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Merchant Mariners

Merchant mariners brave the dangers of the seas as they transport valuable cargo and passengers through the navigable waters of the United States and international waters. The United States Merchant Marine employs merchant mariners, and the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration manages the United States Merchant Marine. The United States Merchant Marine engages in international trade, military support, and disaster relief.

The United States Merchant Marine is not a branch of the United States military, and merchant mariners work on independent vessels. Supporting trade, disaster relief, and the military in times of war, merchant mariners travel on charter boats, deep-sea merchant ships, excursion vessels, tugboats, dredges, ferries, and other crafts. In addition to voyaging across the ocean, merchant mariners travel through the Great Lakes, canals, harbors, and rivers within the United States. Merchant mariners can have a variety of jobs, including working as captains, ordinary  and able-bodied seamen, mates, and engineers. In the course of their work, merchant mariners face many risks and are at risk ofinjury.

Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and California Merchant Mariner Lawyers

At Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP, our admiralty and maritime lawyers understand that merchant mariners often face dangerous work conditions and constant threat of injury. Injuries sustained in the service of a vessel can be severe and place a significant financial burden on the injured party and their family. Thankfully, our attorneys are dedicated to helping ease this burden by pursuing optimal compensation for their clients.

If you have been injured working as a merchant mariner in Washington, Alaska, Oregon, or California, Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP is prepared to discuss all your legal options. Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule a free consultation today.


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Information Center


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Risks To Merchant Mariners

Traveling through national and international waters, merchant mariners encounter dangers. Merchant mariners face risks of slips and falls, drownings, and equipment malfunctions. If an employer fails to maintain equipment on a vessel or fails to keep the working environment on a ship safe, a merchant mariner can become injured. Pirates may attack merchant ships. Enclosed space accidents and electrical shock injuries are also prevalent on ships due to the nature of the work. Federal law protects merchant mariners’ rights to obtain financial compensation for workplace injuries.


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Jones Act

Merchant mariners owe their allegiance to vessels that ply the seas. Thus, state workers’ compensation law generally does not protect merchant mariners who sustain work injuries. Federal law permits injured merchant mariners to sue their employers and recover monetary damages. Specifically, the Jones Act grants merchant mariners and other seamen injured on the job a cause of action against their employers. Sometimes the employer is an entity other than the vessel owner, like a crewing or management company.

A successful Jones Act claim must show: duty, breach of duty (“negligence”), —a causation, and damages.. Employers can be negligent when they fail to maintain safe conditions on a vessel, resulting in an employee suffering an injury. Suppose an employer fails to equip a ship with life vests, the boat sinks, and a seaman suffers hypoxia associated with a drowning injury. In that case, the employer was negligent because the employer failed to exercise reasonable care by neglecting to equip the ship with life vests. Additionally, coworkers can be negligent when they fail to take proper care and make a mistake while working, injuring another worker.


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Jones Act Damages

Merchant mariners can recover damages for their work injuries under the Jones Act. Damages are monetary compensation a court or jury awards to a plaintiff in a lawsuit. Damages can be compensatory, meaning they make up for the harm sustained, or punitive, meaning they punish the negligent person. The Jones Act does not permit individuals to recover punitive damages, but it helps them to recover significant compensatory damages.

Compensatory damages under the Jones Act include lost earnings and earning capacity, medical costs, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. Lost earnings include past and future wages that an individual will not receive due to a work injury and lost employment benefits, such as health, dental, and vision insurance, and retirement benefits. Medical expenses encompass medical costs accrued in the past and medical bills likely to accrue in the future. Finally, pain and suffering, and mental anguish damages apply retroactively and prospectively. Pain and suffering includes physical pain and mental pain. Physical pain is the pain that comes directly from the injury and encompasses disfigurement and scarring. Emotional pain refers to the unpleasant mental experiences resulting from a workplace injury, including distress, PTSD, lack of enjoyment of life, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of appetite and energy, and insomnia.Individuals who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder due to a traumatic event at sea are entitled to recover  under the Jones Act


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Death on the High Seas Act

The Death on the High Seas Act is a federal law that permits individuals whose family members died due to an accident beyond the territorial waters to sue the person or entity responsible for the accident. In instances where a merchant mariner passes away, not because of employer or coworker wrongdoing, but because of an act of a third party, a family member may sue the party responsible for the death under the Death on the High Seas Act. Suppose an individual dies because of employer or coworker wrongdoing and  because of the acts of a third party. In that case, a family member may bring a lawsuit against the employer or coworker under the Jones Act and a lawsuit against the third party under the Death on the High Seas Act.


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Additional Resources

The United States Department of Transportation: Maritime Administration– The Maritime Administration explains how it supports maritime transportation infrastructure and maintains the United States Merchant Marine.

United States Coast Guard: National Maritime Center – The United States Coast Guard explains that the National Maritime Center evaluates and issues credentials for merchant mariners.


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Merchant Mariner Attorneys |  Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California

If you have been injured as a merchant mariner, you should seek the guidance of a skilled maritime lawyer. At Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP, our knowledgeable attorneys recognize your service as a merchant mariner, and we are dedicated to ensuring the security of your future when an unforeseen event occurs. We have over fourdecades of combined experience in maritime and personal injury law that we can utilize for your case.

Allow us to serve you as soon as possible. If you reside in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, or California, call 1 (800) 262-8529 to secure a free consultation today.


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  • The Maritime Law Association of The United States
    The Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLA) was founded in 1899. Its formation was prompted by the organization, some three years earlier, of the International Maritime Committee.
  • Washington State Bar Association
    The Washington State Bar Association operates under the delegated authority of the Washington Supreme Court to license the state's nearly 40,000 lawyers and other legal professionals.
  • Oregon State Bar
    The Oregon State Bar is a government agency in the U.S. state of Oregon. Founded in 1890 as the private Oregon Bar Association, it became a public entity in 1935 that regulates the legal profession.
  • Alaska Bar Association
    The Alaska Bar Association is a mandatory bar association responsible to the Alaska Supreme Court for the admission and discipline process of attorneys for the State of Alaska.