Maritime workers can suffer serious injuries on the job. The Jones Act allows these workers a right that most American workers do not have; the right to sue their employer in a personal injury case. In order to receive compensation, the injured employee must prove that the owner, captain, or crew of the vessel on which the seaman worked was negligent. If they can, they are typically entitled to compensation for all of their damages.
Even if an employee cannot show that someone else was at fault for their injury, they can still receive some form of benefits. Maritime laws will not leave workers uncompensated after a workplace injury. They can still receive their own form of benefits that would function as a type of workers’ compensation until the seaman is able to work again.
Maintenance and Cure Benefits for Maritime Injuries
Whether or not an injured seaman can file a personal injury lawsuit, they could receive maintenance & cure benefits until they can work again. These are similar to workers’ compensation benefits. Maintenance refers to the living expenses that the injured seaman needs to sustain themselves until they can work again. In theory, these could be more generous than the partial salary that an injured employee would receive from workers’ compensation benefits. The theory behind maintenance benefits is that the seaman would be housed and fed if they were able to work on the ship. Fault does not matter for these benefits.
Maintenance benefits include:
● Rent or mortgage payments
● Property taxes
● Homeowners insurance
Maintenance benefits cover the expenses of running the household. They do not include personal expenses like internet and car payments because these do not relate to the household. The employer must pay actual costs. It does not matter if the seaman lives in a higher-cost area of Mississippi. Employers often try to make arguments to minimize these payments.
Cure benefits refer to the costs of reasonable medical treatment, including doctor’s visits, hospitalization, surgery, and prescription costs. Cure benefits would even cover the cost of transportation to and from the doctor’s office. The injured worker is not expected to contribute anything to their medical care.
Maintenance and cure benefits are not permanent. They are intended to last until the point where the injured seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. The hope is that they would be able to go back to work and not need medical benefits anymore. Employers have every incentive to declare that the injured worker has reached this point as soon as possible.
Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit for a Maritime Injury
Bringing a personal injury suit under the Jones Act allows an injured seaman to maximize his or recovery, and be fully and fairly compensated. A personal injury lawsuit usually leads lead to additional areas of compensation that are not covered by maintenance and cure benefits.
If one is able to successfully sue their employer for negligence or unseaworthiness (when the vessel itself was not in seaworthy condition, and that caused or contributed to the injury), one may be entitled to the following damages:
● Lost wages – one can be paid for the amount that one was unable to earn or for the reduction in their earning capacity. Unlike a workers’ compensation type claim, this is one’s full salary (accounting for future raises and increases), as opposed to partial benefits or the costs of running their household.
● Medical expenses – one is entitled to all of their past and future medical expenses related to their injury and not just those up until the point of maximum medical improvement.
● Pain and suffering – this is usually the most significant element covered by a personal injury claim that is not a part of maintenance and cure. One is entitled to be compensated for their physical discomfort and mental anguish resulting from their injury.
● Wrongful death – if a loved one was killed in a maritime accident, their family can file a wrongful death claim that would compensate them for damages including both wages that the person would have earned, and their grief and trauma from losing a loved one.
Depending on the extent of one’s injury, these damages can be considerable.
Determining Your Course of Action After a Mississippi Maritime Injury
We have discussed two potential pathways to compensation, and you may be wondering which one you can take after your injury. You should consult with an experienced maritime lawyer to discuss your case. Your lawyer would perform a full investigation of your injury to discover whether you could have a potential personal injury lawsuit
How an Experienced Maritime Injury Lawyer Can Help You
Besides investigating your injury, your maritime injury lawyer would do the following:
● Value your damages in a personal injury lawsuit
● Ensure that your employer pays you the right amount of maintenance and cure damages
● Keep your employer from prematurely stopping maintenance and cure because they are incorrectly claiming that you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement
● File a personal injury lawsuit against your employer and either negotiate a settlement agreement or argue your case in court
● Demonstrate that your maritime injury happened on the sea as opposed to on the shore, enabling you to the protections of the Jones Act
The maritime injury compensation process can be complex, with a number of nuances. An experienced attorney is with you every step of the way.
Call a Mississippi Maritime Injury Attorney
Call Van Cleave Law at (228) 432-7826 or contact us online to learn your legal options after a maritime injury. We will work with you to obtain the maximum amount of compensation to help keep you on your feet. We know the games and tricks that employers try to play and how to fight them when they act wrongly to avoid fully and fairly compensating our clients. Schedule your free initial consultation today.