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Florida is well-known all over the world for its expansive waterways. While these waterways provide a wide range of commercial and recreational activities, accidents do happen all the time. The saddest thing about some of these accidents is that they occur due to negligence. So if you get injured while working in or around a water vessel in Deland, FL, you may be entitled to compensation.
At Morgan & Morgan, we have an experienced team of maritime lawyers serving Deland and the entire state of Florida. If you or someone you know has been injured in such an environment, we might be able to help. Fill out our free online consultation form today, and a member of our legal team will get back to you.
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What Are Your Rights as a Maritime Worker in Deland, FL?
If you're a maritime worker in Deland or anywhere else in Florida, you are entitled to some form of compensation if you get injured while at work. The compensation you may be entitled to depends on your eligibility category. While there are many different eligibility categories for these kinds of cases, here are the most common.
Maintenance and Cure
You are entitled to "maintenance and cure" benefits regardless of who is at fault for the maritime accident. This compensation covers the food and shelter you would have received aboard the vessel had the injury not occurred.
The compensation also covers your medical expenses, including rehabilitation up to maximum medical improvement. The term maximum medical improvement, or simply MMI, refers to a particular point in the recovery process where the doctor tells the patient that no further improvement is possible.
For example, assuming that you slip and fall on a sea vessel due to wet floors and suffer serious spinal cord injuries. If the doctor determines that you have paraplegia due to the injury, it means you may not be able to walk again. That also means that no amount of treatment could improve your condition beyond that particular point. For this reason, the doctor might declare that you're healed even though you may not be able to walk again.
Let's break down the maintenance and cure concept even further.
What Does 'Maintenance' in Maritime Injuries Cover?
Maintenance payments cover the room and board of the injured individual as they recover from the injury at home. This concept argues that the vessel owner, employer, or whoever is in charge would have provided accommodation for the injured worker had they not been injured while working in or around the vessel. Therefore, even as they recover from home, they may still be entitled to room and board offered by the vessel owner, their employer, or any other responsible party.
However, it is also important to note that this legal concept only covers expenses such as:
- Rent or mortgage
- Property taxes
- Homeowners insurance
Maintenance only covers expenses involved in running one's household. It doesn't include expenses such as:
- Car payments
What Does 'Cure' in Maritime Injuries Cover?
Did you know that individuals working in or around sea vessels may not be entitled to the traditional worker's compensation insurance offered to land-based workers? Instead, maritime workers are entitled to a 'cure', the maritime version of worker's compensation coverage.
'Cure' takes care of all medical expenses, including the cost involved in acquiring treatment, such as transportation.
It's also important to note that the sea worker is only entitled to 'cure' benefits until they reach their maximum medical improvement (MMI), as discussed earlier.
The Jones Act
In addition to maintenance and cure, you may also be entitled to compensation under The Jones Act, a federal law protecting individuals working in or around sea vessels. But there's one main requirement to qualify for compensation under this act: the injured worker must prove that their employer acted negligently, causing the injury.
Per the Jones Act, a sea worker's employer must:
- provide the sea worker with a reasonably safe work environment; and
- use ordinary care to keep the sea vessel safe for the sea worker and everyone else on board.
The Jones Act is designed to keep sea workers safe and hold employers responsible for negligence causing injuries to their employees working in or around a sea vessel. Examples of negligence in such an environment include:
- Greasy or oily decks
- Poor quality equipment
- Improperly maintained equipment
- Lack of proper training for crew members
- Unsafe work practices
- Assault by a coworker
- Broken equipment
But how is an assault by a coworker the employer's fault? Here's how The Jones Act argues in such cases. If the coworker has a reputation of violence, it's the employer's responsibility not to hire such an individual. The same applies if the employee has a criminal record that would otherwise prevent them from working in such an environment; it's the employer's responsibility to conduct background checks to keep other employees and everyone else on board safe.
The good news is that The Jones Act has a much lower burden of proof than most standard personal injury cases. In a traditional injury case, the plaintiff must prove that the other party's negligence was the proximate cause of the injury. In personal injury lingo, the term 'proximate cause' refers to the main cause of an event, in this case, the injury in question.
But when it comes to maritime injuries, the burden of proof under The Jones Act is much lower. The injured individual does not need to prove that the employer's negligence was the proximate cause of their injury. Instead, they only need to prove that their employer's negligence contributed to the injury in any capacity. If they prove this element, they may be able to recover damages per The Jones Act.
But what happens if the injured employer does not work directly with sea vessels? That brings us to the next eligibility category.
Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act is a federal law that requires employers to compensate employees who get injured while working on the navigable waters of the United States or in the adjoining areas used for loading, unloading, repairing, or constructing a water vessel. This means that you don't need to be working directly with sea vessels as a seaman to be eligible for compensation for your injuries.
Under the LHWCA, you may be able to recover medical expenses, the cost of rehabilitation, and other related expenses arising from the injury. In addition, the dependents of an employee killed while working in such an environment might also be eligible for survivor benefits.
However, it's important to note that LHWCA excludes certain workers from recovering compensation after an injury. For example, a seaman may not be eligible for this kind of compensation. The same applies to employees who got injured due to their own intoxication. In addition, certain workers who are covered by the state's workers' compensation laws may not be eligible for benefits under LHWCA.
What to Do If Injured While Working In Or Around a Sea Vessel
It is important to know what to do when you get injured while working in or around a sea vessel. The steps you take after such an injury will significantly impact your case. That said, here are some crucial steps to consider.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Seeking medical attention immediately after the injury comes with many benefits. Firstly, in terms of health, you need to ensure that you get seen by a medical professional as soon as possible. This is because certain injuries can be severe - and sometimes fatal - if left untreated for a prolonged period.
For example, if you slip and fall on a sea vessel due to slippery floors, you may suffer several internal injuries, including internal bleeding. Unfortunately, when you bleed internally, you may not know about it until you start experiencing serious symptoms.
Some of the most common signs of internal bleeding include blood in the urine or stool, constant headaches, nose bleeding, nausea, blood in your spit or vomit, etc. If left untreated, internal bleeding can also lead to permanent brain damage. This mostly occurs when the blood begins to clot inside your veins, preventing oxygen flow into your brain.
Secondly, seeking medical attention immediately after the accident comes with legal benefits. That's the only way you can prove that you got injured in the first place. If you don't seek medical attention after the injury, the other party could claim that you weren't injured. It will be more difficult for you to prove that you actually got injured if you don't have any proof of treatment for the injuries.
If you didn't seek medical attention, the defense could also claim that the injury wasn't that serious even though you were injured. This argument could jeopardize your claim.
Then there's also another argument that could emerge in such a scenario. If you don't seek immediate medical attention after the injury, the other party could claim that you got injured elsewhere and not while working in or around the sea vessel. You will then bear the burden of proof, meaning it will be your responsibility or your attorney's to prove them wrong.
Gather Crucial Evidence
Any amount of evidence can significantly influence your case. If possible, gather as much evidence as you can. This may include but is not limited to photos of the dangerous condition that caused your injury, proof of treatment and other medical records, witness statements, etc.
Contact a Maritime Attorney
By now, you probably understand just how complex maritime laws are. First, you'll have to deal with federal laws, then narrow it down to state and county laws. An experienced maritime lawyer can help in many different ways. Here are a few examples:
When you contact Morgan & Morgan regarding a particular maritime injury, we will conduct a free case evaluation. This step establishes whether you have a valid claim against the other party. Once we've established that you have a valid claim, we'll move on to the next step.
We'll then determine the party liable for your injuries. More than one party might be responsible for your injuries in some cases. For example, suppose you were injured while operating a particular machine aboard a sea vessel. This could be a case of negligence on your employer's side and product liability on the product manufacturer's side.
The primary goal of identifying the parties responsible for your injuries is to ensure that you maximize your claim. Remember, under certain circumstances, you may only be able to recover up to a particular amount from one party. Therefore, seeking compensation from several parties is an effective way to maximize your claim.
Creating a Legal Strategy
Since maritime laws are complex, our attorneys will help create the perfect legal strategy for your case. This is usually one of the most important aspects of the claims process. The strategy will influence the amount you may be able to recover as compensation for your injuries.
Investigating the Injury
Morgan & Morgan attorneys can help investigate the incident, gathering crucial evidence against the liable party. We have unlimited legal resources and a network of experts to investigate all kinds of claims, regardless of size. We will then assess the damages and determine the amount you may be entitled to as compensation.
Filing a Claim or Lawsuit
Once we've built a strong case against the liable parties, we'll file a claim with them to initiate the negotiations for a reasonable settlement. And if they're unwilling to settle out of court, they'll see us in court when we file a lawsuit against them.
Contact a Morgan & Morgan for a Free Case Evaluation
Have you or your loved one been injured while working in or around a sea vessel in Deland, FL? If so, Morgan & Morgan maritime lawyers in Deland might be able to help. Remember, such claims are time-sensitive, and time is crucial. So fill out our free online case evaluation form or call our Deland office at 386-281-6800 today!