Our services for crew members

Information for Crew Members

Free Confidential Consultation

miami maritime injury lawyer for cruise ship crew members

Crew members can always consult their problems with us free of charge with the knowledge that whatever they tell us will always remain confidential.

Medical Care Assistance

We always help our crew member clients obtain the medical care that they need at the company’s expense.

Maintenance and Sick Wages Assistance

We always help our crew member clients collect all sick wages and maintenance money that they are entitled to receive.

Our Own Doctors

help for maritime crew injuries

We do not trust the company doctors. We hire our own doctors to make sure our crew member clients have been diagnosed and treated correctly.

Our Own Experts

We do not trust the company’s experts. We always hire our own experts to help us understand and prove the mechanics involved in the accidents and incidents our crew member clients suffer on and off the ships.

B1-B2 Visas Assistance

Whenever a crew member client needs to come back to the United States for his case, we help him obtain his B1-B2 Tourist Visa.

Retirement Plans Assistance

We always help our crew member clients collect any retirement plan money that they are entitled to receive from their employers.

Free Case Evaluation

We are always happy to provide our crew member clients with an estimate of how much money compensation they can receive for their injuries or work related sickness.

Money Compensation

We always fight to obtain for our crew member clients the greatest amount of money compensation.

Fees and Costs

We never charge fees nor costs until we win your case.

We Are Always Available

We always answer all crew member phone calls and Emails promptly to address any questions or clarify any doubts they may have.

Do you have any questions?
Contact us now

Maritime Law – The Rights of Crew Members and Seamen

Information for Crew Members

Crew Members and Seamen:
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! DEMAND YOUR RIGHTS!

seaman in ships that visit ports in the United States have many rights and protections under American law.If you work as a crew member or seaman in any type of ship, you have many rights and protections under American Law. You still have these rights even if you are not a citizen or resident of the United States. You still have these rights even if you signed an employment contract waiving them. You still have these rights if you were sent home because of an injury or work-related illness before you could take any legal action in the United States.

These are your rights as crew members and seamen:

  • The right to work aboard a ship in good condition free of defects and dangerous conditions that could result in injuries or work-related sicknesses.
  • The right to receive monetary compensation for any injury or work-related sickness you suffer if such injury or work-related sickness occurs while you are working on the ship or for the ship because of your employer’s fault or because of dangerous conditions aboard the ship or off the ship.
  • The right to receive immediate and adequate medical treatment for any cruise ship injury, maritime injury, or work-related sickness that occurs while working on the ship or for the ship regardless of what may have caused your injury or work-related sickness.
  • The right to receive maintenance. This means hotel and food if you are receiving medical treatment at a port or away from home. If you are receiving medical treatment at home, it means a monthly amount of money while you receive medical treatment.
  • The right to hire a maritime lawyer that will protect your interests, not those of the company, and handle your maritime claims professionally in accordance with American Law.
  • ACT NOW. Do not let the time you have to file your maritime claim run out. There is a time limit to file these maritime claims for accidents, injuries, and work-related sicknesses.

If you have any questions or doubts about your rights, please contact us for a free confidential consultation in person, by telephone, or E-mail.

Our Maritime Law Practice is dedicated to defending the rights of crew members and seamen and to fighting for the well-being of crew members and seamen.

REMEMBER. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. WE DO NOT CHARGE FEES NOR COSTS UNTIL WE WIN YOUR CASE.

Your case truly deserves a free confidential consultation!

Tanto el abogado como todos los empleados, hablan Español.

Crew Members Always Ask Me These Questions:

