Injured Seamen May Be Owed Punitive Damages After a Maritime Accident

Since maritime workers are at risk of severe injuries during the course of their employment, they are guaranteed medical and lost wage benefits as quickly as possible after an accident. Unfortunately, some employers attempt to save money by denying or delaying maintenance and cure benefits that injured workers desperately need. When this happens, employees who have been denied their injury benefits may also be able to collect punitive damages from an employer.

When Punitive Damages May Be Ordered in a Maritime Injury Case

Punitive damages are an amount that is paid from one party to another to compensate the injured person for wrongdoing. The effects of punitive damages are twofold: they provide additional compensation to the victim, while punishing the employer for violating the law. In 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled that injured seamen could recover punitive damages from an employer who willfully withheld maintenance and cure damages, including:

  • Failing to pay maintenance and cure. Denial of rightful benefits can be grounds for punitive damages in maritime cases.
  • Failing to pay the full amount of maintenance and cure. Lowballing maintenance and cure or suddenly terminating a seaman’s benefits may qualify for punitive damages.
  • Delaying payment of maintenance and cure. Injured workers rely on immediate payments to avoid financial hardship after an accident, and may be awarded punitive damages in an effort to recoup lost personal costs.
  • Demonstrated willful negligence. As part of its reasoning, the Court emphasized that punitive damages have historically been allowed at common law for willful, wanton, or outrageous conduct. As a result, judges may also allow punitive damages to be assessed to cases involving negligence and unseaworthiness.

Our Attorneys Can Help You Get the Benefits You Are Owed

Since the amount of punitive damages is decided based on the facts of the case and can easily number in the thousands of dollars, employers often provide maintenance and cure in order to avoid a lawsuit. Our attorneys fight to get you all the payments that you are legally entitled to receive, allowing you to recover from your injury with the brightest possible future.

For more information about your rights, please call our experienced and compassionate New York maritime injury lawyers. We look forward to helping you get the recovery that you deserve!