The U.S. Supreme Court, on June 24th, made a ruling that an injured sailor is no longer able to recover punitive damages when filing a maritime injury claim. This means that if you file a claim against your employer because they failed to keep the ship in seaworthy condition and you were injured, the Court will only be able to compensate you for your losses. The Court cannot force punitive damages on your employer. These damages, in most situations, are reserved for when the shipowner does something that is unusually reckless, outrageous, or negligent.
When you suffer injuries at sea, you have a battle ahead of you at home. You still have to support your family, you have to heal from your injuries, and you need to collection compensation from your employer. The Kolodny Law Firm understands maritime law and we will help you get the compensation that you deserve.
Punitive Damages in Unseaworthiness Claims
If you have been injured in a maritime accident, you have multiple avenues available for seeking compensation. You can sue the ship owner for negligence under the Jones Act, or you can sue them under the theory of unseaworthiness, which does not require you to prove negligence. Instead, you will have to prove that the vessel was not seaworthy, and this resulted in your injuries. Unseaworthiness could include:
- Engine malfunction
- Lines breaking
- Fuel vapor leak
- Cluttered deck
- Loose cargo or machinery
- Incompetent captain or crew
- Malfunctioning communication or navigation equipment
- Inadequate handrails and/or anti-slip surfaces
Unseaworthiness does not concern just the ship itself, but instead includes the fixture and crew as well. In addition to not having to prove negligence, another benefit proving unseaworthiness has over the Jones Act is the range of damages that are available. The Jones Act limits the type and amount of damages that can be recovered. Unseaworthiness allows for more types of damages and larger settlements.
Previously punitive damages could be received in an unseaworthiness claim, but the United States Supreme Court recently removed this by deciding that these damages were not appropriate for these cases. They stated that traditional maritime law cases did not show enough evidence to make punitive damages a common remedy. Without traditional claims backing punitive damages, the court could not stand behind this type of remedy and the rest of the judicial system was not willing to incorporate new laws to include punitive damages.
Seek Compensation for Your Maritime Injuries Today
Whether you and your attorney decide that it is in your best interest to file a claim under the Jones Act or unseaworthiness, you may be able to seek compensation for your physical pain, loss of income, mental anguish, disability, and medical costs. Although punitive damages, or those meant to punish your employer, are off the table, you can still get other types of compensation for your injuries. The attorneys at Kolodny Law Firm will make your claim easy to navigate by documenting exactly how your injury has impacted you so that you can get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.