The Jones Act, Unseaworthiness, and Maintenance and Cure: Three Options for Injured Seamen
Individuals who are injured while working on a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico or elsewhere offshore have three primary options when it comes to seeking compensation for their injuries. These are: (i) filing a lawsuit under the Jones Act, (ii) filing a lawsuit based on the vessel’s unseaworthiness and (iii) filing a claim for maintenance and cure.
Filing a Lawsuit Under the Jones Act
The Jones Act is a federal statute that allows offshore workers to file lawsuits against their employers when they suffer injuries on the job. The Jones Act also allows family members to seek financial compensation when their loved ones die while working offshore. The Jones Act covers “seamen” and you can find out if you or your loved one qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act here.
In order to recover compensation under the Jones Act, you must be able to prove that your employer was negligent and that your employer’s negligence contributed to your injuries. However, the Jones Act covers even “slight” negligence, which means that employees can generally recover compensation regardless of how small of a role their employer played in the accident.
Filing a Lawsuit Based on the Vessel’s Unseaworthiness
Separately from claims under the Jones Act, in many cases, offshore workers can also recover compensation by filing claims under the doctrine of “unseaworthiness.” These claims are filed against the owner of the vessel where the injury occurred and are based on defects and other dangers that make a vessel and its “appurtenance” (things like tools, ropes, and equipment) unsuitable for their intended use.
If you slip on a deck that has missing or worn-out anti-skid protection, this might give you a claim for unseaworthiness. Lack of fall protection or other safety equipment could give rise to an unseaworthiness claim as well. These are just examples: There are numerous potential issues that could give an offshore worker the right to seek compensation from a vessel owner.
Importantly, unlike Jones Act claims, unseaworthiness claims are not based on negligence. In other words, you do not need to prove that the vessel owner made a mistake in order to seek compensation. If you suffered an injury due to a defect or dangerous condition onboard a vessel, regardless of how it happened (with a few limited exceptions), you can file a claim for unseaworthiness to recover your medical expenses and other losses.
Filing a Claim for Maintenance and Cure
The third option for injured seamen is to file a claim for what is known as “maintenance and cure.” Maintenance and cure is a no-fault remedy that provides coverage for injured seamen’s medical bills, room and board and other expenses. If you qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, you are entitled to receive maintenance and cure for as long as you are injured.
However, maintenance and cure benefits are limited – typically to around $30 to $50 per day. As a result, we typically assist injured seamen in seeking maintenance and cure in addition to filing claims for unseaworthiness and Jones Act negligence.
Contact Morrow & Sheppard LLP About Your Offshore Injury Claim
If you or a loved one has been injured working offshore, we urge you to contact us to discuss your case. We offer free consultations and do not charge any fees unless we are successful in helping you secure financial compensation for your losses. To speak with one of our Houston Jones Act lawyers today, contact us online or call our Houston offices at (800) 489-2216 now.