Marine Surveyors Lexicon


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Seaman's Rights And Remedies

Include Traditional Entitlements and Additional Remedies

  1. Traditional Entitlements (based in general maritime law and the employment relationship) General maritime law provides four remedies which are owed by the employer (not necessarily the vessel owner) to a seaman who shows that an illness or injury first manifested itself while working in the service of the vessel or subject to the call of the vessel.

    These "Entitlement" remedies are owed immediately without consideration of the fault or negligence of the employer / vessel owner or the unseaworthiness of the vessel:

    1. Maintenance - A daily living allowance for room and board (food and shelter) while the seaman is recovering ashore; the intent is to provide reasonable subsistence. A seaman is not entitled to receive maintenance while being provided with equivalent room and board, e. g. hospital inpatient, jail inmate, etc. Daily rates may vary from port to port, and rates in union contracts are enforceable. A typical maintenance rate is $20. - $40. per day.

    2. Cure - Best available medical care for treating a sick or injured seaman in or out of a hospital, including the reasonable and necessary cost of doctors, nurses, hospital, medicine, rehabilitation, transportation for medical treatment, and repatriation (see below).

      Note: Maintenance and Cure are owed until the seaman recovers and is fit for duty, or until maximum cure is reached, whichever occurs first. MAXIMUM CURE is reached when a seaman receives the maximum benefit of medical treatment, no further improvement of the seaman’s condition is achieved, the condition appears incurable, or any further treatment will merely relieve pain and suffering, but will not improve the medical condition. When maximum cure is reached, the seaman’s medical condition is declared to be permanent and stationary, and the employer’s / vessel owner’s obligation to pay Maintenance and Cure ends; if a relapse occurs the obligation may resume.

    3. Unearned Wages - Wages that would have been earned after the illness or injury until the end of the voyage. This amount could include "tips" or a share of the "catch." The end of the voyage depends on the particular case, and may be the end of the season for which the seaman was hired, or until the next regular pay period if the seaman was salaried.

    4. Repatriation - Transporting a seaman from a foreign port back to the port where he or she signed on as part of the vessel’s crew.

  2. Additional Remedies (based in general maritime law and statutes) A seaman also has remedies available to him or her for recovering damages (money) in addition to the "Entitlements" above. The seaman must prove Jones Act statutory negligence of the employer / vessel owner or unseaworthiness of the vessel to receive additional damages under these remedies. Pursuing the additional remedies usually involves attorneys, lawsuits, and even trials if negotiations between the seaman and the employer / vessel owner fail to produce an agreed settlement. The two additional remedies are:

    1. Jones Act Statutory Negligence Of The Employer (not necessarily the vessel owner). A seaman must prove Jones Act statutory negligence of the employer / vessel owner, its agents, servants, or employees caused a seaman’s illness or injury in order to receive damages. Any causal connection, no matter how slight allows the seaman to recover.

    2. Unseaworthiness Of The Vessel. Under general maritime law, a vessel owner owes an absolute duty to a seaman to provide a seaworthy vessel reasonably fit for its intended use, and that duty cannot be delegated to anyone else. A seaman must prove his or her illness or injury was caused by the unseaworthiness (defective condition) of the vessel, its equipment, or its crew in order to receive damages; this requirement is not dependent on the vessel owner’s negligence. Comparative negligence of the seaman does not bar recovery under either "Additional" remedy; it merely reduces the amount of damages recoverable. Under either additional remedy, a seaman can recover for pain and suffering, lost income, future loss of earning capacity, medical expenses, and any other reasonable damage or loss resulting from the Jones Act statutory negligence of the employer / vessel owner or the unseaworthiness of the vessel. The seaman can, and usually does, claim for both of these additional remedies. There is no limit to the amount of damages the seaman can recover from the employer / vessel owner for these additional remedies, but there is a limit to the amount of coverage that is available to the vessel owner under its P&I insurance policy for these claims.