Articles Posted in Rights of Seamen

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Rscue-300x199The ALASKA JURIS, a fishing vessel owned by Fishing Company Of Alaska (FCA), started taking on water on July 26, 2016 while fishing off the Aleutian chain of islands. The captain sent out a mayday. The crew donned their survival suits, got into life rafts, and abandoned ship. No other vessel was in sight. After several hours floating in the open sea near Adak, good Samaritan vessels arrived at the scene to rescue the crew.

This is the same fishing company that owned and operated the ALASKA RANGER, a factory trawler that sank in March 2008. Five crew died in that sinking.

We understand FCA and its insurance company are now offering $20,000 to survivors of the ALASKA JURIS to settle any and all claims they may have as a result of the sinking ordeal. The offer comes with a written explanation. FCA and its insurance company compare the sinking of the RANGER to the sinking of the JURIS as justification as to why they are only offering $20,000 to settle.

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Injured seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits while they are recovering from their injuries. Maintenance should continue until the seaman has reached a point of maximum medical improvement or to the point where he or she is able to return to their normal job assignment. Maintenance payments are not wage replacement payments; maintenance only provides an allowance for the reasonable housing, food, and utilities of the injured seaman. Maintenance does not provide for many of the expenses seaman may face such as car payments and support of one’s spouse and children.

In many cases prior to reaching maximum medical improvement, the seaman is cleared for light duty by their treating doctor. If a seaman seeks a light duty shore side job during recovery from their shipboard injuries, they are still entitled to ongoing maintenance benefits. The wages earned in this light duty job do not offset or replace maintenance benefits. Maritime legal cases support the proposition that an injured fisherman should receive light duty wages in addition to their maintenance payment.

The right to ongoing maintenance while on shoreside light duty is slightly different when the seaman returns to light duty aboard the same ship or fishing vessel on which they were injured. If the employer is providing meals and lodging as part of the light duty job aboard ship, then they would be fulfilling their obligation to pay maintenance as they are paying for the injured worker’s room and food. However, as in most fisherman contracts, if the cost of meals or housing is being deducted from the fisherman’s pay, then the fisherman on light duty will still be entitled to at least a portion, if not all, of their maintenance benefits, in addition to light duty wages.