What should my husband do??
5 attorney answers
Your husband needs to consult a maritime attorney TODAY.
The workers compensation carrier claims your husband is a seaman and it seems they are correct. He has an employment related connection to a vessel in navigation that is substantial in nature and duration and which regularly exposes him to the hazards of the marine environment. His duties contribute to the vessel's function or the accomplishment of its mission. The St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Florida, where you posted your question, is part of the navigable waters of the United States. If your husband is in fact a seaman, he is covered by the Jones Act. He is entitled to a seaworthy vessel; additionally, he is entitled to maintenance and cure.
The workers comp carrier is at least partially correct. Florida workers compensation law provides, “Benefits are not payable in respect of the disability or death of any employee covered by … the Jones Act.” That, however, does not say that they don’t have to cover his medical bills. Even if the contract between the carrier and the builder precludes medical payments to seamen, all that means is that the employer must pay them.
“Maintenance and cure” is an ancient benefit that employers have been required for over 500 years to provide to seamen. Your husband is entitled to his medical expenses (doctors, hospital, physical and occupational therapists, prescriptions, etc.) paid at 100% with no deductible and no co-payment until he reaches maximum cure (he recovers to the point that no further medical improvement is possible). He is also entitled to an allowance that covers the costs of his food and housing from his discharge from the hospital until he reaches maximum cure. Finally, he is entitled to be paid his full wages until the end of the pay period in which he was injured. If his employer was even slightly negligent or the boat was not seaworthy, he may also be entitled to other damages such as payment for lost past and future wages or accessibility modifications to your home if the injury results in a disability.
There is no way to adequately answer this question in an online forum. An attorney providing advice will need much more information than could ever be provided through AVVO. That is why your husband must consult an attorney without delay.
Don't contact just any attorney — be absolutely certain that your attorney is well versed in Admiralty and Maritime Law and can give you specific legal advice based on the particular facts and circumstances of your case. You can find such an attorney through the Florida Bar. Go to https://www.floridabar.org/directories/find-mbr/. Use the drop-down menus to select “Admiralty and Maritime” in the Board Certifications and Practice Areas menus. You could also check with the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (http://www.seali.com/page-1084527?&tab=2) or the Maritime Law Association of the United States (http://mlaus.org/member-directory/); just fill in the city and state. Finally, you can also use the "Find a Lawyer" link at the top of this web page.
Maritime Law is substantially different from land-based law. The standard of care is different; the burdens of proof are different; even the amount of time you have to file the case is different. Be very careful in your choice of attorneys to ask specifically how well versed they are in Maritime Law.
This answer is general information for discussion purposes only; do not construe it as legal advice. The applicability of the legal principles discussed will differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented in this answer without consulting an attorney about your particular situation. I am not your lawyer, you are not my client, and no attorney-client relationship is established. Do not construe anything in this answer as creating an attorney-client relationship. Again, this answer is only general information for discussion purposes.
Because the others have already said what needs to be said about the law on this matter, I will just take the time to emphasize the need to promptly seek the counsel of an Admiralty attorney in the Jacksonville area.
The "answers" provided on this website are not to be relied on as legal opinions. No lawyer-client relationship is created here, nor is such a relationship accepted through this website. In addition to the disclaimers that are standard on AVVO, the opinions of this writer are general in nature and are intended to assist in outlining issues, not as an opinion on the outcome of those issues.
Your husband needs to contact a lawyer that practices in the maritime and Jones Act field. There are several issues at play here that can impact the outcome. Of the issues to figure out, who, if anyone, was his Jone's Act Employer? Maritime lawyers like myself could write page and pages on the potential issues, but they will need facts from you, pay records, hospital bills, accident reports, and a host of other documents to reach out to the proper parties for a resolution. As one of the other lawyers has said in this matter, hire a lawyer that does this kind of work and let them advised you accordingly.
This answer is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as the practice of law in any jurisdiction in which I am not licensed. The answer does not constitute legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The answer is based only on the information provided, and may be inaccurate in the context of additional facts that have not been provided. The questioner should be aware that I am only licensed to practice law in the state and federal courts of Louisiana. Accordingly, before taking any action or refraining from taking any action, the questioner should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in his or her jurisdiction.
Your husband has a direct and substantial connection to the work vessel integral to his employment. He was injured while in the service of the vessel. His employer and the vessel owner have a duty to provide "maintenance and cure", that is the cost of medical care and a daily benefit until he has reached MMI, maximum medical improvement. He does not have to prove any fault in this regard, just that he was injured while acting in the service of the vessel, which he clearly was. It also appears he may have a good claim under a federal statute, "The Jones Act"for negligence of his employer, and unseaworthiness of the vessel under the general maritime laws of the United States against the vessel owner. Your husband appears to have a substantial claim, with a number of legal weapons at his disposal in the hands of a qualified maritime attorney. The fact that the workers compensation carrier is denying coverage supports this opinion. Your husbands claims under the maritime law are more valuable and powerful than a workers compensation claim. He needs carefully crafted and knowledgable legal representation as soon as possible.
Your husband is apparently a seaman. As a seaman, he is owed maintenance and cure from his employer. That means they have to pay for his medical treatment and a per diem rate until he heals up. The employer also has to pay his unearned wages through the end of his contract. He may also have claims for negligence and unseaworthiness. His claims do fall under maritime law, so he needs to consult a lawyer who practices in that area of law.