Covering more than 68 million square miles, the Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest body of water. More than 60% of the world’s caught fish come from the Pacific Ocean, and billions of dollars in raw materials, goods and products are traded across it each year. Fishing trawlers, tanker ships, container ships, and tug boats are but a representative sampling of commercial vessels operating on the Pacific Ocean. Crew members working aboard these vessels who are injured or killed during the course of their employment are covered by the maritime law. Maritime law is a unique and specialized area of law which, in many respects, differs significantly from state on federal land-based law. For this reason, it is vital for anyone who is injured while working on the Pacific Ocean to contact a knowledgeable maritime lawyer. 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 Pacific Ocean, you are covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal statute that allows an injured crew member to sue the employer if their injuries are the result of employer or co-employee negligence. If, for example, you injure your shoulder due to a co-worker’s negligent operation of a winch, you may bring a Jones Act suit against the employer to recover for your damages. Similarly, if you injured your hand while working aboard a fish processor due to a missing or defective fish header, you could bring a Jones Act suit against the employer for damages. Available damages under the Jones Act include lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical expenses, and damages for pain and suffering.
If you are injured aboard a Pacific Ocean vessel due to an unsafe condition of the vessel, its equipment or crew, you may also have a general maritime law claim for unseaworthiness. Vessel owners have an absolute and non-delegable duty to provide a seaworthy vessel to their crew which means that the ship, her equipment and crew must be fit for its intended purposes. Examples of unseaworthy conditions include unreasonably slippery decks, insufficient and/or incompetent crew, and equipment that breaks under normal use. Individuals injured as a result of unseaworthy conditions can recover a full range of damages including lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical expenses, pain and suffering.
MAINTENANCE AND CURE:
If you are injured or fall ill while working as a crew member on the Pacific Ocean, you are entitled to maintenance and cure. Maintenance refers to a daily sustenance allowance paid to you while you are recovering from your injury or illness whereas cure refers to the payment of your reasonable and necessary medical expenses. Maintenance and cure are paid irrespective of fault, and continue until you reach maximum medical improvement. The amount of maintenance you receive should approximate your reasonable daily living expenses and includes such things as your lodging, food, utilities, and other necessary living expenses.
UNEARNED WAGES ON FOREIGN OR FISHING VOYAGES:
Unearned wages are also payable to a Pacific Ocean worker who gets injured or falls ill while in the service of the ship. They include the compensation you would have received under the Articles or employment agreement if not for leaving the ship due to injury or illness. Unearned wages can include straight time, overtime, tips, accumulated 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 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which decides appeals from the federal district courts of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California. He is a member of the bar of the federal district court for the Northern District of California and the District of Hawaii. 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.