Maritime Personal Injuries
|INJURIES AT SEA
MARITIME / OFFSHORE CLAIMS
The Jones Act is a law enacted by Congress that provides protection to persons who are members of the crew of a vessel. This law also applies to inland river workers as well as offshore workers who work on jackups, lay barges, drill ships or other floating, movable structures, tugs / towboats, crew boats, tankers, cargo ships, fishing vessels, research vessels, diving vessels, ferry boats, and cruise and recreational ships. Our firm has handled cases involving all of these types of vessels.
WHAT IS THE JONES ACT?
The Jones Act is an Act of Congress, which governs the liability of vessel operators and marine employers for the work-related injury or death of an employee. In order for a worker to recover under the Jones Act, a worker must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel's owner, operators, officers, and/or fellow employees or by reason of any defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle, or equipment. The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against his employer for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a vessel.
WHO IS A SEAMAN?
One of the central questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman, since only a seaman can recover under the Jones Act. A seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel or someone who assigned to a vessel or a fleet of vessels. For example, those who work on tankers, freighters, jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, towboats / tugs, supply boats, crew boats, barges, lay barges, and fishing vessels and are members of the crew are considered seamen. In some cases, longshoremen and shipyard workers may also qualify for "seamen" status under the Jones Act, even though they are not members of the crew and are receiving Longshore & Harborworker's Compensation Act benefits. Often there is a dispute as to seamen status and whether the seaman was working for a vessel when he was injured. It is very important to allow the maritime attorney to study the facts surrounding the accident and the vessel to help make the determination of seaman status.
MAINTENANCE AND CURE
If a seaman becomes injured on a vessel, he is entitled to maintenance and cure. "Maintenance" is a small daily compensation designed to provide the food and shelter that would have been provided to the seaman while aboard the vessel. Today, maintenance rates average about $20.00 per day. "Cure" is the obligation of the seaman's employer to provide medical treatment, prescriptions, nursing services, hospitalization, rehab & therapy, until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement means that the seaman's condition will not improve any further or he is permanently disabled. When a seaman reaches maximum medical improvement, the vessel owner's obligation to pay maintenance and cure ceases, regardless of whether the seaman can return to work or not. The seaman has a right to his choice of physicians and does not have to accept his employer's choice of physician. If an employer refuses to pay maintenance and cure, the employer can be held liable for damages and attorneys' fees.
The vessel owner owes the seaman a strict and absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. A seaworthy vessel is one that is reasonably fit for its intended use, it should be a safe place to work and live. A seaworthy vessel should be equipped with appropriate safety gear and equipment, safe recreation facilities, and a competent crew. In addition to holding a seaman's employer responsible for the negligent acts of its employees and officers, a seaman can recover if he can prove that the vessel was unseaworthy and that he was injured as a result. A vessel that is unseaworthy does not mean that it is in danger of sinking. A vessel is unseaworthy if a piece of equipment breaks or is inoperable, the vessel's crew is too small or incomplete, not adequately trained, or a condition such as oil, grease or rust exists where it is not intended to exist and the unseaworthy condition is a direct cause of injury to the seaman. In other words, negligence focuses on acts of the seaman's employer, and unseaworthiness focuses on the condition or inadequacy of the vessel itself.
TALK TO A MARITIME LAWYER
If you have a question regarding your Jones Act or other Maritime personal injury claim or the wrongful death of a friend or family member, call and talk to an experienced maritime injury attorney at Wong Bauman Law Firm PLLC. Our firm has litigated maritime cases in Washington and Oregon.
Seattle/King County 206-788-3000
Everett/Snohomish County 425-483-8010
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