A Ukranian seaman continues to battle an injury he sustained while working on a commercial cargo ship. The ship was docked at the Port of Houston when the accident occurred. Now, the seaman is seeking damages under the Jones Act after alleging his employers are denying maintenance and cure benefits.
Seaman Injured At Port of Houston
In November 2016, the cargo ship M/V BBC AMISIA was docked at the Port of Houston to unload cargo. The Ukrainian seaman, Sergiy Gumenyuk, was on the deck during unloading before reporting to the bridge to enter log data. While on the bridge, Gumenyuk was notified that a hatch did not close properly and could not seal. Gumenyuk was instructed by the Captain to check on the situation.
As Gumenyuk approached, he instructed two seamen near the gantry crane to stand down until he completed an assessment. As he assessed the hatch, the crane began to move suddenly. Gumenyuk fall toward the ships hold, so he reached out to grab hold of the base of the crane. Falling into the hold would be certain death.
One of the seamen heard Gumenyuk yell and moved to stop the crane. The other seaman went to Gumenyuk’s aid. It was immediately noted that Gumenyuk’s arm had been crushed. He was transported to Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston. His arm was “degloved.” A deglove injury happens when the skin peels away from the underlying tissue.
In total, Gumenyuk sustained the following injuries and necessary care:
- Broken bones
- Tissue damage
- Loss of extension and use of the hand and arm
- Surgical repair of the arm
- Reconnective tissue work
- Physical therapy
Though the injury occurred in 2016, it is still unclear if Gumenyuk will be able to return to his career as an officer aboard a commercial vehicle. It is expected that he will at least have some limited mobility and limitations on his use of his arm.
Lawsuit Alleges Jones Act Negligence
The Jones Act is a set of laws that protect maritime workers. Because maritime workers do not qualify for traditional workers’ compensation benefits, the law recognizes that additional provisions must be made to protect workers who suffer a maritime injury. This is where the Jones Act steps in. The Jones Act provides injured seamen with benefits that will cover lost earnings, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
Therefore, under the Jones Act, qualifying seamen with an injury can receive compensation for:
- Lost Earnings – This includes current lost wages as well as a loss of earning capacity if the seaman has a permanent disability.
- Medical Expenses – Includes exams, tests and x-rays, surgery, medications, physical therapy, specialized equipment, travel expenses, mental health treatment, etc.
- Pain and Suffering – Seamen who suffer extreme and debilitating injuries may physical and financial pain. Under the Jones Act, seamen can claim compensation for both physical and mental pain and suffering.
Jones Act Negligence Claims
In the case of Gumenyuk, the lawsuit alleges that the defendants have not upheld his rights per the Jones Act. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were negligent by failing to:
- Provide a safe work environment
- Maintain the hatch covers in proper working order
- Ensure that nothing blocked hatch covers
- Provide visual warnings in the area of the crane bulkhead
- Ensure that line of sight was unobstructed
- Provide adequate lighting and crew to perform maintenance
- Train the ship crew on proper securing and lock-out procedures on the crane
It is also alleged that Gumenyuk had already worked 17 hours that day prior to the injury. The lawsuit also alleges that the Captain ordering him to assess the hatch was negligently putting him in danger and at risk of injury.
The lawsuit also alleges that the ship was unseaworthy because the hatch was not properly closed as intended. Furthermore, the crane did not stop operating or the lock-out mechanism was defective.
Lawsuit Alleges Denial of Maintenance and Cure Benefits
In October 2019, a lawsuit was filed against Marlow Navigation Company, Ltd. and HS Schiffahrts GMBH & Co. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff has not received all proper maintenance and cure benefits that he is entitled to under the Jones Act. According to the lawsuit, Gumenyuk:
- Has required medical attention due to the incident and severe injuries
- Continues to receive medical care as a result of the injuries
- Has not reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
The defendants have allegedly not provided full, proper, and timely maintenance and cure benefits. The lawsuit states that the defendants have “…denied the providing of all full, proper and timely Maintenance payments and medical treatment (“cure”) and related care and expenses, and/or have denied or delayed the timely payment of same, and/or have paid and/or will pay or provide such Maintenance and Cure benefits in an insufficient amount.”
The lawsuits states that Gumenyuk has suffered further injuries and damages as a result of this alleged negligence by the defendants.
What Happens After a Jones Act Violation?
If a maritime worker is denied maintenance and cure benefits or other protections under the Jones Act, then he or she has the right to seek legal counsel. In such cases, the worker may be eligible for compensation outside of the standard maintenance and cure benefit amount.
Any maritime worker who has questions about their benefits or legal rights after a maritime injury can certainly benefit from contacting a Jones Act lawyer. At Maritime Injury Guide, we can help make sure that your legal rights are protected as you recover from a maritime injury. You don’t have to settle for less benefits or coverage than what the law provides.