If you work in the maritime industry and have been injured on the job you may be missing out on a paycheck. Depending on how long your recovery is, you may miss a significant portion of your wages and even experienced a reduced earning capacity if you can no longer perform the duties that you did before the injury. There are several aspects of maritime law that can ensure you get compensation to cover lost wages if you are injured on the job. These include maintenance and cure, the Jones Act, the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
Maintenance and Cure
This part of maritime law doesn’t specifically cover lost earnings, but it does provide injured workers with living expenses when not earning. All seamen have the right to maintenance and cure if injured on the job. Maintenance means that your employer is obligated to provide you with living costs until you are able to return to work. While on the job your employer houses you and provides you with food. This extends to your time at home recovering from a work injury. You do not have to prove any negligence to receive maintenance payments, but you can also not continue receiving these payments if you start getting coverage through the Jones Act.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is a law that was specifically passed to provide seamen with a right to sue employers for damages in the event of an injury caused by the employer’s negligence. If you are successful in making that claim, part of your compensation may include lost wages, or in the vocabulary of the law, lost earnings.
The recovery of lost earnings under the Jones Act includes those earnings you have already lost from being injured and unable to work, and any future earnings you will be losing because you can’t go back to work. These lost earnings may be provided to you through your current contract period and also include the value of benefits received during that time.
The Doctrine of Unseaworthiness
Another avenue you have for getting the compensation you deserve in the event you are injured as a seaman is through the doctrine of unseaworthiness. This part of maritime law is the obligation that your employer has to provide you with a vessel that is seaworthy. If any aspect of the ship, equipment, parts, cargo, or crew is not up to date, maintained, fit for duty, or properly trained for a job, the ship may be considered unseaworthy. If that unseaworthiness contributed to your injury you can make a claim for compensation, including lost wages.
The above laws are specific to seamen. If you cannot qualify as a seaman, but you work in the maritime industry, you may qualify for the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This is a law that is designed to provide for compensation in the event of an injury to maritime workers other than seamen. Qualifying workers include ship builders, ship repairers and mechanics, cargo loaders and unloaders, ship breakers, and others. If you qualify, you may receive compensation for lost earnings under the LHWCA.
Compensation for Lost Future Earnings and Lost Earnings Capacity
Under maritime law you have the right when injured to be compensated for the wages you lose by being out of work and recovering. If you can return to work and do the same job, your compensation ends and you go back to earning. However, there are many cases in which an injury could prevent you from earning in the future. You can sue for these lost future earnings and for any diminished earning capacity you experience because of your injury.
Lost future earnings can only be estimated, but doing so is usually straightforward. Your future earnings can be calculated by considering what you earned at the time of the injury, changes in cost-of-living expenses, and any promotions or raises that were scheduled to occur in the future. You can also calculate and be compensated for lost earnings capacity. If your injury prevents you from earning as much as you would have otherwise, you may qualify for additional compensation.
If you want to sue for lost future earnings and lost earnings capacity, the court will look at several factors to determine what you are owed. Under consideration will be how much you are expected to recover from your injury and when you can be expected to return to work, future promotions that you could have achieved, and how much longer your work life expectancy is, or in other words an estimate of how much longer you would have worked before retiring.
These laws are in place to protect people like you who work in a risky job and who face the possibility of injury on a daily basis. If you have been injured you have recourse to collect your lost wages. Make sure you have good representation to help you make your case. An attorney who has studied maritime law and worked with others like you can give you the best chance of recovering full damages for lost income.