Information for Crew Members
  1. Do I have to pay you any money now to start my case?
    No. We are so confident in our ability to obtain a good result for you that we do not charge any money upfront. We only collect our fees and costs when we win your case.
  2. Will the company cutoff my medical treatment and my maintenance money if I hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit?
    No. On the contrary, when a crew member is represented by an attorney the company is far more careful about the crew member’s medical treatment and maintenance money.
  3. What happens to my retirement plan if I hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit?
    Nothing. If you have the right to receive money from a retirement plan, that money has to be paid to you separate and in addition to any money compensation that you will receive for your injuries. Our policy is always to collect the retirement plan money for the crew member before we close his injury case.
  4. Do I have to pay you any money to help me collect my retirement plan money?
    No. We always help our crew member clients to collect their retirement plan money, and we do not charge them anything for this service. It is a courtesy for our clients.
  5. How much money can I receive for my injuries?
    This depends on how serious and disabling your injuries are. There are other factors that will affect the value of your case such as surgeries, your ability to return to work, the length of time you have been working for the company, the circumstances of your injuries or your sickness, etc.
  6. Do I have to be physically present in the United States to file a lawsuit against the company?
    No. You can be in your country of origin or in any other country in the world and we can file and handle the lawsuit for you in the United States.
  7. Do I have to get off the ship under medical care to file a lawsuit against the company?
    No. As long as you were injured or became sick aboard the ship or working for the ship, you can file a lawsuit against the company even if you did not get off the ship on medical.
  8. Do I have to get off the ship in an American port to file a lawsuit against the company?
    No. It does not matter where you get off the ship. You can file a lawsuit against the company, even if you get off the ship in another country.
  9. Can I file a lawsuit in the United States, even though I am not an American citizen?
    Yes. All crew members and seamen, irrespective of nationality, can file a lawsuit against the company in the United States if they are injured or become sick on the ship, or while in the service of the ship.
  10. Do I have to obtain a tourist (B1-B2) visa to file a lawsuit against the company?
    No. You do not need a tourist (B1-B2) visa to file a lawsuit. In most cases, we can obtain a good offer for you without you having to travel to the United States. If you have to travel to the United States for the lawsuit, we will help you obtain the visa.
  11. Do I have to travel to the United States for my lawsuit?
    In most cases, we can obtain a good offer for you without you having to travel to the United States. If you need to come, we will help you obtain a tourist visa (B1-B2) if you do not have one.

Money for Crew Members For Dangerous Conditions Aboard Cruise Ships

Information for Crew Members

A crew member has the right to receive money compensation for work injuries.

A crew member has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line if he is injured on the cruise ship because of dangerous or defective conditions aboard the ship. The most common dangerous conditions aboard cruise ships are:

  1. An inadequate crew. Cruise ships are often undermanned. When this occurs, crew members have to work too many hours and do the job of two or three crew members.  If a crew member is injured under these circumstances, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  2. Failure to enforce common sense guidelines for the lifting, carrying and pushing of heavy items.  Because of the constant work pressure on the cruise ships, the cruise ship companies do not enforce common sense rules for the lifting, carrying, and pushing of heavy items.  If a crew member is injured because he was forced to lift, carry, or push heavy items, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  3. Inadequate Cleaning and Maintenance. Frequently, the stairs and floors of the ships are wet, greasy, dirty and slippery. If a crew member is injured because the floor or the stairs are unsafe, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  4. Inadequate Training and Insufficient Hours of Rest. Frequently, crew members do not receive adequate training for the tasks they have to perform, or they are not given enough time to rest between work days.  If a crew member is injured because he is not properly trained or because he is exhausted after working too many hours, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  5. Insufficient or Defective Equipment. Frequently, the cruise lines fail to maintain the equipment and tools necessary to do the job.  They also fail to buy new equipment when the current equipment is broken or defective.  If a crew member is injured because he did not have the proper tools to do his job or the equipment he was using was broken or defective, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.dangerous or defective conditions aboard the ship are grounds for receiving compensation for work injuries.

Our advice to any crew member that is injured aboard a cruise ship is to consult with a maritime lawyer immediately because his injuries were probably caused by dangerous or defective conditions aboard the ship.

Awards of Punitive Damages in Seamen’s and Crew Members’ Personal Injury Claims

Information for Crew Members

An injured maritime worker seeking compensation normally has two courses of action:

  • If he meets the legal definition of a seaman or crew member, he can sue his employer for negligence under the Jones Act.
  • The injured seaman can also file a claim alleging that the vessel was unseaworthy and that an unsafe work environment led to his injury.

Awards of Punitive Damages in Seamen’s and Crew Members’ Personal Injury ClaimsUnder the Jones Act and the unseaworthiness laws, the seaman or crew member can recover damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity. In addition to these damages, the seaman or crew member could seek punitive damages.

