Richard Serpe: Master of Laws in Maritime/Admiralty
The best personal injury attorney who devotes their practice to injuries occurring on land will be familiar with state law concepts.
Maritime matters, on the other hand, are governed by federal law. If you are injured in a maritime accident you need an attorney who understands these laws.
- Master of Laws in Maritime: After law school, Richard Serpe obtained a Master of Laws in Admiralty law from Tulane University School of Law.
- Proctor of Admiralty: He 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.
- Protecting Injured Seamen: Richard Serpe has years of experience in protecting the rights of injured seamen. He knows how the insurers of commercial vessels will do everything they can to minimize their financial liability, even if it is at the expense of decent treatment for the injured.
- Protecting Families: Richard Serpe has successfully settled cases for recreational boating victims that resulted in the death of a loved one by a maritime vessel.
Common Acts of Negligence that Lead to Injury and Death
- Lack of proper safety training
- Lack of proper occupational training – crew member 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
- Collision with another vessel
The Jones Act vs. Workers’ Compensation
Many are surprised to learn that maritime employees are not covered by normal workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, under The Jones Act, seamen can file personal injury claims. 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 Do I Qualify?
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 such protections, a maritime worker must fall under the Jones Act definition of a “seaman”. U.S. courts have generally interpreted “seamen” to mean anyone performing work related to a vessel’s purpose 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 into account the circumstances of employment. However, this often means at least 30% of their time.
Maintenance and Cure Compensation
Seamen who are injured while at sea are entitled to maintenance and cure from their 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” and was not caused by the seaman’s own willful conduct.
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) and medical care to cure him of the injury (cure). These amounts are paid until the seaman is either fit to return to work or until he has reached a point where additional medical care will not help him. Sometimes a seaman might be fit enough to return to work, so he will lose his right to maintenance, but additional medical care could help, so he would be entitled to additional cure.
Maintenance should include the cost of maintaining the seaman’s home, including rent or mortgage, taxes, insurance, and food. Historically, employers got used to paying amounts much lower than this, 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.
Occasionally, an employer will try to force a seaman too use private medical insurance to pay the bills. This is not generally a good idea for the seaman because often the “cure” obligation is more broad than that provided by insurance. Cure should cover all related medical care, and also can include transportation expenses to see the doctors.