Sinking ship

Maritime Law Damages

O'Hara Law Firm Oct. 6, 2016

Maritime law protects the rights of injured maritime laborers, including shipyard and harbor crews. Some of the laws and regulations covering sailors and laborers at sea have been around for hundreds of years. There is no administrative body to handle maritime claims for a seaman. All claims must be filed in state or federal court. Seamen are allowed to sue employers and owners of vessels. Seamen have three remedies: (1) maintenance and cure; (2) damages for injuries caused by unseaworthiness of the vessel; and (3) and damages caused by negligence.

Maintenance and Cure

“Maintenance and cure” is similar to workmen’s compensation. However, unlike worker’s compensation, it does not prevent the injured party from filing a lawsuit against his employer for negligence as well. “Maintenance” is a living allowance for the individual seaman. The allowance must be paid from the date of injury until maximum cure is effected. “Cure” is medical expenses.


A shipowner has a duty to furnish seamen with a seaworthy ship. “Unseaworthiness” includes structural defects, defective machinery, defective equipment, defective appliances and even defective tackle. It also includes negligence in operation of the ship.

Negligence – Jones Act

The seaman is allowed to sue the employer for negligence under the Jones Act. The employee has up to three years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. The law is very strong for the plaintiff. Assumption of the risk is not a defense, and contributory negligence reduces recovery without serving as an absolute bar to recovery. The employer has a higher duty of care than in a normal negligence case as well.

If you have been injured on a vessel at sea, contact O'Hara Law Firm.