The Great Lakes include Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Superior and Lake Ontario. Together they make up 20% of the world’s surface freshwater. A tremendous amount of maritime activity is conducted on the Great Lakes each year including commercial shipping, fishing and tourism. Freighters carrying bulk cargo represent the largest segment of commercial shipping conducted on the Great Lakes. Workers who are injured while serving aboard Great Lakes vessels are covered by federal maritime law. Similarly, individuals who are injured while engaging in recreational pursuits on the Great Lakes are also covered by federal maritime law.
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed while working or pursuing a recreational activity on the Great Lakes, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Because maritime law is unique and differs in many respects from state or federal land-based law, you need a lawyer who is well-versed in handling maritime injury cases. The lawyers at O’Bryan Baun Karamanian have made maritime law their focus, and have the knowledge and experience to help you obtain the justice you deserve.
If you are injured while working as a crew member aboard a vessel on the Great Lakes, you are covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal negligence statute that permits an injured crew member to sue the employer for damages. The Jones Act imposes upon the employer a duty to furnish the crew member with a safe place to work. If, for example, you are serving as a deckhand aboard a Great Lakes freighter and slip and fall on taconite pellets which should have been cleaned from the deck, you would have a remedy against the employer under the Jones Act. Likewise, if you are injured while being landed on the dock in a bosun’s chair because the mate lowered you too fast with the boom, you could bring a Jones Act claim against the employer for the mate’s negligence. A wide range of compensatory damages are available under the Jones Act including lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, medical bills, and damages for pain and suffering.
Great Lakes sailors can also become injured as a result of unseaworthy conditions. The general maritime law imposes upon a shipowner an obligation to furnish its crew members with a seaworthy vessel. This means that the ship, her equipment, and crew must be reasonably fit for their intended purpose. Any number of unsafe conditions can render a vessel unseaworthy. Unreasonably slippery decks, insufficient crew members assigned to a task, broken lines and/or cables are just a few representative examples. If you are injured as a result of an unseaworthy condition, you are entitled to recover compensatory damages including lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical bills, and damages for pain and suffering.
MAINTENANCE AND CURE:
Great Lakes sailors who get injured or fall ill while working aboard a vessel on the Great Lakes are also entitled to maintenance and cure. Maintenance refers to a daily sustenance allowance representing your basic living expenses while cure refers to the payment of your reasonable and necessary medical expenses. Unlike with claims under the Jones Act or general maritime law doctrine of unseaworthiness, a seaman does not have to prove negligence or fault on the part of the employer to be entitled to maintenance and cure. Payment of maintenance and cure is virtually automatic so long as the injury or illness occurred while the seaman was in the service of the ship. The amount of maintenance, in some jurisdictions, is controlled by the provisions of the seaman’s collective bargaining agreement.