Injured Worker With Crutches on a DockMaritime workers are often eager to return to work as soon as possible after an injury at sea. Unfortunately, the nature of maritime accidents can leave victims with long-lasting effects that may prevent them from working in the same capacity—or even performing any work at all. Our attorneys take a look at both employment and compensation options for workers who are unable to return to their former positions due to an injury.

What an Employer Cannot Do After a Maritime Injury

A maritime employer has certain responsibilities to uphold if one of its employees suffers an injury. The first duty is to provide medical benefits and temporary income while the employee recovers. In addition, maritime laws such as the Jones Act prohibit any form of retaliation against seamen who have exercised their legal right to injury compensation, including:

  • Termination. “Wrongful discharge” occurs when a seamen has been fired for seeking injury compensation. If you were wrongfully terminated or demoted, the law requires that you be reinstated to your former position with the same pay and privileges of your original employment.
  • Intimidation. In some cases, employees receive threats or harassment from coworkers or employers after filing an injury claim, making the work environment so unbearable that they leave employment. This is a form of retaliation and may be grounds to file a lawsuit against the shipowner or employer.
  • Blacklisting. Many workers are afraid to take legal action or file injury claims after an accident because they are afraid of being put on a “blacklist.” They believe that once shipowners and companies become aware of the incident, the employee will be seen as a troublemaker or a liability, and the employee will never work in the industry again. Like other forms of intimidation, this is an illegal action.

When an Injured Worker Cannot Return to His Previous Job

While an employer may not unjustly terminate an employee, the employer is not required to hold an injured employee’s position open for him indefinitely. Maritime work requires heavy manual labor, and employers may not be able to accommodate certain restrictions caused by an injury.

If you are unable to return to your former position, you may be able to secure payment in the following ways:

  • Disability. The Jones Act and The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) both include payment provisions if a work injury has resulted in disability. The amount of compensation varies depending which laws apply, whether the employee has suffered a scheduled or unscheduled injury, and whether the disabling effects are permanent.
  • Alternate career path. If you cannot do your previous job due to physical limitations, you may be able to find alternate employment in a career that is less physically demanding. If you choose to go back to school or undergo a career skills course, your employer may be compelled to pay for some or all of your vocational retraining.
  • Lost earning capacity. Even if you are able to successfully transition into a new career, you may not make as much as you did as a maritime employee. Maritime laws allow employees to seek an award for lost earning capacity in relation to an injury, bridging the gap between their past and future salaries.
  • Negligence claims. If your injury was caused by dangerous conditions on a vessel, the actions of another employee, or a captain’s or shipowner’s recklessness, you may be able to pursue a negligence claim in addition to collecting benefits. An attorney can examine the details of your case to determine whether the ship was unseaworthy, placing you and other crew members in danger.

One thing is certain: maritime employees should NOT return to work until they have been cleared for duty by a doctor they trust. If you or a loved one has been injured while performing maritime work, our attorneys can determine who may be liable for your accident and what you are owed under the law. Call (800) 362-9329 today to set up your initial consultation or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.