Options for Recovery When Injuries Happen at Sea
Working as a seaman, deckhand, fisherman, tugboat sailor, processor, or ferry worker is hazardous. Private and commercial vessels are rife with possible hazards, and injuries can happen at any time. In fact, per capita, jobs on the water are the most dangerous ones in the world, resulting in more fatalities than other industries. Though many lose their lives in maritime-related accidents each year, countless others are injured, some of them enduring permanent pain, disfigurement or being unable to return to the job they love.
If you have been injured while working on a crab boat, trawler, tugboat, fishing vessel, processor, seiner, oil response vessel, construction barge, oil platform, gillnetters, dredge, supply ship or other type of vessel, you have legal rights. Your rights and legal options will depend upon the severity of your injuries and the cause behind them.How Do Injuries Occur?
Injuries at sea happen for many different reasons. Some of these include:
- Long shifts without adequate rest periods
- Negligent behavior of fellow crew members
- Rough seas, high winds and other inclement weather conditions
- Being struck by or becoming entangled in winch or crane cables
- Repetitive motion trauma, particularly to wrists and shoulders
- Lack of adequate training
- Heavy machinery
- Slippery and icy decks
- Becoming entangled in fishing nets and other gear
- Sliding materials on deck
- Defective or faulty equipment
- Handling heavy cargo
There are three main legal theories that provide compensation, payment of medical expenses and other monetary recovery for men and women injured while working at sea. They are:
The Jones Act - a federal law providing for payment of monetary damages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, vocational rehabilitation costs, educational expenses, lost future wages (earning capacity) and loss of enjoyment of life (could possibly include claims for loss of companionship and consortium filed by a spouse). To recover under the Jones Act, a crewman must establish he was injured by his employer's negligence.
Maintenance and cure - most injured seaman who are injured or becomes seriously ill while at work on a seafaring vessel have the right to a daily living allowance (until such time as they reach a point of maximum medical improvement), select their own physician for treatment and medical assessment, and have their reasonable and necessary medical expenses paid until maximum medical cure has been reached.
The Unseaworthiness doctrine - the remedies provided under this doctrine are very similar to those offered by the Jones Act. A vessel owner owes each crewman a duty to provide a seaworthy vessel and a safe place to work. Unseaworthiness may be caused by many different conditions including faulty or unsafe equipment, improper manning of a vessel, unsafe procedures, a lack of training and more.
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury while at work on the water, you should contact an experienced maritime injury attorney in your area. Doing so will give you more information about your legal options and is an invaluable step toward protecting your rights.