What Rights Do Crewmembers Have Under Maritime Law?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of John H. (Jack) Hickey with Hickey Law Firm.
Maritime or admiralty law governs all rights, laws, and disputes which occur while on navigable waters; “navigable waters” in this case refers to any waters being used for foreign or interstate commerce. The maritime workers who contribute to this important part of the global and national economy are referred to as crewmembers and are entitled to certain rights and protections. Maritime employers are required to respect and protect those rights in whatever ways are deemed reasonable by a court of law. If a crewmember is injured due to negligence on the part of their employer, they may be able to seek recovery through legal recourse. To learn more about your rights and options as a maritime worker, reach out to a maritime law attorney.
Crewmembers have certain rights in the event of an on-the-job injury, including:
- The right to work in safe conditions free from avoidable injury and illness hazards.
- The right to receive timely medical treatment in the event of an injury or illness.
- The right to receive maintenance pay to help pay for room and board in the event of an injury or illness which prevents the crewmember from returning to work.
- The right to seek “cure”, or the payment of typical medical expenses to treat the injury or illness which occurred during work.
- The right to file a maritime injury claim if a crewmember’s injury or illness was caused or contributed to by negligence.
- The right to contact and hire a maritime lawyer.
- The right to seek punitive damages in the event that the injury or illness was caused by reckless misconduct.
- The right of the crewmember’s loved ones to file a wrongful death claim in the event the crewmember dies due to a maritime accident or injury.
Maritime workers who have been injured on the job can seek compensation via the Jones Act.
The Jones Act is a federal law, included in Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 designed to regulate maritime commerce in the United States and to protect the crewmembers who do this important work. While not every maritime worker is eligible to seek compensation under the Jones Act, if the seaman spends at least 30% of their working time on a vessel they may be eligible to seek protection and recovery under this law. Injured maritime workers generally have three years from the time of the accident to file a maritime injury claim under the Jones Act; after this statute of limitations has passed, the injured party waives their right to legal recourse for that particular incident. For other crewmembers, additional maritime laws may be applicable, such as the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
Admiralty law is highly specific and can be extremely difficult to navigate without a maritime lawyer.
If you or a loved one were injured while working as a crewmember in a maritime environment, it’s important to talk to a maritime law attorney as soon as possible about your options for recovery and what laws may be applicable to protect your rights. These attorneys understand the stress that goes into suffering an injury and the resulting lost wages; these attorneys generally offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, which means clients do not have to pay for their services unless they win their case. This allows the injured crewmember and their family to focus on healing and recovery rather than worrying about how to navigate a highly specialized and complicated set of laws.
To learn more about crewmembers’ rights or for help filing a maritime injury claim, talk to a maritime lawyer sooner rather than later.