Unlike the two courses of action described above, awards of punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff, but rather to punish defendants and reform them. Ship owners are required to pay the medical and living expenses of injured seamen and crew members until they reach maximum medical improvement. This law is known as "maintenance and cure".

"Punitive damages" describes a special type of civil damages. Such damages are awarded to a seaman or crew member when a court seeks to punish the defendant for gross negligence or reckless behavior.

In a Jones Act claim or an unseaworthiness claim, the dollar amount of an award is based on the damages suffered by the seaman or crew member. These damages cover pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity. However, punitive damages are not meant to compensate the seaman but to inflict financial pain on the defendant.

When a court wants to punish a defendant or send a clear message to the industry as a whole, it will award the plaintiff a large sum based on how much the defendant is worth and how badly the defendant has behaved during the case.

For example, if it comes to light that the defendant deliberately failed to pay for an injured seaman’s medical and living expenses or its failure to provide adequate and immediate medical care substantially worsened the seaman’s medical condition, the court may award substantial punitive damages to the plaintiff to punish the defendant.

When it comes to maintenance and cure claims, the recent United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Atlantic Sounding v. Townsend clears the way for seamen and crew members to pursue punitive damages in their cases. Punitive damages may be awarded if the plaintiff proves that the defendant did not meet his obligations to provide and pay reasonable medical care and living expenses or terminated maintenance and cure payments prematurely or without justification.

The Jones Act and the unseaworthiness laws give injured seamen the right to sue their employers for negligence and dangerous conditions aboard the ships, but whether the plaintiff can seek punitive damages at the same time depends on the situation. It is more common to award punitive damages in maintenance and cure claims. It is important to emphasize that punitive damages are not meant to compensate the injured party but rather to inflict financial punishment on those defendants who demonstrate gross negligence or recklessly dodge their responsibilities.

When Should an Injured Crew Member Hire a Marine Lawyer?

Information for Crew Members

Most crew members get injured because of the abusive labor policies of the cruise lines.The main reasons many injured crew members delay hiring a lawyer to help them obtain money compensation for their injuries are: Guilt, Hope, and Fear.

Guilt:
Many crew members blame themselves for their injuries.  This is totally wrong. Most crew members get injured because of the abusive labor policies of the cruise lines.  They are made to work too many hours.  Repeatedly, they have to lift, pull, push, and carry heavy items. Fatigue causes accidents and injuries.  They are not given adequate training and the proper tools they need to do their jobs.  As the ships get bigger there are fewer crew members relative to passengers and they do not get the help they need.  Crew members should not feel guilty because they are injured.  It is not the crew members’ fault. The companies are responsible for their accidents and injuries.  Therefore, an injured crew member should never delay hiring a maritime injury lawyer because he thinks his injuries are his fault.

Hope:
Most crew members are hardworking people that sacrifice themselves for the benefit of their families.  They leave their homes and families behind and work 7 days a week for periods of 6 months or longer.  When they get injured, they want to return to work as soon as possible to continue providing a good life for their families.  Sadly, the reality is quite different.  The cruise lines rarely re-hire an injured crew member.  They do not care that the crew member may have given them many years of hard work.  They treat the crew member as a broken piece of machinery that needs to be replaced.  Therefore, an injured crew member should never delay hiring a marine lawyer because he thinks the company is going to hire him back.  It rarely happens. 

Fear:
Many injured crew members fear that if they hire a lawyer the cruise ship company will retaliate and cut off their maintenance money and their medical treatment.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  It is just the opposite.  When a crew member is represented by a marine lawyer the cruise ship companies are far more careful with his maintenance money and his medical treatment. For example, when a crew member is not represented by an attorney, the company is far more likely to try to pressure the crew member’s doctors to declare him to be at maximum medical improvement.   This cuts off his medical treatment and his maintenance money.  This rarely happens when a marine lawyer is involved.  When there is no maritime injury lawyer involved, the companies will try to give the crew members quick and inferior medical care by sending them to receive medical care, not back to their countries, but to third countries where the medical care is cheap, inferior, and the doctors can be controlled by the company.  Therefore, an injured crew member should never delay hiring a lawyer because he fears that the company will cut off his medical treatment and his maintenance money.

