Things You Thought You Knew #13: Did Pirates Have Workman’s Comp?

What You Thought You Knew: Pirates were lawless sailors who buried treasure and used it on women, alcohol, and other pleasures.


What You Didn’t Know: Pirates get a bit of a bad rap, especially with the¬†Pirates of the Caribbean¬†series reinforcing some of the stereotypes about buried treasure and unpredictable alliances. Sure, the goal of a pirate is, after all, to pillage (steal things), usually from merchant ships, especially those carrying silk or spices that could be sold at a high price.

However, it’s not fair to assume that pirates didn’t look after each other; most (respected) pirate ships had a constitution that included workman’s comp for sailors who lost limbs in battle. In fact, the treatise was usually very detailed, and the most frequent money allotments went like this:

Loss of a right arm: 600 pieces

Left arm: 500

Right leg: 500

Left leg: 400

Eye: 100

Finger: 100

Some ships even paid for the replacement of a wooden peg leg, since good ones were more expensive (but worth it). Captains and crew were especially likely to help in the purchase of a new one if the old one was lost in defense of the ship (for example, during an enemy boarding attempt that was thwarted).

Now You Know: that workman’s comp dates back even to pirates.