New Legislation Threatens Ability of Cruise Ship Employees to Receive Compensation for Workplace Injuries

Our Florida Maritime Attorneys have dedicated their decades of experience to representing cruise ship passengers that are injured by the acts or omissions of the cruise ship industry and its employees. However, as this blog discussed last month, on occasion, it is one of the cruise ship’s crew that is injured by the negligence of a cruise company.

Generally, cruise ship crew members who are injured on the job are protected by the provisions of the “Jones Act,” as long as they fall under the legal definition of “seamen.” The Jones Act provides that a seaman that is injured as the result of the negligence of an employer or co-worker on a vessel may recover two different types of financial compensation from their employer known as “maintenance” and “cure” benefits. “Maintenance” requires the cruise line to continue paying a crew member wages in the event an on-the-job injury prevents the individual from being physically able to work, while “Cure” is the obligation of the cruise line to provide a crew member with medical care in the event an injury is sustained in the course of employment.

Recently, the protections offered to cruise crew members by the Jones Act have been threatened by proposed legislation, H.R. 4005. Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 6, 2014, H.R. 4005, entitled the “Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014”, for the most part, regulates various aspects of how the Coast Guard conducts its business.

However, buried in the bill is a provision that would prohibit a seaman who is a citizen of a foreign nation from bringing a claim for damages related to personal injury, illness, or death under U.S. laws if said seaman: (1) was not a resident of the United States when the claim arose; (2) the injury, illness, or death arose outside U.S territorial waters; and (3) the seaman had a right to seek compensation under the laws of the nation in which the vessel was registered or in which the seaman maintained citizenship.

If passed, this provision would essentially prevent foreign cruise ship employees from filing lawsuits in the U.S. courts to recover for injury or illness incurred while working on a cruise ship. Although headquartered in the U.S., many cruise ships are actually registered in foreign countries. For example, a large number of cruise ships are registered in the Bahamas, including all of Royal Caribbean’s 22 ships, Norwegian Cruise Lines with 10 ships, and Carnival, with 6. This means that, under the provisions of the proposed law, foreign crew members working on Bahamian-registered ships would be required to bring lawsuits either in the Bahamas or in their country of citizenship. Not only does this measure unfairly discriminate against foreign crew members, but it encourages cruise lines to avoid hiring U.S. citizens, because it does not have to worry about being sued in U.S. Courts by non-citizen crew members.

The Miami personal injury lawyers of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing crew members and cruise ship employees injured at sea for over four decades. If you are a seaman or crew member that has been seriously injured on a cargo ship, cruise ship, or sustained an offshore injury, our Florida Maritime Attorneys are here to help.

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