Suffering from a Maritime Injury? Don’t Let Your Wages Get Washed Out to Sea

Seamen are exposed to numerous dangers in the course of their work; a loading crane can topple over, cargo can roll over in a sea storm, the engine room of a carrier can flood, rescue boat wires can part midway during a maneuver, vessels can collide and crew members can slip and fall on dangerous surfaces.

As a seaman, you’ve probably seen your fair share of accident-related injuries. Under the Jones Act, you are entitled to lost wages through “maintenance and cure benefits, ” and you can recover damages for lost wages through a claim if the accident was caused by the negligence of an employer, supervisors or other crew members.

Recovering Lost Wages Following a Maritime Injury

Commonly known as the Jones Act, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 provides compensation rules for seamen injured in the course of work. You may recover lost earnings through maintenance and cure, and/or via a Jones Act negligence claim.

Maintenance & Cure

If you are injured during the course of your time on a qualifying vessel, you are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits regardless of whether or not it was the result of your employer’s negligence. These benefits include reasonable and necessary living expenses and medical expenses. While not exactly equivalent to all of your lost wages, they are designed to keep you from becoming destitute while you are recovering.

Negligence Claims

If you were injured on-the-job due to an employer’s negligence, you can file a private claim against the employer for damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost earnings.

Lost wages include basic salary, overtime, leave pay and fringe benefits that you have lost as a result of your injury. They include all the wages you stood to receive as a worker had you not been injured.

The Jones Act allows you to file a claim against a negligent employer for all lost wages you would have earned from your contract. Say your contract was for five years. You worked for two years for the employer before suffering an on-the-job injury. You are entitled to lost wages representing the three remaining years if you are not able to resume work.

Lost earnings are therefore all the wages you have lost and continue to lose, up until the time you are physically fit and healthy enough to resume work.

Lost Future Earnings

Lost earnings also include the wages you continue to lose because you are no longer able to work. These are the earnings you would have earned in future had you not been injured.

It is difficult to determine lost future earnings because the court cannot know how long you would have continued working actively had you not been injured, whether you would have earned a promotion or pay raise, how future economic factors would have affected your salary, when you will recover and how well you will be able to perform at your job after the injury.

To try and figure these out, the court will generally consider a number of factors such as:

  • Work life expectancy (gender, race, age and life expectancy)
  • Recovery expectations
  • Health insurance benefits
  • Probability of promotion
  • Retirement plans. 

Proving Negligence in Court

Remember that you will receive damages for lost earnings only if you successfully prove that your injury was because of your employer’s negligence.

Negligence can encompass many things including:

  • Failure to train workers
  • Failure to properly equip workers
  • Failure to provide proper safety measures
  • Failure to install safety hazards
  • Failure to abide by industry norms and practices
  • Negligent hiring
  • Promoting unsafe work conditions

You do not have to prove that the employer was completely negligent, even partial negligence will suffice. You can still succeed in a Jones Act claim even if you were partly negligent, as long as your employer was negligent in some way. The standard for negligence under the Jones Act is very liberal, making it easier for you to make your case.

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