Before the discovery of penicillin, epidemic diseases at sea could decimate a crew. After all, sailors were packed together in a small area, with limited recourse to good hygiene, and bacteria and viruses were easily transmitted. Today, fortunately, your chances of coming down with smallpox on board a cruise ship or merchant marine vessel are virtually zero—but that doesn't mean you're immune to the dozens of other nasty bugs that regularly sicken offshore workers.
Your Employer Is Required to Treat Your Shipboard Illness
No one would dispute that the owner of sailing vessel owes it to an injured employee to offer prompt medical attention in an emergency—a fall from a large height, an injury to his back, etc. By the same token, sailors and deckhands who become seriously ill at sea are entitled to prompt and effective medical care. This applies when the illness is:
- A transmissible disease that was caught on board, from another ship worker or a passenger
- A disease that the sailor unknowingly brought on board with him, which had been contracted on the mainland
- A preexisting medical condition, whether or not the individual was aware of its existence (atherosclerosis, for instance, which can result in a shipboard heart attack)
- In certain cases, a severe mental condition that cannot be attributed to any virus or physical cause (say, a sailor who has a manic episode and injures himself)
In all these cases, your employer is responsible for providing an adequate level of medical care, and keeping you in the best shape possible until you can be discharged to a more sophisticated medical facility on the mainland, or on another ship. If your care is lacking, and you incur further medical expenses on the mainland, you can sue your employer for damages under the Jones Act.
An Attorney Can Help Recover Damages in the Wake of a Shipboard Illness
If you fell ill at sea—no matter the source of the illness, or whether or not you brought it on board with you—you may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act. Questions? Contact the Jones Act and offshore law experts at V&B Attorneys (877-724-7800) for a free consultation today!