The U.S. Congress has not adopted a workers’ compensation statute applicable to seamen. This contrasts with federal workers’ compensation statutes created for federal workers (FECA) and longshore and harbor workers (LHWCA).
The differences between the remedies available under the federal statutes and those available to injured seamen are many and substantial. This blog briefly summarizes the remedies available to seamen who become sick or injured during their employment aboard vessels engaged in navigation on navigable waters.
Injured seamen have the potential for remedies under three different systems. The first is maintenance and cure. In terms of available remedies, this system most closely resembles state and federal workers’ compensation systems. Maintenance is lost wages and cure is medical care. The benefits are supposed to be provided without regard to fault and last until the injured seaman has reached maximum medical cure or maximum medical improvement. Maintenance and cure benefits are paid by the employer.
The second system provides for compensation against the vessel owner under general maritime law. This is a negligence-based system. Vessel owners owe seamen a duty of providing a seaworthy vessel. To be compensated under this system, seamen must prove that an unseaworthy condition played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the injury, and that the injury was either a direct result or a reasonable probable consequence of the unseaworthiness.
Seamen able to satisfy this burden can be compensated for past and future pain & suffering, disability, disfigurement, future medical expenses, and loss of future earning capacity.
The third system available to injured seamen is for compensation against the employer under the Jones Act (see, also, FELA, a companion system to the Jones Act). Like the doctrine of unseaworthiness, the Jones Act is a negligence-based system. However, although compensation is the same as that available for unseaworthiness, the burden of proof for establishing causation is much lower.
Wrongful death. Rights and remedies for maritime deaths are complicated by overlapping of partial-coverage statutes.
Volumes have been written about accidents involving seamen, so this blog should not be considered comprehensive with regard to any of the matters discussed. It is merely a very basic introduction to some of the more common topics in this area of the law.
To receive detailed information, it is highly recommended to consult with a lawyer experienced in this are of the law.
Our law firm handles its maritime cases on a contingent basis, which means that our clients pay no fee until we win their cases.
Please contact our office today for a free, confidential consultation.
Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.