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How maritime law affects compensation for worker injuries at sea

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2019 | Maritime/Jones Act |

Most workers in the United States are covered by workers’ compensation when they are injured at work. This enables them to gain back damages for any expenses associated with their work injury, from medical bills to lost wages. This compensation is generally awarded regardless of the cause of the accident, as long as the worker was engaging in a work-related activity when the injury occurred.

Maritime workers are subject to different laws, however. Maritime law governs how operations are carried out on water, and this affects the rights of river, lake and sea workers. Before 1920, it was not possible for seamen to recover damages if they became injured due to employer or coworker negligence. However, when the Merchant Marine Act, otherwise known as the Jones Act, was passed in 1920, this changed. It allowed seamen to sue their employer for injuries that they suffered while working.

How can I successfully sue my employer if I was injured as a seaman?

It can be possible to sue your employer because they have a duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. This means that if the boat you are working on is unsafe through no fault of your own, and if you were injured due to this lack of safety, you have the right to sue for negligence. To be successful, you should be able to show a clear link between the breach of safety and the cause of your injury.

Do I qualify as a seaman?

A seaman is a broad term used to describe a wide range of professions. From the standpoint of the Merchant Marine Act, a seaman is defined as a person who spends a significant amount of time on a vessel. To have the right to sue your employer for work injuries under this act, you must be able to show that you spend a minimum of 30% of your work time on a vessel.

What damages can I gain?

If you are successful in suing your employer for damages, you will be entitled to damages for medical bills and lost wages, as well as for the pain and suffering caused. Make sure to take swift action if you were injured at work as a seaman.