As the world’s second largest body of water, the Atlantic Ocean spans between the Americas, Europe and Africa, and covers 20% of the Earth’s surface. Workers and other individuals who are injured or killed while aboard vessels plying the Atlantic Ocean are covered by maritime law. Maritime law is a unique body of law that differs markedly from land-based law. That is why if you are injured while working aboard a vessel on the Atlantic Ocean, you need to contact a knowledgeable maritime lawyer. The lawyers at O’Bryan Baun Karamanian have made maritime law their focus, and have the knowledge and experience to deliver the justice you deserve.
If you are injured while working as a crew member aboard a vessel on the Atlantic Ocean, you are covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act affords an injured crew member a remedy in court when they are injured as a result of employer or crew member negligence. If, for example, you slip and fall on deck injuring your back due to a piece of machinery leaking oil, you could sue to recover your damages under the Jones Act. The acts and omissions constituting negligence are virtually limitless and include such things as failing to prevent or ameliorate unsafe conditions; failing to assign enough men to a task, failing to warn, supervise or train crew members; failing to inspect and/or maintain equipment and failure to provide adequate and proper equipment, to name just a few. The Jones Act allows for recovery of compensatory damages which include such things as lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical bills and damages for pain and suffering.
Employers operating vessels on the Atlantic Ocean also have an absolute and non-delegable duty to furnish their employees with a seaworthy vessel. This means that the ship, her equipment and crew must be reasonably fit for their intended purpose. To be considered unseaworthy, a ship need not sink; rather, all that must be shown is that some part of the vessel, her gear and/or crew is not reasonably fit for the task to which it is put. Classic examples of unseaworthy conditions include unreasonably slippery decks, insufficient manpower with which to perform a task, and equipment that fails or breaks under normal use. A full range of compensatory damages including lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical bills, pain and suffering, etc. are available under the unseaworthiness doctrine.
MAINTENANCE AND CURE:
Crew members who are injured or who fall ill while working on the Atlantic Ocean are entitled to the maritime law doctrine of maintenance and cure. Maintenance is a daily sustenance allowance while cure refers to payment of the seaman’s reasonable and necessary medical expenses. Unlike Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims, there is no required showing of fault on the part of the employer before maintenance and cure is payable. So long as the crew member is injured or falls ill while in the service of the vessel, he is entitled to maintenance and cure.
UNEARNED WAGES ON FOREIGN OR FISHING VOYAGES:
If you are injured or fall ill while on a foreign or fishing voyage, you are also entitled to unearned wages. Unearned wages include the compensation you would have received under the Articles or employment agreement had you not been forced to leave the ship due to your injury or illness. They include straight time, overtime, tips, accumulate leave time, and other fringe benefits. In some cases, the amount of unearned wages are limited by the terms of the seaman’s collective bargaining agreement.
*Dennis M. O’Bryan is enrolled to practice before the Second, Third, and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which decides appeals from the federal district courts of New York (2nd), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (3rd), and Virginia, North and South Carolina (4th). In those federal district courts in which he is not generally enrolled to practice, he gains admission pro hac vice, on a case by case basis, by securing the sponsorship of a reputable local attorney. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, where his office is located.