Fighting For the Rights of Injured Maritime Workers
Maritime Injury Law is a complex specialized area of the law that protects maritime workers who have been injured. Experienced Maritime and Jones Act attorneys from the law office of Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P. will fight for the rights of injured seamen. Under those circumstances where a maritime workers are improperly denied maintenance and cure benefits by the employer, our maritime injury law attorneys will work so that deserving seamen may also receive an additional award for damages. In the tragic cases where a seaman is killed our Maritime Injury Law attorneys will seek damages under the Death on the High Seas Act.
Land based maritime workers that do not fit the definition of a "seaman" are not eligible for the protections offered by the Jones Act. However, they may be eligible for compensation under The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act.
What is Maintenance and Cure?
As an injured offshore seaman, you have maritime injury law rights regardless of who was at fault. Maintenance and Cure Benefits as it pertains to a seaman’s rights is a complex issue that is frequently litigated. Maintenance and Cure is a system of caring for seamen when they become injured or ill while in the services of their vessels. It is the duty of the ship owner to provide this basic benefit at no charge to the seaman. However, ship owners frequently and improperly contest an injured worker’s right to Maintenance and Cure.
Maintenance is a daily allowance until the seaman has reached maximum medical cure or is fit to return to duty. Unfortunately, the monetary maintenance is typically very low and in many cases is not enough to meet minimal basic living expenses. However a recent Supreme Court's ruling has resulted in an increase to the maintenance rate.
“Cure” is related to the initial medical bills from the injury, as well as medical expenses related to your recovery from the injury. Medical bills can include all treatments deemed necessary for the injured person to reached maximum "medical cure" such as: doctors and hospital bills, diagnostic procedures like x-rays, MRI or CT scans, EMGs, EEGs, medical prescriptions, emergency transportation, nursing services, as well as recovery services such as physical therapy, and in home health care and even pain clinic treatments. Some unscrupulous employers and insurance companies may try to steer injured seamen to one of their recommended doctors in an attempt to save money by not having to pay out large amounts of “cure” monies. Medical treatments can be expensive, but you should want the best medical treatment possible to assure the best long-term outcome for yourself. Therefore, find your own health care providers. If your physicians advocate a costly treatment, be aware your maritime employer may request that you go to another physician they recommend to get a second opinion. Do not be intimidated if the second opinion countermands your doctor’s opinion. Most insurance companies should resolve the issue in favor of authorizing further treatment as your primary doctor requests. However, if there are problems you consult a maritime injury law specialist to make sure your rights are not being trampled.
Many offshore maritime workers spend weeks away on their job. If an injury or illness, during the seaman’s employment contract, prohibits the worker from being able to perform his/her duties during some portion of the voyage, the maritime worker is entitled to the contractual wages until he/she is fit to return to duty. Seamen do not have to prove negligence or fault on the part of the ship owner in order to receive their unearned contractual wages.
The Jones Act: Protection for Maritime Workers
The Jones Act reflects the reality of maritime work, namely that a maritime vessel can be a very dangerous place to work. However, a maritime employer may be held liable if a failure to provide a safe working environment equipped with appropriate equipment and safety gear and competent crew members contributes to a seaman's injury. Maritime employers cannot use the excuse that the worker was aware of the high risks involved in his dangerous work. Jones Act litigation seeks to recover damages for both past and future economic and non-economic losses of the injured party. It is a powerful law that allows injured seamen to seek compensation for injuries resulting from the negligence of not only their employers, but also co-workers during their employment on a vessel. Vessel owners have a duty to provide a seaworthy vessel that is reasonably fit for its intended use. If the vessel is unseaworthy at the start of the seaman's employment or if it becomes unseaworthy during the time of employment and a serious injury occurs as a result, seamen can make a claim against the vessel's owner on the basis that the vessel was not seaworthy.
At Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P., we recommend that if you are an injured seaman or maritime worker, do not settle a claim with your employer before consulting with a knowledgeable maritime injury law attorney. We do not want you to accept a substantially lower settlement amount than you could have obtained with the help of one of our Maritime Act / Jones Act lawyers. Many employers attempt to take advantage of the quandary of an injured seaman, and the often-desperate financial situations that result.
The maritime injury attorneys at our firm understand the complexities of maritime law. Call 800-773-6770 or contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.