If you work in the maritime industry and have been injured on the job, you could miss a significant portion of your wages and even experience a reduced earning capacity if you can no longer perform the same duties. Several aspects of maritime law 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 provides injured workers with living expenses when not earning. All seamen have the right to maintenance and cure if injured on the job.
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Maintenance means your employer must provide living costs until you can return to work. While on the job, your employer houses 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 explicitly passed to provide seamen with a right to sue employers for damages in the event of an injury caused by the employer’s negligence. I
f you successfully make 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 you have already lost from being injured and unable to work and any future earnings you will lose because you can’t return to work.
These lost earnings may be provided to you through your current contract period and include the value of benefits received during that time.
The Doctrine of Unseaworthiness
Another avenue for getting the compensation you deserve if you are injured as a seaman is the doctrine of unseaworthiness. This part of maritime law is your employer’s obligation to provide you with a seaworthy vessel.
If any aspect of the ship, equipment, parts, cargo, or crew is not up to date, maintained, fit for duty, or adequately trained, the vessel may be considered unseaworthy. If unseaworthiness contributed to your injury, you can claim compensation, including lost wages.
The above laws are specific to seamen. If you cannot qualify as a seaman but work in the maritime industry, you may qualify for the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This law is designed to provide compensation for an injury to maritime workers other than seamen.
Longshore workers include shipbuilders, ship repairers and mechanics, cargo loaders and unloaders, ship breakers, and others. You may receive compensation for lost earnings under the LHWCA if you qualify.
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 return to earning.
However, there are many cases in which an injury could prevent you from earning in the future. You can sue for these future lost earnings and any diminished earning capacity you experience because of your injury.
Calculating Lost Future Earnings
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.
Qualifying for Lost Future Earnings Damages
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:
- The extent to which you are expected to recover from your injury
- When you can be expected to return to work
- Future promotions that you could have achieved
- 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 face the possibility of injury daily. 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. A maritime attorney will give you the best chance of recovering total damages for lost income.