Three Crew Members Die from Mystery Illness on Cargo Ship
Whether you work on a cruise ship docked in the Port of Seattle, Washington, or as a crab fisherman in Alaska, life at sea can be difficult and pose unique challenges. The work is physically demanding, and bunking in such close quarters puts you at risk for communicable diseases like the gastrointestinal Norovirus, which often appears on cruise ship vessels. Recently, a German cargo ship docked on the Suntis in England experienced tragedy as three of their crew members became ill and died while carrying lumber. Two of the men were in their 30s and from the Philippines, and one man was a 60 year-old German national. The cause of death was still unknown at the time the deaths were reported to the media, with authorities conducting an on-going investigation in the meantime.
Certain legal remedies have been long-defined by maritime case law and federal statute. If you fall ill or become injured during a voyage, you are entitled to maintenance and cure. Maintenance is a daily stipend provided to the crew member for the living expenses he or she would have received while onboard the voyage and can include overtime wages and tips, as well as funds for room and board. Cure is the collection of payments made for medical expenses, and usually includes doctor's visits, medicine, and physical therapy. The Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act are federal statutes designed to provide benefits to the families of crew members who die as the result of an accident or illness during a voyage.
A spouse, child, or dependent may bring suit under the Death on the High Seas Act to seek legal and financial relief. If the death occurred three nautical miles offshore, those who qualify to file suit can recover monies for the loss of support, funeral support, and inheritance, so long as they can provide a reasonable amount of certainty to the amount of damages requested. Under the Jones Act, additional remedies may be available and include loss of companionship, future earnings, and in instances with willful and wanton conduct - punitive damages. Punitive damages are generally only available when the ship owner knew or should have known of dangerous conditions on the ship due to disrepair.
Ship owners have the duty to provide a seaworthy vessel and reasonable care under the circumstances to crew members and passengers alike. Safe and sanitary conditions are vital to the health of the vessel owner's employees, and the failure to maintain these conditions creates liability for the vessel owner under maritime law. When you are faced with mounting expenses after a family crew member falls ill, suffers an injury, or dies in a tragic accident onboard their workplace vessel, it is vital to have experienced counsel at your side to recover the damages the crew member and his or her family needs and deserves. The Washington Merchant Seamen attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb understand the daily challenges crew members face at their jobs, and will tirelessly work to recover every legal relief available to maximize your award. For a free, confidential consultation, contact their office today at 877.800.1007.