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.