Able seamen, also known as able-bodied seamen, are the laboring hands of ocean-going merchant ships. They are members of the Deck Department who are responsible for shipboard maintenance, repair, and cleaning. They also assist with emergency management, safety equipment, and standing watch as a helmsman or lookout while the ship is underway.
Able seamen often hold licensure from the United State Coast Guard called Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMCs). Their MMC endorsement in the source of their title: “Able Seaman Special” or “STCW Able Seafarer – Deck.” This license subjects able seamen to Coast Guard medical certification. Able-bodied seamen can also have a basic security clearance, holding a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).
The broad duties of an able seaman can expose him or her to risks all over the ship. These can include:
Mooring line strikes
Being crushed by heavy equipment
Dangerous enclosed spaces
Slick and slippery decks
Falling from heights
When negligence or unseaworthiness disrupts an able seaman’s duties, tragedy can strike. They can be injured or even killed on the job. Common injuries faced by able seamen may include:
These injuries can result from ship navigational mistakes, a lack of crew training, inadequate safety equipment, improper rest periods, defective equipment, and malfunctioning machinery.
While able-bodied seamen have a hard job, their employers still have an obligation to provide them a safe place to work. The Jones Act is over 100 years old. Congress passed it to set a standard of care for merchant mariners and enables an injured able seamen to sue for damages like lost future earnings, pain and suffering, and disability if the injury was caused by the negligence of the Jones Act seaman’s maritime employer. In addition to Jones Act negligence, injured able-bodied seamen may also have a claim against the vessel owner under the ancient maritime doctrine of unseaworthiness if the ship, its equipment, or its crew were not fit for duty. Even if the vessel owner or maritime employer was not a fault for the injury, able seamen hurt in service of a vessel usually qualify for maintenance and cure benefits under general maritime law. Maintenance is periodic payments to the injured seaman to help with living expenses while cure covers medical treatment expenses arising from the shipboard injury or illness.
If you are an able seaman who was hurt while serving aboard a merchant ship, this is a tough time for you and your family. You may be asking important questions, like:
Can I get my medical bills covered?
Should I be giving recorded conversations to insurance adjusters?
Is this maintenance rate fair?
A seasoned Jones Act lawyer may be able to help with these difficult decisions. You may be entitled to medical expenses, lost wages, and other compensation. Mariner Law, PLLC is proud to represent able-bodied seamen from all over the country. The firm is licensed in in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, New York, and Connecticut, but provides free initial consultation with able seamen nationwide. If you or a loved one was injured or killed while serving as an able seaman, Mariner Law, PLLC maybe able to help. There is no obligation to speak with a firm maritime attorney. Call (253) 600-2531.