Injuries or deaths that occur on or near navigable waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River, are usually governed by “admiralty” or “maritime” laws.
One of those laws, the “Jones Act”, provides special rights to a seaman or member of the crew of a vessel to sue his employer for damages as the result of injuries caused by the employer’s negligence. An injured seaman is also entitled to make a claim under the general maritime law against the owner or operator of the vessel for any defect or unsafe condition of the vessel or its equipment – known as an “unseaworthy” condition – that causes his injury.
Regardless of fault, when a seaman is unable to work due to an on the job injury or illness, he is entitled to receive “maintenance” from his employer. “Maintenance” provides a seaman a daily allowance for meals, room and board. A seaman who is injured or becomes ill on the job is also entitled to recover “cure” – medical care – from his employer. There are penalties (punitive damages) for the willful and wanton disregard of the maintenance and cure obligations to seamen.
The evaluation and determination of seaman status is often very complicated and should be entrusted to an attorney who has a great deal of experience and knowledge in dealing with admiralty and maritime laws.
Generally, a seaman is an employee: (1) whose duties contribute to the function of the vessel or accomplishment of its mission; and (2) who has a connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature.
Find out if your claim may be covered under the Jones Act and the general maritime law by calling 504-828-1224 or contacting us online.
Maritime law has been a regular part of our practice for more than 30 years, so we know the unique laws and procedures that govern maritime cases.