When should an injured crew member hire a lawyer? Yesterday.

Crewmembers are Entitled to Free Medical Care Under Maritime Law

Information for Crew Members

Free Medical Care Under Maritime LawUnder American Maritime law, all vessel owners and operators have the legal obligation to provide free medical care for any crew member that is injured or becomes sick while he is working or is in the service of the ship. By the time of the case of Harder vs. Gordon in 1823 this was already well established law.

What does this mean for the crew member working on a cruise ship?

It means that if a crew member suffers an accident on a cruise ship and becomes injured or sick, the company he works for cannot evade the responsibility to provide him free medical care by the simple expedient of sending him home. The company cannot legally abandon an injured or sick crew member. The obligation to provide free medical care to an injured or sick crew member is so strong that it does not matter if the crew member was negligent or had any fault in causing his maritime accident or sickness. The only legal requirement to receive free medical care is that the crew member be working at the time of his medical problem or that he be in the service of the ship. For example, if a crew member is injured or becomes sick while on shore leave, he is still entitled to free medical care. If a crew member is traveling from his home to the ship or from the ship to his home, he is entitled to free medical care. American courts have been so generous in interpreting the crew member’s right to receive free medical care that in the famous case of Koistinen v. American Export Lines, a crew member was allowed to recover the medical expenses he incurred when he was injured by jumping out of the window of a house of prostitution.

What types of injuries or sickness entitle the crew member to receive free medical care?

The injury or sickness does not need to be related to the crew member’s work. It does not need to be caused by a maritime injury, or other cruise ship incidents. For example, a crew member is entitled to free medical care for a gall bladder attack, heart attack, diabetes, kidney stones, mental conditions, or any other medical treatment. Even when a pre-existing medical condition recurs, the crew member is still entitled to free medical care.
The crew member’s right to receive free medical care from the company is expected to work automatically without uncertainty or administrative delay or haggling.
American courts have imposed a duty on the employer under maritime law to pay for the crew member’s medical care irrespective of cause or fault and to resolve any doubts in favor of paying the crew member’s medical expenses.

Where am I entitled to receive my medical treatment?

The crew member is entitled to receive his emergency and non-emergency medical care aboard the ship, and at the nearest port depending upon of the severity of his injury or sickness. If the cargo or cruise ship injury or sickness renders the crew member unable to work, then, after the initial medical care is given, a doctor will determine if he is able to travel. If the crew member is able to travel, he will probably be sent home to receive his medical care. If the crew member is not able to travel, he will receive free medical care wherever he is at.

Can the company send me to a third country to receive my medical care?

In the last few years, many of the cruise companies have negotiated with doctors and hospitals in poor countries to obtain cheap and low quality medical care for their crew members. Instead of giving the medical care at the closest port or in the crew member’s home country, they try to send the crew member to a third country for his medical care. This is not an accepted practice and the crew member can and should refuse to go to a third country for medical care.

When does the company obligation to provide medical care end?

The company’s obligation to provide free medical care ends when the crew member has reached maximum medical improvement.

What does maximum medical improvement mean?

Maximum medical improvement means that, in the doctor’s opinion, any additional
medical treatment will not improve the crew member’s medical condition.

Who determines when the crew member has reached maximum medical improvement?

This is determined by the crew member’s doctor. When the crew member’s doctor writes a medical report saying that the crew member will not benefit from any additional medical care, the company’s obligation to provide it ends.

Can I challenge the doctor’s opinion that I have reached maximum medical improvement?

If the crew member disagrees with the doctor’s opinion that he has reached maximum medical improvement, he can challenge the doctor’s opinion. If the doctor who determined that the crew member has reached maximum medical improvement was selected by the company instead of the crew member, the crew member can get a different opinion from an equally qualified doctor and challenge the company doctor’s opinion. If the crew member selected his own doctor, challenging his opinion is far more difficult but it still can be accomplished in some cases.

What can I accomplish by challenging the company doctor’s opinion as to maximum medical improvement?

