Working on a ship, or vessel, at sea can be very dangerous and difficult work. If you have been hurt in an accident while at sea, the experienced maritime accident attorneys at Ginarte Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., can help you get the justice you deserve. With over 150 years of combined experience, our personal injury lawyers have protected the rights of countless accident victims in New York and New Jersey.
Call 1-888-GINARTE (1-888-446-2783) now, fill out our online contact form, or visit one of our eight nearby offices in Manhattan, Queens, Newark, Union City, Elizabeth, Clifton, Perth Amboy or New Brunswick today. Remember, there is no charge to talk with our accident lawyers, and we collect fees only if you win your case!
Compensation for a Seaman Injured While Working on a Vessel
A seaman injured while working on a vessel is not covered under traditional state workers’ compensation systems. When a worker is injured aboard a vessel, he or she must turn to other legal avenues for benefits and compensation. An injured maritime worker may be entitled to “maintenance and cure” benefits under maritime law. This provides injured seamen with a mandatory recovery right against the vessel under threat of severe financial penalties against the vessel.
Maintenance and cure benefits are similar to wage replacement and medical coverage under a traditional workers’ compensation system. “Maintenance” is a daily allowance that is intended to cover the food and shelter that a maritime worker would have received if he or she were aboard a vessel at sea. The daily allowance is typically in the range of $25 to $40 per day. “Cure” refers to the employer’s obligation to provide medical services and rehabilitation to the injured employee until he or she is able to return to work.
An employer’s responsibility to pay benefits under the maintenance and cure doctrine is a very strong one. The Supreme Court has held that an employer’s duty to pay maintenance and cure benefits to an injured seaman is intended to be a “broad and all-encompassing” duty. There are very few defenses available to an employer that allow it to escape the payment of these benefits. The law is very clear that if any doubt or ambiguity exists with regard to an employer’s duty to pay maintenance and cure benefits to a worker, those doubts must be resolved in favor of the injured seaman. An employer that fails to pay maintenance and cure benefits to a worker faces severe financial penalties, including additional compensation to the injured worker if he or she has to resort to the filing of a lawsuit in order to pursue a rightful claim to benefits.
In addition to wage replacement and medical coverage, which are mandatory under maritime law, there are also additional rights for a seaman to sue for pain, suffering, disability, and impairment under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal statute that specifically covers injured maritime workers. The Jones Act allows an injured maritime worker to seek this additional compensation, when he or she is injured as a result of the negligent acts of a co-worker or employer. It is important to note, however, that unlike workers’ compensation law, or maintenance and cure rights, the Jones Act does not create a no-fault system for compensation. In other words, an injured maritime worker is required to prove that his or her employer and/or another crew-person breached a duty of care in order to recover under the Jones Act.
Under the Jones Act, an injured maritime worker may bring an action in either federal or state court against the negligent party. An action for damages under the Jones Act must be brought in the district in which the defendant employer resides, or where the employer’s principal place of business is located. The Jones Act also specifically gives the plaintiff the right to a jury trial when a claim is brought under the act.
What Other Benefits Are Available Under the Jones Act?
An injured maritime worker may be entitled to benefits above and beyond maintenance and cure benefits offered under the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, an injured maritime worker may also be entitled to compensation that is similar to compensation awarded in a traditional personal injury lawsuit. For example, these important pain and suffering benefits could be available. If a maritime worker is fatally injured aboard a vessel, the survivors may be entitled to benefits for their loss as well.
A maritime worker may also have a valid claim against the owner of a vessel, if the vessel is unseaworthy. A vessel does not need to be on the verge of sinking in order for it to be considered unseaworthy. The owner of a vessel has as a duty to provide a vessel that is loaded with all the required safety equipment, is fit for use, has an adequate number of crew-members, and is generally a safe working and living environment. If an owner breaches this duty, a maritime worker may be entitled to compensation for any injuries that result. The Jones Act claims for negligence and the claims for unseaworthiness are usually joined together in the same lawsuit. In that lawsuit, the seamen may receive pain and suffering, disability and impairment benefits.
Under certain circumstances, a maritime worker may be entitled to compensation from a third party. When someone other than an employer or another crew-person causes a worker’s injuries, he or she may be entitled to sue that third party. For example, if the owner of another vessel is the negligent party, the worker may be entitled to bring a third-party claim.
Because maritime law is such a complicated and complex area of the law, it is imperative that an injured worker obtain the services of a qualified and experienced accident at sea attorney to ensure that he or she receives all of the benefits and compensation available.
If you, or a loved one, have been injured in a maritime accident, the Ginarte law firm is here for you. Call 1-888-GINARTE (1-888-446-2783) now, fill out our online contact form, or visit one of our eight nearby offices in Manhattan, Queens, Newark, Union City, Elizabeth, Clifton, Perth Amboy or New Brunswick today. Remember, there is no charge to talk with our maritime accident lawyers, and we collect fees only if you win your case!