Working aboard a ship—any type of ship— is a dangerous and demanding job. Injuries are not uncommon. However, because seamen are not land-based workers, when it comes to being compensated for a work-related injury or an illness (whether work-related or not), their legal rights are far different from those enjoyed by non-seamen.
Unlike the majority of land-based employees, seamen are not entitled to file a worker’s compensation claim against their employer if they get injured while at sea. Instead, the rights of injured maritime workers are governed by federal law and general maritime law. The type of claim an injured maritime worker can file against his employer depends on his job and where the injury occurred.
For many maritime workers, this means the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly referred to as the “Jones Act.”
The Jones Act is a federal statute that applies to seamen injured on ships, offshore oil rigs, barges, tug boats, tankers, riverboats, shrimp boats, trawlers, fishing boats, ferries, water taxis, and all other vessels on the ocean or intra-coastal rivers and canals. It also applies to commercial divers and other underwater personnel.
A seaman’s right to medical treatment and living allowance after an on-board accident is referred to as “maintenance.”
The concept comes from the employer’s duty to provide room and board while the seaman is serving on a ship. Maintenance includes a recovering seamen’s normal household living expenses like rent or mortgage, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and food. It does not include things that are not considered “households” expenses such as car payments or the internet. It is essentially a daily living allowance that is paid to the seaman while he is recovering.
Cure refers to the medical expenses resulting from the injury (or illness). In most cases, a seaman’s employer is obligated to pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses associated with a seaman’s injury (or illness).
A seaman’s right to cure continues until he has reached “maximum medical improvement.” Whether a seaman has reached “maximum medical improvement” and is no longer entitled to “cure” payments or not, is an issue that is frequently hotly debated in maritime cases.
Recovering under the Jones Act is complicated. This is why, if you believe you have a claim, you should consult with experienced maritime counsel.
If you are a maritime employee who has been injured, contact us. We are experienced, maritime injury attorneys. We service many of the parishes in and around Baton Rouge, and we offer free consultations. Contact us ToDay or call 225-200-0000.
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