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October 15th, 2009

A Jones Act Seaman has the Right to Immediate Medical Attention

Sometimes in our practice as maritime lawyers, we come across Jones Act seamen who have been injured or fallen ill while at sea, and had their injuries or illnesses exacacebated because of delayed, or lack of, medical attention. Providing emergency medical care to an injured worker, as well as ensuring that he is airlifted to shore, if necessary, so he can receive better treatment, is the responsibility of an employer.

Earlier this week, the Coast Guard airlifted a crewmember of a commercial fishing vessel off the coast of California, after he suffered a stroke. The 62-year-old worker was in urgent need of medical care. He was airlifted to a hospital in California.

Illnesses can strike suddenly and unexpectedly. These can cause enough anguish when they occur on land, but when they occur to a fishing vessel crew member or any other kind of Jones Act seaman at sea, the agony can be unimaginable. These workers spend long days and weeks at sea far from their loved ones, and with little emotional support.  When they do fall ill or are injured, it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the injured crewman receives immediate and effective medical care. It’s part of his rights to “cure” under the Jones Act and it’s absolute, meaning that a worker is entitled to these rights even if he was partly at fault in the accident.

Can Medical Negligence be the Grounds for a Jones Act Claim?

Failure to offer medical care to an injured or sick crewmember can be the grounds for a Jones Act claim. In order to pursue a claim however, the crew member must first meet the definition of a Jones Act seaman. This means that

  • He must be assigned to a vessel.
  • The vessel must be in navigation.
  • The seaman must contribute to the function of the vessel.

Determining whether you qualify as a Jones Act seaman can be extremely complex, and is just one of the many issues that can be resolved with the help of an expert maritime attorney.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers are trial attorneys representing crew members of cargo ships, commercial fishing vessel crew members, barge and tugboat operators, cruise liner crews, offshore rig workers, jack-up rig workers, tanker and freighter crews and other workers who qualify for Jones Act seaman status.

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