Medical Negligence at Sea
Federal maritime law protects crewmen and commercial fishermen who are injured because of negligent medical treatment aboard their fishing vessel or ship. Maritime lawyers James Beard and his partners at Johnson Beard & Trueb PC have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for injuries and deaths of crewmen and commercial fishermen caused by failure to provide proper medical treatment and/or negligent medical treatment.
The fact is that getting an injured crewman to shore for proper medical treatment should be the number one priority of any vessel. Unfortunately, some vessels put profits over their crewman’s health, and this medical negligence in some cases leads to serious and permanent injuries or death. Evaluating a crewman’s medical condition over the radio is no easy task. What may be described as a small problem can quickly become a life threatening problem if proper medical evaluation is not promptly provided. This means getting a crewman off the vessel as soon as possible, including diverting course or returning to shore. Seriously injured and ill crewmen should be airlifted from their vessels for emergency medical treatment.
Beard and his partners Lanning Trueb and Douglas Johnson are experienced in representing crewmen, commercial fishermen, and fish processors who have received negligent medical care aboard their ships and fishing vessels. They have represented crewmen with infectious diseases that have resulted in amputations of the limbs. He has represented the families of a psychologically impaired crewman who committed suicide by jumping overboard. They have represented crewmen and fish processors who after suffering back injuries were forced to continue to work, resulting in aggravation of their injuries. He has represented crewmen who have suffered amputations of toes and fingers as a result of failure to properly treat frostbite injuries.
Where a crewman, fisherman, or fish processor is injured or becomes ill aboard a vessel at sea, the employer and vessel owner owes the crewman a duty to provide prompt and proper medical care. The failure to provide proper medical care to an injured seaman or fisherman breaches the employer’s duty to provide “cure” under the general maritime law and may give raise to a claim for punitive damages. The failure to provide proper treatment also is the basis of a negligence claim for compensation under the Jones Act. These two types of claims for negligent shipboard care are in addition to any claims for unseaworthiness or negligence relating to the cause of the injury or illness. Maritime law requires that a vessel owner and seaman’s employer must be prepared to respond to a medical emergency at sea. This includes having proper medical supplies aboard the vessel and having persons aboard the vessel trained to provide emergency medical response. Each vessel should be capable of contacting emergency medical personnel via ship-to-shore communications to receive medical advice about how to treat an injury or illness. The Coast Guard may also be contacted for medical advice.
Getting prompt and appropriate care for an injured or ill crewman may mean the difference between life and death. Vessel profits should never take priority over getting an injured or ill seaman the treatment they need.
Where a crewman who has been injured aboard ship as a result of negligence or unseaworthiness receives negligent medical treatment by a shore-based doctor, the ship and employer remain responsible for paying the seaman medical bills and paying compensatory damages to the seaman for his injuries.
A seaman, fisherman or fish processor who has been injured as a result of negligent medical treatment aboard their vessel is entitled to money damages to compensate them for their injuries. Damages available for maritime negligent medical care to crewmen include such items as damages for pain and suffering, mental stress, past and future lost wages, lost wage earning capacity, future medical expenses, and vocational retraining.
Maritime medical negligence cases for injured crewmen are extremely complex. All medical negligence cases are difficult to prove, and proving negligence in maritime medical negligence claims may be more difficult than land-based medical negligence claims. In some factual situations involving medical treatment for injuries occurring at sea, the vessel owner and employer may have all of the defense available to shoreside doctors who provided the negligent care. Proving that the shipboard negligence “caused” additional damages to the crewman is an important component to any maritime negligence claim. The Jones Act is a powerful law that lessens the causation burden of proof that is necessary to establish liability for maritime medical negligence claims.
Johnson Beard & Trueb PC represent injured seamen, commercial fishermen and fish processors on a contingency fee basis. You owe no fees unless they successfully recover damages in your case. Johnson Beard & Trueb PC have over 75 years of combined experience in representing injured seamen, commercial fishermen and fish processors. Call them toll free at 1 800-621-1091 to discuss your potential claim.