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St. Tammany Parish Seaman Injury Lawyer

Seamen are the backbone of the maritime industries. Fishing boats, commercial fish processing ships, cruise lines, barges, cargo ships, and many other vessels employ able-bodied seamen and credentialed merchant mariners. These are the employees who provide the essential services that keep a vessel functioning. When an accident occurs, and the seaman suffers injuries, their ability to work, and to support their family may be threatened.

Getting fair compensation from many of the big companies who employ seamen could cause significant aggravation and wasted time. Consulting a seasoned St. Tammany Parish seaman injury lawyer could be helpful. An attorney who works with injured mariners could explain the legal options and offer counsel about the wisest course to take.

Seaworthiness Claims Under Common Maritime Law

A layperson may think an unseaworthy vessel is one that does not stay afloat, but common law defines it differently, allowing seamen to sue a boat owner for negligence if it does not meet the legal definition.

Maritime law holds that vessel owners must maintain the ship in a way that employees can safely do their work. Under maritime common law, a vessel is not seaworthy if:

  • The crew is too small to run the ship safely
  • Crewmembers are untrained or improperly trained
  • The vessel’s equipment is inadequate to perform the required function
  • Hazardous conditions prevail, such as slippery decks or cluttered passageways
  • Safety planning and equipment is inadequate

There are other conditions that might indicate a vessel is unseaworthy. A maritime lawyer could investigate the conditions on a particular vessel to determine whether a lawsuit might have a chance of success.

Jones Act Benefits  

A federal law called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 established a system similar to worker’s compensation for seamen. Also called the Jones Act, this law requires employers to provide injured seamen with living expenses, called maintenance, and medical care which is called cure. An employer must provide these benefits from the time of the injury until the patient’s condition has reached the point where further improvement is not possible.

The Jones Act also allows a seaman to sue an employer or vessel owner if negligence on their part contributed to the seaman’s injury. In contrast to a claim brought under the common maritime law, a seaman would not have to demonstrate that the vessel was unseaworthy. The seaman must show negligence under a Jones Act claim, but the negligence does not necessarily need to be the cause of the accident, but merely a contributing factor. Most importantly, the Jones Act gives seamen a right to have a jury hear their claims.

Employers and ship owners will often fight hard against Jones Act claims because they are often easier to prove than claims brought under maritime common law. An experienced seaman’s injury attorney in St. Tammany Parish could counter their arguments with evidence proving that an injured worker is entitled to Jones Act benefits.

Damages Under The Jones Act, Common Law

Damages are awards of money from a responsible party to compensate an injured party for their losses.  Damages could include medical expenses, including future healthcare costs, lost wages and benefits, diminished future earning potential, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. If a party brings suit under maritime common law, their spouse may also seek damages for loss of consortium.

Punitive damages are meant to punish defendants as opposed to compensating plaintiffs. Punitive damages are sometimes available in Jones Act cases if an employer refused to make maintenance and cure payments, or unjustifiably delayed or stopped making them. A knowledgeable maritime attorney could review a case to determine whether punitive damages would be available.

 A St. Tammany Parish Maritime Lawyer Could Protect a Seaman’s Wellbeing  

There are strong laws protecting seamen, but the interplay between them can be complicated. Partnering with an attorney who is devoted to ensuring that merchant mariners get justice is a smart move if you are seeking compensation for an injury you suffered while working at sea.

Get peace of mind knowing that you are working with a legal professional who will fight for you. Contact a St. Tammany parish seaman injury lawyer to schedule a consultation and case review.