Shem Cree, Mt. Pleasant

Seaman’s Wage Claims, Personal Injury, and Wrongful Death

Masters and Members of any crew employed upon a vessel or group of vessels operating on navigable waters are in most instances seamen and are entitled to special  protection as wards of the admiralty courts. This includes not just merchant seamen on transatlantic voyages, but also charter boat captains and crew, fishermen, divers, many nearshore and offshore construction workers, cooks, and many other types of maritime employment. Seamen are guaranteed certain rights under admiralty law. For example, seamen are entitled to prompt payment of wages, and those who are injured while subject to the call of duty have several options for seeking compensation.

  • Were you injured due to the carelessness or negligence of others?
  • Did you miss work due to an illness or injury during a voyage?
  • Were you injured while working on a vessel that was ill-equipped or poorly maintained?

If so, please contact Cooper and Bilbrey, P.C., for a free and confidential consultation with no obligation. We are ready to help today.

Seamen’s Claims for Injury or Death

Although Jones Act Seamen are not entitled to compensation under normal, landside workers’ compensation schemes, seamen and other offshore workers are entitled to protection under admiralty law. Those injured on the job have at least five possible claims:

  1. Maintenance. If a seaman falls ill or is injured while subject to the call of duty, he or she is entitled to a subsistence allowance for room and board until reaching maximum medical recovery.

  2. Cure. Seamen also have a right to medical treatment until they reach maximum medical improvement.

  3. Unearned wages. The right to unearned wages extends to the end of the voyage or employment period.

  4. Jones Act. The Jones Act is a negligence-based remedy. An injured seaman can recover compensation if it can be proved that the seaman’s employer was negligent or at fault.

  5. Unseaworthiness. A vessel owner is responsible for ensuring that a vessel is reasonably well equipped, well repaired, and fit for the voyage to be taken. If not, an injured worker may seek compensation with an unseaworthiness claim.

Seamen’s Wage And Hour Claims

Seamen are also entitled to prompt payment of wages. The admiralty law provides remedies to seamen who are not promptly paid as agreed, and in most instances a maritime lien of the highest priority arises in the seaman’s favor against the vessel upon which he was employed . Depending on the type of vessel and the voyage, penalty statutes may also apply to employers who are late paying wages. If federal penalties do not apply, state wage laws may apply, particularly to seamen who work in state waters. To learn more about our attorneys’ experience with seaman wage claims, please call or email us for a free, confidential consultation with no obligation.

Seamen’s Maintenance and Cure Claims

A seaman who suffers injuries or illness while subject to the call of duty may file a claim to seek medical benefits, maintenance, and compensation for lost wages as a result of the injury or illness through the end of the voyage. These claims are known as maintenance and cure claims, and they may be brought separately from any Jones Act claim against the employer for negligence or against the ship owner for unseaworthiness.

“Maintenance” refers to compensation paid for the seaman’s loss of shipboard lodging and meals, “Cure” to reasonably necessary medical care related to the illness or injury,  and unearned wages to wages that an injured seaman would have earned through the end of the voyage but for the illness or injury. Maintenance and Cure benefits should continue until he or she reaches what is called “maximum medical improvement (MMI). Every seaman who is injured or who suffers illness while subject to the call of duty is entitled to maintenance benefits regardless of whether the employer or any other party was at fault in causing the injury or illness.

Cure claims refer to claims against the ship owner for reimbursement of medical expenses not covered by health insurance or other medical benefits programs. Under maintenance and cure laws, injured offshore workers can choose their own doctors and should receive reimbursement for all reasonably necessary medical care. Cure benefits are payable until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI).


Unseaworthiness refers to a ship owner’s duty to provide a vessel that is reasonably fit for the voyage and the job at hand. If the vessel’s gear, equipment, appurtenances, tackle, rigging, or crew are inadequate or unsafe and that unsafe or inadequate condition causes injury, the injured person likely has a claim for unseaworthiness against the ship owner under the General Maritime Law. Claims for unseaworthiness are often made in conjunction with a Jones Act claim and claims for maintenance and cure benefits.

Experienced Charleston, South Carolina Jones Act Attorneys

The law firm of Cooper and Bilbrey, P.C. has focused on admiralty law and offshore accident cases since its founding in 1984. Over the years, we have successfully represented many seamen in Jones Act, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure cases and recovered compensation for them and their families through settlements and verdicts at trial.

Find out more about how we can help. Call or Email us to schedule a free, confidential  consultation with no obligation.

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