When maritime workers are injured on the job, they typically don’t file worker’s compensation like most other workers. There are specific federal and state laws under general maritime law and the Jones Act that were written expressly for seamen, crew workers, longshoremen, deckhands, commercial fishermen,and anyone else whose job is in the maritime industry. When people who work in or around navigable waters are injured on the job, there are several rules in place to protect them, and if you or a loved one works in the maritime industry, it’s important to understand the rights and compensation you may be entitled to.
Rights and Compensation Due to Unseaworthiness
When a vessel is lacking the safety needed in order for seamen to work safely, it’s considered unseaworthy. Keep in mind that a vessel need not be inoperable in order to be unseaworthy. Anything that makes a vessel unsafe, such as missing safety equipment or defective products, may qualify it as unseaworthy. For instance, a vessel with broken machine parts lying in walking areas, a broken ladder step, and/or lack of warning signs can all contribute in making a vessel unseaworthy. If workers are injured on the job because of unseaworthiness, they may be entitled to rights and compensation under general maritime law and the Jones Act. For more detailed resources, see our article Maritime Injuries Due to Unseaworthiness.
Maritime Rights to Maintenance and Cure
When injured on the job, seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure rights, regardless if the injuries happened because of their own negligence or negligence of another party, such as an employer or vessel owner. Maintenance and cure provides a daily living allowance as well as medical care throughout the duration of the time that the maritime worker is injured. A full bill of health signed by a healthcare provider must be presented before maintenance and cure ends. For additional information and resources, see our article Maritime Maintenance and Cure Benefits.
Under the Jones Act and general maritime law, seaman are also entitled to lost wages if injured while working, as long as the injury caused because of the negligence of another party. Loss wages cover not only current earnings that could have have been made if the seaman was still working, but also lost earning capacity and lost future earnings. There are several rules that will determine how much compensation is applied to lost future earnings, such as expected average pay increases and promotions, as well as an estimated work life expectancy. For detailed information on maritime lost wages, see our article Lost Wages Under Maritime Law.
Alaska Fishermen’s Fund
Alaska fishermen who currently hold a commercial license or a limited entry permit may qualify for a fund specifically set up for those injured during maritime work in Alaska. This fund is completely separate from insurance compensation and other forms of maritime compensation. There are strict guidelines in place in order to qualify for the Alaska Fishermen’s Fund, and it’s typically used as a last resort when all other avenues of compensation have been exhausted. To learn the details and requirements in order to qualify, see our Alaska Fishermen’s Fund article.
Keep in mind that if you’re a maritime worker, you have rights if you’ve been injured. If you feel that your rights are not being met or if you need assistance, it’s highly recommended that you consult with an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible. In the meantime, be certain to report any injury, whether minor or severe, to your employer, fill out the appropriate paperwork, and seek immediate medical treatment. This will establish proof of injury while on the job in the event that your rights are violated.