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Claims for Injured Seaman

Semi-Submersible With Vessel Alongside.

The Jones Act is a federal law that provides special protection to the injured seamen. A “seaman” is any worker who is assigned to a vessel (or to a fleet of vessels under the “flotilla doctrine”) and who contributes to the mission of the vessel. The seaman, often captains, engineers, mates and deckhands on traditional vessels, and additionally drillers, derrickmen, floor hands, roustabouts, motormen, and all support personnel (cooks, gallery hands, maintenance workers, etc.) on drilling vessels (jack-ups, semi-submersibles, drill barges, lift boats, etc.) are entitled to recover from their employer who has a non-delegable duty to provide the seaman with a safe place to work and who is directly, and affirmatively, responsible to pay the injured seaman maintenance and care. This means that when the seaman is injured, the employer is required to sustain the injured seaman with the cost of daily living while the injured seaman is unable to work and to pay for all related and necessary medical expenses. The seaman is further entitled to recover the compensatory damages for the negligence of the employer. This is called a Jones Act negligence claim. The negligence is often the employer’s failure to use or maintain safe equipment.

In addition to the Jones Act remedies recoverable from the seaman’s employer, an injured seaman may have a claim for unseaworthiness against the owner or operator of a vessel who under maritime law owes all of the seaman aboard their vessel an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. This means the vessel (broadly defined) must be in ship-shape: clean, fit, sound, safe and suitable for its use and purpose. Simply put, the vessel and everything on the vessel should be kept in good, safe, and proper working order. It also means that the captain and all crewmembers are safe and fully trained to accomplish their mission without injury or death.

The law recognizes the perils of the sea (i.e., the hostile work environment), and through the application of the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law action for unseaworthiness, seeks to protect seaman by forcing employers of seaman and operators of vessels to conduct safe voyages and safe missions. In practice, this means that maritime and oil & gas operators should prevent injuries by training the crew to regularly inspect for and to replace unsafe winches, cables, ropes, slings, cranes, ladders, gangplanks, non-skid areas, etc.

Mr. Dozier will discuss your employment, work duties and assignments with you to determine if you are eligible for “seaman status” under the Jones Act. If you are, he will work to recover maintenance and cure benefits. This means you will receive a daily payment to cover your expenses and receive medical treatment at the vessel owner’s expense.

If you are severely injured while working in the Gulf of Mexico and/or on the waterways of Louisiana aboard vessels of every kind, Mr. Dozier can help you. Contact us now for a free case evaluation.

Question: What is an injured seaman entitled to recover?

Answer: Seaman who sustain an injury or who become ill are entitled to recover certain types of compensation based on the nature of the claim made. First, based on the general maritime law, injured seaman are entitled to a special remedy called “maintenance and cure, and unearned wages”. The “maintenance” remedy means the employer must continue to provide room and board (usually a fixed daily sum to substitute for the employer’s cost of providing bed and board on vessel although the injured seaman is no longer aboard the vessel). The “cure” remedy means the employer must provide all necessary medical treatment for the injury or illness. This will likely include the charges for prescription medication, medical appliances or devices, and the cost of transportation necessary to receive medical evaluations and treatment. The remedy of “unearned wages” means that the seaman should be paid normal wages, fringe benefits and paid time off that he was scheduled to receive through the end of the pay period, voyage or contract. Second, where the injury or illness was caused by the fault of his employer or the unseaworthiness of the vessel or its appurtenances, the seaman can recover his full measure of lost income, past and future, loss of earning capacity, lost fringe benefits, past and future, physical pain and suffering, mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and disability and/or disfigurement damages, plus medical expenses, past and future. These claims based on fault are supported by the Jones Act, a federal statute passed by Congress (46 U.S.C. § 30104), and the general maritime law claim for unseaworthiness.

The Jones Act imposes an affirmative duty on the seaman’s employer to provide a reasonably safe place to work. This means that the seaman’s employer is legally responsible for all forms of negligence. Frequently seaman’s employers are found by a jury to be negligent for:

  • Failure to hire competent applicants;
  • Failure to proper train;
  • Failure to discharge poor employers (crewmembers);
  • Failure to adopt safe practices and policies;
  • Failure to follow acceptable practices/policies;
  • Failure to inspect equipment;
  • Failure to repair/replace faulty equipment;
  • Failure to stop unsafe work;
  • Failure to adopt/follow industry standards;
  • Failure to adopt/follow applicable laws and regulations;
  • Failure to use proper tools for work;
  • Failure to use proper techniques for work; and
  • Failure to set and follow appropriate (safe) timeliness for assignments and rest.

The general maritime law claim for unseaworthiness imposes an affirmative duty upon the owner and/or operator of the vessel to maintain a seaworthy vessel. This means that the owner/operator is legally responsible for all forms of unseaworthiness, generally defined as a vessel or its equipment or crew not being fit for its intended use. Frequently, the vessel owner is found responsible for the seaman’s injuries due to unseaworthiness, such as:

  • Inadequate crew (short crew);
  • Incompetent crew (uneducated/untrained);
  • Violent crew (assaults);
  • Faulty equipment;
  • Faulty access (poor gangplanks or ramps);
  • Obstructions/clutter on decks;
  • Dirty/slippery surfaces; and
  • Steps/ladders in violation of established standards

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My life was forever changed when I was hurt on a drill ship in the Gulf. The injury was severe and required amputation. I remember how thorough Mr. Dozier’s interviews were. He wanted to know about every piece of...

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