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Medical negligence under maritime law

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2023 | Jones Act, Maritime Law

You may be familiar with the basic concepts of medical malpractice and workers’ compensation, but the legal protections are very different for maritime workers who are injured through medical negligence at sea.

The duty to provide medical care

Working at sea is hard, and often dangerous. It’s not uncommon for people to be hurt on the job. Cruise ships may have a doctor onboard, but smaller vessels made for cargo or fishing may have no more than a trained medic. Many don’t even have that. All too often, employees receive substandard care at sea, or no care at all, resulting in serious health consequences.

If a worker is hurt or has a medical emergency while far out at sea, it may be difficult to transport them to a hospital. But, for many types of injuries and illnesses, a delay in treatment can make the condition much worse.

Under the traditions of maritime law, employers have a duty to provide their employees with medical care after they have been injured on the job. In maritime law, this concept is known as “cure.” This includes the duty to provide workers with emergency medical care if necessary. This means that if an employer fails to provide emergency treatment in a timely manner to an employee who needs it, and the employee suffers a worsened condition because of that delay, the employee can have a cause of action to sue the employer for damages.

The Jones Act also imposes a duty on employers to take appropriate action for employees who need medical attention. They must carry medical supplies onboard, provides a cause of action for employees in this situation. At the least, they must have a way of contacting medical personnel who can respond in emergency situations.

The Jones Act, which controls many aspects of maritime industry, allows these workers to sue their employers for negligence after they have failed in this duty. This is in addition to any other causes of action they may have related to the illness or injury.

Help for the injured

It would be better for everyone involved if employers simply lived up to their duties and provided workers with the medical attention they need exactly when they need it. But when they fail to do that, it’s important for injured workers to have the right to take legal action. This way, they can hold their employers accountable and receive the compensation they need to deal with costly and painful health conditions.