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Can seamen receive compensation for mental health expenses?

Spending weeks at sea as a commercial fisherman, deckhand or oil rig worker is not only physically demanding. Life at sea can a toll on you mentally too. In the last several months, thousands of those who work at sea have been stranded offshore at some point because of concerns of the spreading coronavirus. Many seamen already spend days and weeks away from their family because of their work schedule.

Such isolation can increase the chances of maritime workers suffering from depression and anxiety. As a result, you may need to seek counseling, in-patient mental heath treatment and commit to taking powerful medications. You may need to even take an extended break from work to recover fully if you suffer from major depression, anxiety or PTSD. Yet how are you going to pay for work-related medical expenses? Do have to cover them yourself?

What to know about the Jones Act

The Jones Act gives rights to sailors to receive compensation for their work-related injuries and illnesses. If the Jones Act doesn’t cover your work-at-sea job, it might be covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). However, you may need to show that your mental health struggles were the result of your employer’s negligence, or a coworker’s. You may need to show that an onboard accident, making your vessel unseaworthy, caused your mental trauma.

What to do about job-related mental health issues

If you find yourself facing serious mental health issues because of your job at sea, you should consult an attorney who has experience in maritime law. You may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act or as part of maintenance and cure, a longstanding part of maritime law. With maintenance and cure, you could receive daily living expenses and payment for medical bills until you can return to work.