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Can Maritime Workers in Florida Sue Their Employer for Negligence

Can Maritime Workers in Florida Sue Their Employer for Negligence?

On land, the workers’ compensation system is a way that workers who are injured, while they are engaged in the duties and responsibilities of their job, can have their medical costs and potentially a portion of their wages paid while they recover. Employers will purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover the costs of workplace injuries. This insurance also shields employers from being personally sued by an employee who was injured.

For those that work on the open seas, maritime law applies with respect to injuries while on the job. The maritime workers’ compensation system differs a bit from workers’ compensation. While all workers on land are entitled to file for workers’ comp benefits for their damages, not every person who is working with boats and water vessels is considered a seaman eligible for compensation under the maritime system. Only qualified individuals can obtain compensation through maritime law. This includes not just compensation for “maintenance and cure” but also money beyond these costs if it can be shown that an employer’s negligence contributed to the injury accident.

How Can A Seaman Sue their Employer for Negligence?

Working on the sea is often a very risky and dangerous job. The conditions of employment can be perilous, the equipment can be unsafe, and access to emergency care is limited. If you work on a ship while it is at sea, you likely have the protections made available under maritime law. Maritime law is composed of many different covenants that safeguard seamen. One of the most potent and significant laws that are included in those protections comes from the Jones Act

Found in Title 46 of the United States Code, the Jones Act gives injured seamen the right to sue negligent employers for compensation when it can be shown that employers were careless in their actions. Prior to the Jones Act, a seaman that was injured while on the job could only obtain compensation for their damages related to their injuries. These maintenance and cure damages include:

  • Room and board during recovery.
  • Rent and mortgage
  • Food
  • Property taxes
  • Insurance
  • Medical expenses that are amassed during recovery and up until they are as healed from their injuries as they are going to be and will no longer continue to get better and improve.

A seafaring employer would be responsible for these costs even if they were not negligent and did not contribute to their employee’s injury accident.

But when the Jones Act came to be in 1920, seamen were granted the right to sue based on negligence. If there were reckless actions or lack of appropriate steps taken by an employer in a specific situation that was the reason for an injury accident or one of the factors that lead to the incident happening, that employer may have to pay additional money to their employee. When an employer does not account for safety on their vessel and does not do what is necessary to ensure it is not unseaworthy, they are going to be held responsible for their indifference. Depending on the circumstances surrounding an injury accident, an employee may even be able to sue for negligence under the Jones Act even when the incident occurred off of the boat.

What Constitutes a Seaman that Is Covered by the Jones Act?

Can Maritime Workers in Florida Sue Their Employer for NegligenceThere is no clear, technical definition of what a seaman is, though there are certain people who are not considered seaman and do not have protections from the Jones Act. These individuals include volunteers and others who work on a boat but are not paid for their services. It is up to the courts to assess a person as a seaman capable of suing under the Jones Act. The United States-based companies that employ both residents of the country, as well as foreign workers, can have all of their employees covered by the protections of the Jones Act. So even if a maritime worker is not a United States citizen, they are still able to obtain the privileges of the law.

As a busy peninsula, the state of Florida is surrounded by many different types of boats and boating operations like cargo ships, cruise ships, tourist fishing boats, and luxury yachts to name some examples. That means that three are several different types of boat-related jobs that are available. If you were injured while working on a  vessel you may have Jones Act rights and you could potentially sue your employer for their negligence. It is best to speak with a Florida maritime law attorney to understand if the Jones Act is applicable in your case and what you can do to receive the most compensation.

The Jacksonville Jones Act attorneys at Sheftall Law have a comprehensive understanding of maritime law and how it affects injured seaman. The Florida maritime law attorneys will discuss your case with you and determine what strategy and options are most appropriate to getting you the best results possible.

Speak with a Jacksonville Maritime Law Attorney Today

The rigors and challenges that exist for people who work on various types of boats and on the high seas are incredible. When a negligent employer adds to the present dangers with their careless actions, a maritime worker may be able to sue for additional compensation to account for this disregard for their safety. Any of the following can be considered as negligence:

  • Not maintaining equipment or the boat.
  • Not hiring capable and fit crew members. 
  • Not taking the right precautions when the weather is inclement.
  • Bad instruction and thoughtless management.
  • Failure to keep the peace and quell potential violence and aggression between crew members.

You deserve to be protected while at work, and when you have been done wrong by your employer and suffered injuries as a result, you can take legal action. Call Sheftall Law for help with your Florida maritime lawsuit. The trusted and experienced Florida maritime attorneys at Sheftall Law can be reached at (904) 638-7712 to schedule your free consultation. The Jacksonville boat accident attorneys at Sheftall Law provide you, high-quality legal counsel, on a contingency fee basis. So you are not financially responsible for paying any attorney fees unless your case is won.