It is crucial that you hire a lawyer who understands maritime law after being injured on or near the water.
Maritime matters are governed by federal law, not state personal injury law. To properly protect your rights, injured maritime victims should speak with an experienced maritime attorney.
Virginia Maritime Lawyer Richard Serpe
- Advanced Maritime Law Degree: After law school, Richard Serpe obtained a Master of Laws in Maritime & Admiralty law from Tulane University School of Law. Tulane’s maritime law program is highly-rated in the United States and Internationally.
- Proctor in Admiralty: Richard Serpe has obtained the highest ranking (Proctor) from the Maritime Law Association of the United States.
- Jones Act Case Success: He has successfully prosecuted cases under the Jones Act, bringing fair and just compensation to those who were injured while performing their duties.
- Experience & Results: Richard Serpe has 34+ years of experience in protecting the rights of injured seamen. He knows how the insurers or commercial vessels will do everything they can to minimize their financial liability. And, they will do so even if it is at the expense of decent medical care for the injured.
- Protecting Families: Richard Serpe has successfully settled fatal maritime accident cases that resulted in the death of a loved one.
“I was awarded a settlement that changed my life and my family’s life, and I thank the law firm for that.”
After a major maritime accident on the water, I was scared and didn’t know where to turn. The Law Offices of Richard Serpe and his great staff treated me with the utmost respect and attention that I needed. They treated me like a member of the family. I was awarded a settlement that changed my life and my family’s life, and I thank the law firm for that. Not only during the case, but after as well, the law firm has looked after me. If I had to recommend anyone, I would recommend Richard Serpe.
Jones Act vs. Workers’ Compensation
Many are surprised to learn that maritime employees are not covered by normal workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, seamen can file personal injury claims under the Jones Act. If maritime workers can prove that their employer did not provide a safe environment in which to work, they can recover the costs associated with their injury.
What is the Jones Act and who is covered by it?
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is an important federal maritime law. This law protects workers who are injured or become ill at sea by allowing them to recover compensation from their employer.
To qualify for these protections, a maritime worker must fall under the Jones Act definition of a “seaman”. U.S. courts have generally interpreted “seamen” as anyone performing work related to a vessel’s purpose while operating in navigable waters. Navigable waters meaning waters capable of being used for commerce.
The employee must also spend a “significant” amount of their time on the vessel. This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by taking their circumstances of employment into account. However, this typically means at least 30% of their time.
Maintenance and Cure Compensation
Seamen injured while at sea are entitled to maintenance and cure from employers. This doctrine is one of the oldest in maritime law, and it has been traced back nearly 1000 years. It does not matter if the illness or injury is work-related as long as it occurs or manifests itself while the seaman is “in service to the vessel”. As well, the injury cannot be caused by the seaman’s own willful conduct.
Maintenance and Cure is paid until the seaman is either fit to return to work, or has reached a point where additional medical care will not help. Sometimes, a seaman might be fit enough to return to work and will lose his right to maintenance. But, if additional medical care could help, he would be entitled to additional cure.
The idea is that a healthy seaman lives and works on the ship. So, if he is injured and can no longer enjoy the benefits of that home, he is entitled to room and board (maintenance).
Maintenance should include the cost of maintaining the seaman’s home. This includes rent or mortgage, taxes, insurance, and food. Historically, employers paid amounts around 8 to 12 dollars per day. If the employer tries to pay a low amount like this, an experienced maritime lawyer will seek to show the court your ACTUAL cost of maintenance and seek a higher award.
In addition, he is also entitled to medical care to cure him of the injury (cure).
Occasionally, an employer will try to force a seaman to use private medical insurance to pay the bills. This is not a good idea because often the “cure” obligation is more broad than that provided by insurance. Cure should cover all related medical care, and can also include transportation expenses to see the doctors. A maritime lawyer will ensure that you are getting the medical treatment you deserve.
Common Acts of Maritime Negligence
- Lack of proper safety training
- Lack of proper occupational training – crew not properly trained for their job
- Poorly maintained, broken, or faulty equipment or machinery
- The employer fails to provide proper equipment for a crew member’s job/task
- Unseaworthy Vessel – when the vessel is not reasonably fit for its intended purpose
- Failure to hire a competent crew, negligent co-workers
- Collisions with other vessels