Depending on what line of work you’re in, you may face daily risks of accident and injury—and in many cases, there are legal protections in place to ensure you get the compensation and care you need.
This is certainly true for maritime workers—but who actually qualifies as a maritime worker? And what are the legal protections of which these individuals should be aware? Let’s take a closer look at these issues.
Different Types of Maritime Workers
Maritime workers fall into different categories. First, you have seamen. These are basically any workers who spend a large portion of time working on a ship that is “in navigation.” Then there are other individuals who spend a lot of time working in and around water. This distinction is important because each group has different legal protections available to them.
Protections for Seamen
Those who qualify as seamen are not entitled to standard worker’s compensation benefits. If injured on the job, they may instead seek three separate types of compensation, all guaranteed by federal law.
- The injured seaman may sue his or her employer for negligence—a right protected by the Jones Act.
- The injured seaman may also sue the owner of the ship or vessel for its unseaworthiness.
- The injured seaman may also seek “maintenance and cure,” regardless of who was at fault in the injury.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is the federal law that protects the rights of injured seamen. The law stipulates that employers must provide seamen with a reasonably safe work environment and take basic precautions to ensure that the vessel on which the seaman works is in a safe condition.
These stipulations are enforced rigidly; any small lapse can qualify as a Jones Act liability. Indeed, the Jones Act is known for having a small burden of proof: to seek damages, the injured seaman only has to prove that the employer’s negligence played a part in their injury.
Let’s now look at the issue of unseaworthiness. Under the doctrine of maritime law, any vessel whose hull, equipment, and crew are reasonably adequate for safe functionality is deemed seaworthy.
Even a vessel that can sail and stay afloat may still qualify as unseaworthy if it does not provide safe, suitable conditions for the seamen to do their job. Unseaworthiness does not necessarily have anything to do with negligence on the part of the employer.
Defining Maintenance and Cure
The third area we listed above is maintenance and cure. Maintenance and cure is a law designed to require employers to provide care for an injured seaman. This holds true without regard for who was at fault in the injury.
Specifically, the employer must provide:
- Maintenance for the injured seaman—room and board, food, and other basic needs while he or she is recovering.- Cure—compensation for any related medical expenses.
Protections for Other Maritime Workers
Longshoremen, harbor workers, and other maritime employees who do not qualify as a seaman are not protected by the Jones Act, but they have legal safeguards of their own—including the Longshore Act.
If your vocation takes you in or near water each day, and if you are injured while working, certain legal structures are in place to ensure you are properly cared for. In those situations, you may need to hire a maritime injury attorney to fight for your rights.
At McLaurin Law Firm, we have extensive experience navigating the difficulties faced by maritime workers. Contact us today to learn more or to talk through the specifics of your case.