Know Your Rights as a Seaman if You are Injured or Fall Sick with COVID-19 While at Sea

Many people, including seamen themselves, may not know that any maritime worker whose job at sea makes up at least 30% of his or her work are protected with federal benefits under the Jones Act. This entitles maritime employees to a safe work environment, and in almost all cases of injury and illness provides them with maintenance and cure – an allowance to cover their daily expenses as well as having any medical bills paid for in relation to their injury at sea.
 
These are important benefits to remind seamen of in the time of COVID-19 especially, as maintenance and cure is owed even when the ship owner is not at fault, such as in the case that a seaman falls sick. Towards the start of the pandemic, The Seattle Times reported a coronavirus outbreak in a Seattle-based factory trawler on Saturday May 30, 2020, where 85 of 126 crew members were tested positive for the virus. While it was reported that there were employees aboard not following safety procedures such as wearing masks, these seamen would still be entitled to this pay while unable to proceed with work. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/american-seafoods-factory-trawler-returns-to-seattle-after-85-crew-members-test-positive-for-covid-19/
 
In the case that a ship owner proves to be negligent and operating a vessel in unseaworthiness conditions that results in the seaman’s injuries, several other benefits may be acquired, including the following:
 
• Lost wages
• Past and future medical expenses
• Disfigurement
• Pain and suffering
• Disability
• Loss of enjoyment of life
• Lost future earning capacity
• Lost pension benefits
• Lost vacation time
 
What Qualifies as an Unseaworthy Vessel?
A vessel owner may show negligence through inadequate equipment, conditions, or crew members. Equipment should be fit for its “ordinary and intended” use. Working conditions on the vessel should be free of dangers or marked clearly with signs of warning. Crew members should be properly trained, use appropriate man-size for tasks that require multiple people, know the safety guidelines or have supervision when needed, and refrain from working excessive hours that may result in tiredness or a lack of focus. 
 
If you believe you are entitled to benefits as a seaman, whether due to the ship owner’s negligence or not, contact one of our personal injury attorneys in your area who can help you figure out the details of your case.
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