As a deckhand, you must perform strenuous tasks in challenging conditions, and that makes you particularly vulnerable to injury. Workers’ compensation does not cover injuries to deckhands in most cases, so if you were hurt while at work, you might be wondering how to pay the bills until you can get back out to sea.
Deckhands and other seamen have their own legal protections in case they suffer maritime injuries. Consult a Pearland deckhand injury lawyer as soon as you get hurt to ensure you understand your rights under the applicable law.
Guaranteed Maintenance and Cure Benefits for Injured Deckhands
Whenever a deckhand suffers an injury while working on their vessel, the employer must provide basic financial support, known as maintenance and cure (M&C) benefits. Payments under the M&C provision ensure that injured deckhands receive compensation for medical care and living expenses. Like workers’ compensation, M&C benefits are available regardless of who is at fault for a deckhand’s injury.
M&C pays a daily rate to cover a deckhand’s housing, groceries, utilities, and other basic expenses. The rate varies, but a union contract often specifies a minimum maintenance amount.
Although this benefit is called “cure,” the employer must pay medical expenses only until the deckhand achieves the state of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This is the point when further medical treatment will not result in further healing. A deckhand could reach MMI and still not be well enough to return to work, potentially placing them in a financially volatile situation.
Sometimes, an employer prematurely asserts that a deckhand has reached MMI in an attempt to reduce what they owe toward medical costs. A savvy Pearland lawyer could intervene to help ensure that a deckhand has every opportunity to return to full health before their employer terminates their medical payments.
Suing Your Employer for Damages Due to Negligence
Although M&C benefits ensure that deckhands will receive medical care and basic support while out of work, it does nothing to address their lost wages, potentially reduced future earning capacity, medical care after they have achieved MMI, or physical pain and emotional trauma. However, the federal Merchant Marine Act, often called the Jones Act, offers injured deckhands another remedy.
If the vessel owner, deckhand’s employer, or another employee was negligent and thereby caused or contributed to the deckhand’s injury, the deckhand could sue the owner or employer for damages. In this context, negligence means failing to provide a seaworthy vessel and a reasonably safe working environment for the deckhand.
However, claims based on unseaworthiness do not fall under the Jones Act and are instead governed by general maritime law. A Pearland seaman’s attorney could determine whether your deckhand injury claim should cite the Jones Act, the common maritime law, or both.
Damages Resulting from the Injury
The damages awarded to an injured deckhand in a successful lawsuit may cover:
- Medical costs to date as well as that which might be necessary in the future
- Lost wages
- The difference between their current earning capacity and their projected lifetime earnings prior to becoming injured
- Pain and suffering
- Disfigurement and disability
- Emotional distress
When a deckhand suffers a permanent injury, the compensatory award can be substantial. However, it takes a skilled lawyer to effectively pursue a deckhand’s projected losses.
File a Deckhand Injury Claim with a Pearland Attorney’s Help
Maritime law has very specific rules, and a successful claim for damages often requires the services of a legal professional with knowledge of this area of law. An attorney who only handles basic injury or workers’ compensation cases lacks the nuanced background to get you all the compensation you deserve.
A Pearland deckhand injury lawyer is familiar with the industry and its applicable laws. Schedule a consultation right away to get their skills working for you.