Generally speaking, injured offshore and maritime workers have a few ways to recover for their injuries: (1) if they qualify as seamen, a Jones Act claim for negligence, an unseaworthiness claim, and/or a claim for maintenance and cure; (2) if they don’t qualify as seamen, a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA); or (3) regardless of their status, a claim against a negligent third-party.
But what happens if an injured offshore or maritime worker suffers a permanent disability from his or her injury?
Seaman Suffers Permanent Disability
If a worker qualifies for seaman status, he or she will have options to be compensated for a disabling injury. For example, a Jones Act negligence claim or general maritime law claim for unseaworthiness is a way for an injured seaman to receive all compensation that is owed for his or her disability, such as future medical bills, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, and lost earning capacity.
However, if the injured seaman does not have these claims, he or she may be limited to a maintenance and cure claim. If so, the claim will only provide compensation until the point of maximum medical improvement or “MMI” (when a doctor says there is nothing else that can be done to improve the condition). This can be an extremely harsh result for somebody who has suffered a disabling injury that will change his or her life.
LHWCA Maritime Worker Disability
A worker who comes within the scope of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and doesn’t qualify as a seaman will have more limited remedies available. He or she may have a 905b claim for vessel negligence (click here to learn more about these claims), but if not, the claim will be under the LHWCA.
The statute provides a schedule for different disabilities and sets compensation rates to be paid to injured maritime workers. For example, the loss of an arm entitles the worker to 312 weeks of compensation (66 2/3 % of average weekly wages) and the loss of an eye will get you 160 weeks of compensation. The full breakdown of the compensation rates for different injuries can be seen here.
Importantly, the partial loss of the use of the body parts on the schedule will typically only get you the percentage loss of use. In other words, if you lose 20% of the use of your leg, you will get 20% of the total compensation that would be due for the full loss.
Claims Available to Both LHWCA Maritime Workers and Seamen Suffering Permanent Disability
Regardless of whether a worker qualifies for seaman status or is instead covered under the LHWCA, he or she may still have a claim against a third party. This sort of claim can arise in various ways: (1) negligence of a contractor; (2) defective or improperly designed equipment; or (3) injuries caused by somebody who didn’t work for your employer.
This list provides just a handful of examples of third-party claims and is not meant to be complete. Whether an injured seaman or LHWCA worker has a third-party claim will depend entirely on the facts of the case.
Call a New Orleans Maritime Attorney
If you work offshore or in the maritime industry and have been hurt or suffered a disabling injury, call (504) 564-7342 to speak to a New Orleans personal injury lawyer about your case. The Mahone Firm is here to help you get back on your feet.