At the end of January, a tugboat crew member working on a 98-foot vessel injured his rib cage while heaving a line near downtown Seattle, Washington. The Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound answered a call after 8 A.M. and boarded the ship with a rescue litter. The injured crew member was secured inside the litter and transported to Seattle Fire Station Five Pier, where local EMS was waiting. The extent of the crew member's injuries were unknown at the time of the report from the Coast Guard in the Pacific Northwest.
Under maritime law, seamen are able to receive maintenance and cure when they either get injured or fall ill during a voyage. Maintenance is the daily stipend amount, generally set by contract, that a seamen receives for room and board and other living expenses you would have otherwise received during the voyage. Cure is the money paid for medical bills like hospital expenses and doctors' fees, and is in effect from the time of the injury or illness till the injured crew member reaches maximum recovery. Tugboat crew members may also receive damages under the Jones Act, a federal statute, which allows crew members to recover when others have been negligent. Prior to the statute's enactment, a vessel owner could only be held liable if the vessel was unseaworthy. Under the Jones Act,, those who who either are onboard at least 30% of the time or whose duties contribute to the vessel 30% of the time may recover damages.
Damages under the Jones Act allow recovery for not only injury and illness, but also for the death of a family member who dies at sea. These expenses include loss of companionship, burial or cremation costs, and future earnings. Punitive damages may also be available if there was willful and wanton conduct by the owner that led to the death of the employee. The variety of damages is necessary, as tug and barge workers experience great risks every day. Repetitive motions, overly-long hours, and heavy equipment all contribute to the wear and tear on a crew member, but additional negligence can turn what would have been a minor to moderate injury into a catastrophic injury or death. As a tug or barge crew member, you are entitled to a safe place to work, and should have access to all the monies necessary to make you "whole", or return you to the condition you were prior to the accident, when others failed in the duties required by law.
The Washington tug and barge attorneys, John Merriam and Gordon Webb, have over 50 years of combined experience practicing maritime law in addition to several years working as merchant seamen. Not only have they personally experienced the daily challenges a seaman faces, but know what type of hardship injury, illness, or death can bring upon a family. With offices in Bellevue and Seattle, they are here to help you find the maximum amount of compensation you deserve. If you have been injured or had a family member killed while working onboard a tug or barge or in related work, contact one of our offices today for a free, confidential consultation.
Relate Blog Posts:
Second Circuit Court Of Appeals Decision Bars Economic Recovery In Absence Of Physical Injury, Maritime Lawyer Blog, December 13, 2013
5th Circuit Case Shows Washington Bridge Repairmen May Be Able To Recover Compensation Under The Jones Act, Maritime Lawyer Blog, April 8, 2013