A successful challenge to the company doctor’s opinion will result in the company reopening the crew member’s medical file and giving him any additional treatment
that he may need such as additional medication, additional medical testing, additional therapy, additional surgery, etc.

Free confidential consultation by E-mail, phone, or in person.

ELIAS B. RUDNIKAS
Attorney at Law – Specialized in Maritime Law
2nd Floor Stella Maris Building
3670 N.W. 6th Street, Miami, Florida 33125
United States of America
Telephone: (305) 642-5000; Fax: (305) 541-4690.

Maritime Law: Rights of Crew and Seamen to Receive Maintenance Money

Information for Crew Members

What is maintenance?

All crew members and seamen have the right to receive a daily amount of money when they are unable to work because of an accident, an injury, or a sickness that occurred while working or in the service of the ship. Service of the ship includes maritime injury and sickness that occur while traveling to and from the ship, while on shore leave, and while working on land or on an island off the ship.

What does this mean for a crew member or seaman working on any ship?

It means that if a crew member is injured or becomes sick while working or in the service of the ship, the company has to pay him a daily amount of money until he reaches maximum medical improvement.

What type of injuries or sickness entitles the crew member or seaman to maintenance?

The injury or sickness does not have to be related to the crew member’s occupation on the ship. It does not need to be a result of a cruise ship injury or other maritime accident. For example, a crew member is entitled to maintenance while receiving medical treatment for a heart problem, a kidney problem, diabetes, a mental problem or any other medical condition.

Is a crew member or seaman entitled to maintenance while hospitalized or living in a company-paid hotel?

No. The purpose of maintenance is to pay for the crew member’s living expenses. If a crew member is hospitalized or living in a company-paid hotel and he is receiving room and board, this fulfills the company’s obligation to provide maintenance.

What determines how much maintenance money the crew member or seaman receives?

In most cases, the daily amount of money you will receive is determined by the employment contract that the crew member signs or by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For how long is the crew member or seaman entitled to receive maintenance?

For as long as he is receiving curative medical care. The company’s obligation to pay maintenance only ends when your doctor says that you can return to work on the vessel (fit-for-duty) or he says that you have reached maximum medical improvement.

What does maximum medical improvement mean?

Maximum medical improvement means that, in the doctor’s opinion, any additional medical treatment will not improve the crew member’s medical condition. Of course, with most serious injuries, a crew member may have reached maximum medical improvement but is not fit-for-duty.

Money for Crew Members for Unseaworthiness

Information for Crew Members

To the average person, a ship is unseaworthy when it is unable to navigate due to mechanical or structural problems. This notion is correct. However, as it applies to the crew that works on a ship, unseaworthiness has an additional meaning in the United States. In the famous Osceola case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a ship and her owner are legally responsible for the injuries received by a crew member as a result of the unseaworthiness of the ship. The Supreme Court also defined unseaworthiness as the failure to keep a ship in good working order and free of dangerous and defective conditions.

What does this mean for the crew member working on a cruise ship?

It means that the crew member has the right to receive money compensation from the ship and her owner if he is injured aboard the ship because of dangerous or defective conditions aboard the ship. The most common instances of unseaworthiness aboard cruise ships are:

  1. An insufficient crew. Cruise ships are frequently understaffed. When this happens, a crew member may have to do the job of two and work very long hours. If this crew member is injured, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  2. Failure to promulgate and enforce sensible policies for the lifting, carrying and pushing of heavy weights. If a crew member is injured because he was made to lift, carry, or push heavy weights, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  3. Failure to keep the ship clean and safe. Very often, the floors and stairs of the ship are dirty and slippery. If a crew member is injured because the floor or the stairs are slippery, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  4. Failure to have a properly trained and rested crew. Very often, crew members are injured because they do not receive adequate training to do their jobs or because they are not properly rested. If a crew member is injured because he is tired or not properly trained, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.
  5. Failure to have the necessary equipment. Very often, the cruise lines fail to repair or replace defective or broken down equipment. If a crew member is injured because he did not have the proper equipment or the equipment he was using was defective, he has the right to receive money compensation from the cruise line.

Our advice to any crew member that is injured aboard a cruise ship is to consult with a maritime lawyer right away because his injuries were most likely caused by the unseaworthiness of the ship.