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Punitive Damages in Maritime Accident Cases

When a maritime worker is injured on the job, he or she may be entitled to damages. Damages financially compensate injured workers for the expenses associated with their injuries. Damages typically compensate victims for expenses like medical costs, future earnings, and lost earnings. Depending on the facts of the case, an injured maritime worker may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are a form of monetary compensation that punish a defendant for misconduct. If you are an injured maritime worker, you may be entitled to punitive damages. Below is some additional information on punitive damages in maritime accident cases. 

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are civil damages that the court awards to punish a defendant for its misconduct. The amount of punitive damages a plaintiff receives depends on:

  • The defendant’s conduct, 
  • The defendant’s character, 
  • The defendant’s financial situation, 
  • The probability of future harm to others if the defendant isn’t punished, and 
  • The amount of harm suffered by the plaintiff. 

The Availability of Punitive Damages in Maritime Injury Cases

Although the law is unsettled in some areas regarding punitive damages for maritime injuries, punitive damages are available for specific types of maritime accidents. For example, injured seamen are entitled to what is known as “maintenance and cure” from their employers, which are benefits that an injured seaman receives from his or her employer during the course of recovery. In a maintenance and cure case, an injured seaman may seek punitive damages if:

  • The defendant wantonly, willfully, and recklessly failed to pay the required amount of maintenance and cure, 
  • The defendant failed to pay any maintenance and cure, 
  • The defendant delayed payment of maintenance and cure, or 
  • The defendant terminated maintenance and cure without good cause. 

In addition, passengers who file negligence claims against cruise lines have a right to seek punitive damages. However, it is still unclear whether punitive damages are available in Jones Act and unseaworthiness cases. Courts in different federal courts have ruled differently on this issue. The good news, though, is that this leaves open the possibility of punitive damages in these types of cases. Therefore, if you’ve been injured in a maritime accident, you should contact a maritime attorney to explore your recovery options. 

Contact Our Experienced Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana Maritime Attorneys  

If you’ve suffered injuries in a maritime accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. However, in order to increase your odds of success, you need an experienced team of Louisiana and Gulf of Mexico admiralty and maritime lawyers on your side. At Koch & Schmidt, we have a well-earned reputation for providing injury victims with powerful legal representation. If you are a longshoreman, seaman, oil rig worker, cruise ship employee, or another maritime industry employee who has been injured in a maritime accident, we can help you obtain the compensation and benefits you deserve. Please contact us as soon as possible for a free evaluation of your case.