaman status gets injured, he has several options for pursuing a claim for his losses. He can pursue remedies under general maritime law or the Jones Act. He could file a lawsuit in civil court, choosing either state or federal court.
General Maritime Law
When a worker gets hurt at sea, the employer must pay maintenance and cure benefits. “Maintenance” is the daily living expenses, like room and board, for the seaman until he can return to his post or the journey ends. “Cure” is a term for medical bills. The boss must pay the medical expenses for the injuries until the worker is fit for duty or will not get better with additional medical intervention.
If the injured person can show that unseaworthiness of the vessel or its crew caused the injury, he can go after the ship’s owner for financial compensation. A boat’s owner has a duty to provide a vessel that is seaworthy. This obligation cannot get delegated to anyone for the owner to escape liability.
Unsafe working conditions, lack of safety equipment or training, staffing shortages, slipping and tripping hazards, and excessive work hours are a few examples of things that can amount to unseaworthiness. Some problems with crew members can cause the conditions to be unseaworthy.
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Compensation Under the Jones Act
The Jones Act allows an injured seaman to take his employer to court seeking monetary damages for his losses. The plaintiff can file the lawsuit in the state or federal civil courts and get a jury trial. If the injured worker institutes the litigation in a state court, the employer does not have an option to remove it to federal court.
The Jones Act lets successful plaintiffs recover:
- Lost wages for the unpaid time the worker missed because of his injuries.
- Anticipated future wage loss caused by the injury.
- The reasonable cost of medical treatment for his injuries.
- General pain and suffering damages for the physical discomfort and emotional distress the plaintiff endured because of the accident and his injuries.
There is no pre-set amount for these damages. The amount of compensation the plaintiff can pursue will depend on the unique facts of the case. Every case is different. Two seamen who get injured in the same accident could have vastly different money damages. Various factors can impact the amount of damages a seaman may get for a maritime injury such as:
- The type and severity of the injuries.
- The medical treatments the seaman had to undergo.
- Any side effects or complications the plaintiff experienced.
- How well the injured person healed.
- Residual impairments and limitations from the injuries after completing medical treatment.
You do not have to sort through all these legal issues or try to calculate the amount of your money damages on your own. Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers handles maritime injury claims. You can call us today at (337) 777-7777 to get started. The initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation.