Using An Admiralty Lawyer For Unseaworthiness And Maintenance And Cure Claims

Whether you’re cleaning the deck of a ship, playing an instrument on board, handling the technical operations of a ship, or serving cruise passengers their meals, you are generally considered a seafarer and therefore entitled to strong benefits and protections under maritime law.  Two of the most important concepts to understand are Unseaworthiness and “Maintenance and Cure.”

There are a million things that can occur while onboard that can result in a worker sustaining injuries. That being said, all crewmembers should note that vessel owners have an absolute duty and obligation to ensure that their vessels are seaworthy based on the legal concept of “strict liability.” However, some people may not understand the idea of seaworthiness and what can make a vessel unseaworthy under the law. That is why it is crucial for vessel workers who have questions to contact an admiralty lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. as soon as possible to find out the best course of action to take based on the unique facts of their cases.

What Does it Mean to Have an “Unseaworthy” Vessel?

In general terms, vessels are seaworthy if they are “reasonably fit” for their intended use, are outfitted with proper safety gear and equipment, have competent crewmembers and are safe places to work and live. However, a vessel can quickly become unseaworthy if a dangerous situation arises that leads to workers sustaining injuries. Depending on the facts of the case, seamen who seek to obtain compensation for their injuries will need to demonstrate that the accident that led to their injuries was caused by the existence of a condition onboard the vessel that would make the vessel unseaworthy. Such conditions can include deck obstructions, unfit cargo, insufficient safety equipment and poorly or improperly maintained gear and tools, among other conditions.

Anyone who works on a vessel and sustains injuries due to the vessel being unseaworthy should speak with an admiralty lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. about potential legal options under the law. Our attorneys have the experience and skill to do the very best to make sure that vessel owners are held legally responsible for injuries that occur.

Maintenance and Cure Claims

Another unique wrinkle of Admiralty and Maritime law is that all seafarers who are injured in the course of employment are entitled to Maintenance and Cure. This basically means you are entitled to a daily living wage and for all medical expenses to be paid for during the time that you are injured. Once a crewmember is declared at Maximum Medical Improvement, then the Maintenance and Cure obligation ends.

Thus, in addition to unseaworthiness claims that workers might make against vessel owners, some injured crewmembers might also make claims with respect to maintenance and cure. Maintenance and cure claims are commonly filed in conjunction with Jones Act claims (The Jones Act is a U.S. federal law that gives seafarers a negligence cause of action against their employer), and (like the concept of unseaworthiness) is a remedy that will depend on one’s status under the Jones Act. More specifically, whenever a vessel worker is hurt, he or she has a right to receive room and board expenses on a daily basis (up to the maximum allowed for medical recovery) and payment of the medical costs incurred due to his or her illness, injury or accident that takes place while working or even while off duty and off the vessel. Importantly, the illness does not have to stem from the crewmember’s occupation; it need only arise during the employment.

Furthermore, it does not matter who is deemed to be at fault for an accident that takes place onboard a vessel—maintenance and cure rights are automatically activated.

If you work on a vessel and have been harmed due to a vessel’s unseaworthiness, or if you would like to find out more information about filing a maintenance and cure claim, let an admiralty lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. help you today. Contact us online today.